Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is pictured at the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7. (KAY NIETFELD / AFP/Getty Images)

Who is in charge of defending our democracy from propaganda? We focus a lot on the role Moscow played in manipulating our elections in 2016. I have yet to see Congress or the administration actually assign the job of dealing with the threat to anyone in government.

Russia is returning for round two. We remain woefully unprepared.

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Some may tell you it’s the FBI’s responsibility. If Russian agents are running around Times Square, sure. But their duties don’t include tracking deceptive Facebook posts.

The Global Engagement Center at the State Department was started as an experiment to combat modern information warfare. The Trump administration never bothered to fund it. Even if they did, that would be far too few hands on deck.

It’s the Department of Homeland Security’s job to monitor manipulation of voting machines. They aren’t so good at efforts to manipulate public opinion.

So no one stands watch. No new resources stand ready to be deployed. No strategies or standing structures exist to deal with the threat.

Trump continues to deny Russia had an impact on his election. The President remains hypersensitive to any suggestion his victory might be tainted. This leaves a vacuum of leadership on the issue.

To their credit, some have spoken up. A couple of lawmakers pointed out the administration’s failure to spend money countering propaganda. Yet most were content to hold hearings about Facebook. We’ve seen precious little follow-up or broader investigation. At certainly no strong plan for how the government will protect our next elections.

Get ready for the October surprises. Russia, perhaps others, will dump the controversial contents of Congressional candidates’ emails late in the election. They did this days before the last French elections. As in that case, some emails will be fake. There will be little time to refute their veracity. In a number of close races, they could be decisive.

What can be done?

First, we ought to track mass manipulation and misinformation. If government won’t, the fourth estate must. Media outlets should bolster their own capabilities to follow troubling tactics and trends.

Second, the press should change their response. Some will understandably feel compelled to cover the content. There also needs to be coverage of why it happened and where else it’s taken place. Don’t treat the hacks and releases as individual stories. Connect the dots, identify the broader operations.

Finally, politicians and pundits should refuse to use information obtained through cyberattacks or share foreign propaganda.

That won’t solve all problems, but it will reduce the incentive for hackers to do their destabilizing dirty work.

We need to start setting some standards of acceptable behavior when it comes to ill-gotten goods. Using information illicitly obtained or advanced by a foreign power in a campaign should be seen and labeled as a deeply unpatriotic act.

We are more vulnerable today than we were in 2016. What awaits us in the next election will be far more sophisticated than what we witnessed last time. If some journalists, some politicians and some members of the public do something, we may avert another deeply damaging election for our democracy.

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And to those who take the cynical view that politics is corrupt anyway, and this is no worse, I say: Russia and other adversaries won’t stop at elections. Wall Street, Silicon Valley and even Hollywood are also sources of Western power.

They are also targets. Your employer is a target. If we don’t start responding soon, our economy will be thrown into the same disarray as our politics.

Bruen is president of the Global Situation Room, Inc., an international consulting firm. Under President Obama, he was director of global engagement at the White House and spent 12 years as a U.S. diplomat.

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