The Atlantic

Does Russia’s Election Hacking Signal a New Era in Espionage?

Yes and no.
Source: Sergei Karpukhin / pool photo via AP

This weekend, Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, was asked about the intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the presidential election. His answer was unequivocal: The country isn’t grasping the magnitude of the story, he told The Cipher Brief. “To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11.”

Morell’s comments went even further than what members of Congress—mostly Democrats—have been saying for months: that the Russian-directed cyberattacks are an unprecedented attack on American democracy.

In the heat of moment, it’s easy to lose sight of the context around the Russian hacking operation. In spite of the distinctive 21st-century flavor of the digital intrusions, the data breaches that affected Democrats are just a modern example of routine country-on-country spying. What sets them apart, though, is the high profile of their mark—an

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