There’s a lot to unpack in this New York Times story describing newly aggressive United States infiltrations of the electronic systems that make up Russia’s electric power grid. The surreptitious placement of software that could potentially disable or damage a nation’s power grid—whether as inconvenience, or catastrophically—has been for years a tool in the arsenal of Russia, China, the United States and other technologically advanced nations; United States’ own infrastructure has been relentlessly targeted.
That the Times was able to publish the story at all, sourced to “current and former government officials,” suggests that advertising the expanded program may be much of the point. In the words of a particularly famous presidential adviser, “The whole point of the Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret.” Whether the United States has or has not truly infiltrated the grid at all is beside the point; the main outcome of the Times’ story will be a frantic scramble by Russian security efforts to attempt to identify and thwart the new threat. That national security officials pointedly did not object to the publication of the Times’ story in advance (despite Trump’s less than coherent blasting of the paper) may be taken as evidence that the leaking of the program is an intentional, and tactical, act.
But then there is this humdinger: A note that Trump’s own government officials are attempting to withhold from Trump the details of their actions because of an institution-wide perception that Donald Trump would immediately either forbid their operations towards Russia or turn around and reveal those details to the Russians themselves:
Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
That is, as the kids say, a hell of a thing. Top actors in the U.S. military and Trump’s own government are attempting to evade filling Trump in on the details of an anti-Russian espionage effort because of an informed suspicion that Donald Trump might well sabotage their efforts on behalf of their Russian targets. They are acting with at least some consideration that Trump, as president, may either be acting as foreign agent or is simply so incapable of restraint that he could expose intelligence details he has been given in order to ingratiate himself with, or merely make smalltalk with, foreign visitors.
“Pentagon and intelligence officials” consider the possibility of Trump intentionally or inadvertently taking action to protect Russia significant enough to dodge briefing Trump on the operation’s details, concerned enough for multiple of them to express it to New York Times reporters, and that’s buried many paragraphs down?
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