It was a surprising Judy-Bloom moment for GOP nominee Donald Trump: “Russia, if you’re listening [they probably are], I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Trump was referring to the lost State Department emails of DNC nominee Hillary Clinton. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta didn’t see the humor in it. Panetta told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Trump was “in fact, asking the Russians to engage in American politics.” Perhaps. Perhaps just another moment of indiscretion.

Nonetheless, in Panetta’s view, it’s at least like saying bomb on an airplane (even if you’re just telling your best friend, “You’re the bomb!”). And the intelligence community is truly wondering if Putin is manipulating our democratic process. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that “intelligence officials have cautioned that they are uncertain whether the electronic break-in at the committee’s computer systems was intended as fairly routine cyberespionage . . . or as part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.”

So the question at the heart of the matter is still floating out there: who did hack the DNC, bringing down Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, alienating scores of Bernie Bros who knew it all along, and prompting Trump’s petition?


Somebody knows. And it will big news when it breaks. Or it’s leaked.

In “NSA could hold ‘smoking gun’ in DNC leak,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein suggests that the NSA knows. Former NSA Director Michael Hayden opened up to Politico on Wednesday. Gerstein writes, “While private sector cybersecurity specialists have gathered evidence pointing to Russia as the source of the hack, the U.S. Government has unique abilities to confirm such a finding, including sometimes being able to identify specific foreign government agencies or even individuals as responsible for the hacking.” Hayden explains, “’Private firms are really good at forensics, but the federal government has other tools’ . . . .” The strangeness of the whole thing—from the leak itself to Trump’s petition to Panetta’s rebuke—is amplified by Edward Snowden’s observations and recommendations.

On Monday, Politico reported that Snowden, residing in Russia himself, tweeted his two-cents’ worth. And it turns out that Michael Hayden on Wednesday was essentially endorsing Snowden’s views on Monday: “Evidence that could publicly attribute responsibility for the DNC hack certainly exists at #NSA,” he tweeted. Snowden continued, “DNI traditionally objects to sharing.” And if that’s not enough, FBI Director James Comey endorsed Snowden’s recommendation: “If Russia hacked the #DNC, they should be condemned for it. . . . Without a credible threat that USG can and will use #NSA capabilities to publicly attribute responsibility, such hacks will become common.” Pretty strong words from a guy living in Russia. But, Comey agrees. Comey said Wednesday, “If we can’t lock them up, we have to call them out’ . . . .”

Maybe Snowden will contract himself out to the DNI as a cybersecurity analyst and intelligence consultant.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.