Secret WWI telegram holds lessons for today, historians say

Historians in the News
tags: WWII, David Kohnen



In a secret telegram a century ago, Germany tried to get Mexico to join its side during World War I by offering it territory in the United States. Britain intercepted, deciphered and shared the “Zimmermann Telegram.”

Historians, seeing parallels to today, say there’s a lot to be learned.

They gathered at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, last week and discussed how a foreign government hacked a secret communication and used the information to sway American public opinion and policy. When it was released, there was a heated debate over whether it was real or what we now call “fake news.”

The message’s publication — and Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare — was the culmination of a series of events that drew the United States into the war.

Fast-forward a century. Today, the U.S. intelligence community says Russia hacked Democratic groups during the presidential campaign to help Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. President-elect Trump says the DNC was “totally open to be hacked” and praises his future chief of staff for ordering “hacking defense” at the Republican National Committee.

“The greatest strategic threat the U.S. faces is the general ignorance of the past and how the past is with us every day,” said David Kohnen, interim executive director at the U.S. Naval War College Museum. ...




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