Saturday’s front-page New York Times story on US cyberpenetration of Russia’s power grid strikes us as great news — though you have to get past the Times’ painful obsession with dinging President Trump over reporting actual facts.
The report cited “officials” describing the US deployment of potentially crippling software into “Russia’s grid.” That would be an escalation of US cyberactivity against Russia — which, the Times says, has until now involved only “reconnaissance probes.”
Escalation is long overdue. Moscow has been cyber-infiltrating power plants, oil and gas infrastructure and other US targets for years; it needs to know Washington can and will fight back.
We get why Trump denied the story: That’s what everyone expects presidents to do when it comes to covert activity. And he had every right to be outraged at a report that seemed happy to reveal US national security secrets as long as it could also slap him.
The Times claims none of its sources expressed any national security concerns, perhaps because Washington wants Moscow to notice the new approach. It also points out that national security adviser John Bolton last week said the United States was expanding its list of cyber targets as a message to Russia that it’ll “pay a price” for its own cyberattacks.
Yet Saturday’s story went beyond Bolton’s remarks. And it was sourced to “current and former government officials,” who surely have their own agendas that readers can’t judge because the Times keeps them anonymous.
And it took a typical dig at Trump, claiming underlings hesitated to detail the operation to him for fear he might resist it or discuss it with foreign officials. (Somehow, having Trump talk about it would be far worse than having the Times put it on Page One.)
In fact, the story counters the fevered claims of the “collusion crowd,” who still insist the president is a Putin puppet, since it notes that Trump gave US Cyber Command the go-ahead to fight back last summer.
For all the talk of Trump being soft on Russia, this administration has been far tougher than the last one. That may keep surprising the Times, but it’s not real news.
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