BEGINNING IN MARCH AND APRIL 2016, an unknown person or persons hacked into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee. Over time it became clear that the hackers were targeting very specific information in the DNC files—the opposition research the Democrats had dug up on their Republican opponent Donald J. Trump. Once they had the information they wanted, the cyber-spies rooted around in the computers for several months thereafter, stealing other files such as personal emails, digital voice mails, and sensitive personal information on donors. This included the donors’ bank account, credit card, and social security numbers. The DNC discovered the intrusion while performing a security check, and shut their network down. However, the damage was done.
For an old spy and codebreaker like myself, nothing in the world happens by coincidence. Intelligence officers are a peculiar lot. Whether they are active or retired, their brains are wired for a completely different way of seeing the world around them. Some come from the Human Intelligence world, where they learn to read, manipulate, and distrust everyone in order to “social engineer” intelligence from people who do not want to give them anything. Others are forged in the signals intelligence world, where all data is just a massive electronic puzzle to be constantly analyzed, turned over, and fused together into an exploitable product, or into a final code to be decrypted or broken. Some, like myself, come from both worlds, and are at turns analytical and skeptical of seemingly obvious information. This hybrid mindview doesn’t approach the world as streams of linear data; it attempts to analyze information like a constantly flowing game of three-dimensional chess. All the moves are technically the same as in regular chess, but the traditional allowances of forward and backwards one square, or a lateral or L-shaped pattern, are too limiting for those trained to sniff out hostile intent; we require additional ways of processing information to be satisfied. Up vertically, down every angle of the compass rose and then across every median, line of longitude, latitude, and every other angle of measure are just about right … then we add layers of frequency analysis figuring out the timing, spacing, depth and distance between each item we call data points. When an event has been then identified on the continuum of intelligence, we compare it with everything that has ever occurred in history