As far as October surprises go, this is one for the history books. We can tell it’s a zinger because it’s set off a chain reaction that’s growing larger and harder to control by the hour, while dragging yet more politicians and organisations into its ever expanding field of influence.
Yesterday, the New York Post published what it claims to be emails from a Ukrainian businessman proving that, contrary to his claims, Joe Biden must have discussed the energy company Burisma with his son, and more than just in passing. Not only that, but he also met representatives for that corruption-ridden company in Washington. The fact that Hunter Biden was sitting on the board of Burisma at the time had already stretched the presidential candidate’s claims of ignorance well beyond breaking point. That was before the emails dropped.
What strikes me about this particular story is not the endemic corruption of American political dynasties, but their extraordinary complacency when it comes to data security.
No doubt the accusations and counter-claims will continue to fly across cyberspace, not least because the New York Post also alleges the published emails are just a small sample from many thousands of files copied from a forgotten laptop. You just couldn’t make it up.
Over the past few years, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of John Podesta’s phished Gmail account…Gmail for God’s sake! Then of course there was Hillary Clinton’s secret email server, and now a highly personal and incriminating hard drive apparently just abandoned in a Delaware repair store. Apart from demonstrating a breathtaking lack of security awareness, these completely avoidable incidents show just how utterly feckless some parts of our ruling elite have become. This is a group of people who’ve spent their whole lives behaving just as they please while others hide the mess they leave behind.
It’s difficult to imagine a member of the Trump family or someone like Rudy Giuliani taking their laptops to a local repair store, let alone forgetting to pay the bill and collect them. The reason for this huge disparity between attitudes is really very simple. The likes of Clinton, Biden and Podesta have grown so accustomed to the mainstream media, Wall Street and the permanent bureaucracy covering for them that thoughts of data security are completely alien to them. On the other hand, people like Trump know perfectly well that a single cough will inevitably lead to days of frenzied press and social media speculation.
We need only look at the way the Washington Post is running interference for the Biden campaign to see how these differing attitudes are entirely understandable. The Washington paper’s “explainer” for the New York paper’s article is a useful caution against lurid allegations in the press; it’s just a shame there weren’t similar warnings during the blizzard of anonymous source articles published during the whole Russian collusion nothing burger.
So of course Hunter Biden, or one of his staff, just forgot about a potentially damaging trove of data in a workshop somewhere. It would never occur to them that something might leak.
Unfortunately for them, the world has changed a lot since 2016.