Common ground: For secure elections and true national security

An open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Walter Mosley, Valerie Plame and others

Published July 11, 2018 12:30PM (EDT)

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

This open letter originally appeared in the Nation. Used by permission.

Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades. For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests — taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election, there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection. The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere. Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.

At the same time, the U.S. and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe. Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.

The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia. No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University
Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
Noam Chomsky, Professor, Author, and Activist
Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, NYU and Princeton University, and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel
Phil Donahue, Journalist and Talk-Show Pioneer
Thomas Drake, Former NSA Senior Executive and Whistle-blower
Daniel Ellsberg, Activist, “Pentagon Papers” Whistle-blower, and Author of "The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner"
Jack Matlock, Former U.S. Ambassador to the USSR and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord
Walter Mosley, Writer and Screenwriter
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Novelist
Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate School
Valerie Plame, Former Covert CIA Operations Officer and Author
Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico
Patricia Schroeder, Former Congresswoman
Norman Solomon, National Coordinator,
Gloria Steinem, Writer and Feminist Organizer
Adlai Stevenson III, Former U.S. Senator and Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation
Alice Walker, Writer, Poet, and Activist
Jody Williams, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

Signers have endorsed this Open Letter as individuals and not on behalf of any organization.

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