Editorial: Publishing the Democratic National Committee emails is a new twist on an old, and dangerous, story

The leak of emails stolen from Americas Democratic National Committee came from WikiLeaks; but the theft itself has been plausibly attributed to Russian hackers, working with at least the blessing of the state. This seem to be mark a new development in the constant fight of propaganda and disinformation.

There is nothing new in spying on the political processes of adversary nations, and nothing new in the use of slanting info, but this story shows how technology has built both easier. One of the greatest feats of this sort was actually conducted by the British intelligence services in 1917 when they cracked an encrypted telegram from the German foreign ministry to the German ambassador in Mexico because it had passed through a relay station on Lands End. The Zimmermann telegram, as it became known, informed the diplomat to offer Mexico unlimited subsidies, and the reconquest of the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona if merely Mexico would proclaim war on the US after the US declared war on Germany. Mexico was unimpressed, since it judged that it did not have the troops , nor Germany the money, to make it feasible. But the American public was outraged, and this fury helped propel the US into the first world war and so doom Germany.

The Russians, if it is they, have some style to go to top that. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, has been forced to resign after the leaked emails indicated her to be at best untroubled by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton candidacy, while some of her subordinates were actively indicating ways to campaign against Bernie Sanders employing such things as his atheism against him. It would be a very odd political race in which professional legislators did not have empathies for one side or the other, even when they were not supposed to do now so.

Yet beneath this placid surface there are strong and dangerous currents. The first is the extreme difficulty of telling whether any devoted group operating out of Russia is an organ of the state or not. It is easy to get sucked down into conspiracy theories. The leaks have been used by the Clinton campaign to suggest that the Russians would prefer a President Trump, which is a remarkably ingenious counterspin if they were in fact intended as hostile propaganda against the Democrat. Meanwhile, the Republican use them as evidence of a corrupted and conniving Democratic establishment. Both occurrences are examples of a more evolved and perhaps more effective kind of spin in a suspicious age than employing purported experts on a television channel. Many people today would far instead believe something that appeared to be leaked than anything are proposed in a much simpler way. There are, you might say, lies, damned lies, and genuine leaked documents.

It is easy, obvious and right to call for greater security with email and other means of communication to guard against such attacks. But it doesnt get us very far. Assaults are likely to persist, and to succeed, for the foreseeable future. No matter how technologically procure strong encryption remains, humans will always be there to weaken the security of any system. One answer is never to set anything into an email that are likely to hacked, but then it would become even more useless a means of communication than it already is. The deliberations behind crucial decisions are almost by definition things that cannot be made public at the time.

We dont know how much more is likely to be leaked, and when. But it is safe to presume it will be period and arrangements to cause the maximum damage to the Democrats. Already, some of Senator Sanders delegates have booed him for endorsing Senator Clinton. These are dangerous passions. Both sides need to remember that a Trump presidency would threaten a fate much worse than the election of the incorrect Democrat, to calm down, and to carry on together.

Read more: www.theguardian.com