In early 2017, I watched from my desk at the CIA as the world learned Russia had waged an influence campaign targeting the U.S. presidential election months before. As an intelligence analyst, I worked in a world where countries often used covert action against each other to influence events, outcomes, and policies, but the scale and scope of Russia’s actions to try to help Donald Trump elected were unprecedented. As the Intelligence Community’s declassified assessment from 2017 stated, Russia’s interference was “a significant escalation” in the country’s long-running effort to undermine the United States.
Since then, I have seen this revelation lead to a (mostly) collective panic, but essentially no government action. That panic has manifested in a growing distrust of institutions we traditionally counted on for information, like the media, fear that social media conversations are orchestrated by “Russian bots,” the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, and in the most