Belling the cat: Russian cyber warfare

You may or may not know about “Bellingcat.” An independent investigative association based in Leicester, England,  Bellingcat (name derived from the fabled question: “But who will bell the cat?”) has been for several years pursuing and reporting on clandestine Russian operations to undermine Western democracy, by carrying out weaponized cyber-hacking, spying, assassinations and other criminal acts around the world.

Most recently, for example, Bellingcat has unveiled the true identity of the world traveling Russian “Sergey Fedotov” as really senior GRU officer, Major-General Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev. By tracing Fedotov/Sergeev’s mobile phone, it was revealed that “globe-trotter”  and supervisor Sergeev has shown up again and again at the time and place of assassinations (such as the Novichok nerve agent poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England on March 4, 2018) and cyber-hacking of major institutions (such as the World Anti-Doping Agency in Lausanne, Switzerland, as revealed in 2016, showing that Russia seeks to  use performance-enhancing drugs to undermine the integrity of the International Olympics.)

Thanks to Bellingcat and other reliable sources, there is now overwhelming evidence that Putin’s Russia is developing and testing the technological means of using cyber-weaponry to invade election systems and to plant disinformation in Western countries, and even to shut down nuclear facilities and the electrical power grid in these countries, including the USA.

So, what is the current U.S. administration and its supporters, inside Congress and out, doing about this existential threat? Essentially nothing. 

The U.S. Constitution asserts that the purpose of constitutional government is threefold: (1) “to provide for the common defense,” (2) “to promote the general welfare,” and (3) “to secure the blessings of liberty.”  Pandering to Putin and turning a blind eye to Russian acts of warfare hardly serve these three purposes. 

Moreover,  Article III of the Constitution defines “Treason” as “adhering to enemies” of the United States, and  “giving them aid and comfort.” So, what shall we say about the current U.S. administration’s silence on Putin’s Russia? How shall we call it? Call it as it is: Call it treason.


Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World HealthOrganization.