The US Justice Department’s indictment of Russian interference in the 2016 US election makes for sobering reading and has direct implications for Australia.
Its 37 pages forensically detail the audacious tactics employed by Russia to undermine the electoral processes of a sovereign state, our ally and fellow democracy, raising the question of whether the integrity of our own elections also may be compromised one day.
Employees of the Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency are accused of fraud, deceit, identity theft, breaches of currency laws, falsely claiming to be US citizens, running covert intelligence operations, illegally controlling computer infrastructure and masquerading as social activists for the purposes of political and electoral interference.
This is not just another irritating but containable case of low-level cyber hacking. Moscow clearly is carrying out information warfare for strategic purposes. It wants to undermine Western democracies by constructing false narratives, clothed in a fig leaf of plausible deniability, to sow dissent and exacerbate social and political divides. This fig leaf slowly is being peeled backed by public exposure to reveal the complicity and dystopian aims of the Putin administration.