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Editorial: Congress needs to get to the bottom of attempts to influence U.S. elections

The CIA, the FBI and the Office of National Intelligence have all reached the conclusion Russian hackers infiltrated Democratic National Committee computer systems with the intention of influencing U.S. elections.

The details as outlined by the New York Times are both shocking and embarrassing. Mistakes were made on many levels, opening the door to foreign influence. The thought that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin had his thumb on the scales of our democracy is abhorrent and demands a response.

President Obama has promised to “send a clear message to Russia, or others, not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you.” Some responses would be public, he said, while others would not.

New York Times stories published in The Buffalo News described how the FBI contacted the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to alert the committee that its computer network had been compromised. In what can only be described as an internet-era Keystone Kops story, a federal agent’s phone call was transferred to the help desk, where his call was not taken seriously. More calls were ignored and months passed before any action was taken.

“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,” the tech support contractor at the DNC who fielded the call and who the Times mentioned “was no expert in cyberattacks,” wrote in an internal email.

Slow responses by those whose job it was to protect the DNC’s network and sloppiness on the part of those who included sensitive information in emails made the job of the hackers that much easier.

Hackers intent on affecting our elections gained access to unsecure emails and provided embarrassing information to WikiLeaks for distribution, or passed the information directly to media outlets.

President-elect Donald Trump seems finally to be softening his refusal to accept the notion that Russia interfered in the election in order to help him win. Aides say that he now wants to see the evidence put into a report for the American people to see.

Obama has ordered an intelligence review due by Jan. 20, which happens to be the day he leaves office. And four prominent senators, two Republicans and two Democrats, have pledged a bipartisan investigation. They include Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and Jack Reed, D-R.I. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the hacking “disturbing” and urged Republicans and Democrats to work together to get to the bottom of this intrusion.

The senators are right. This cannot become a partisan issue. The goal is clear: Find out what happened and how to prevent a repeat.

The internet has become a battlefield. We must prove we can win a cyberwar.

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