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  1. Opinion

Ruth: Yearning for old-fashioned spying

This is what world domination is supposed to look like? So very disappointing. This is like discovering Dr. No leading an international criminal conspiracy to rip off mattress tags.

It seems Russian hackers have managed to wheedle their way into former Secretary of State Colin Powell's email account, in which the retired general expressed some not too kind comments about Hillary Clinton (consumed by "hubris"), Donald Trump ("racist"), and former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz ("idiots").

Then there was Powell's catty observation that Bill Clinton is still, well, Bill Clinton. But we all probably intuitively knew that.

Still, it is a letdown to learn a major power's cyber intelligence apparatus seems to be little more than a gossipy extension of the National Enquirer meets Entertainment Tonight. Who's running the Russian Federal Security Service? Jerry Springer?

A confession. I am of a certain generation that prefers a somewhat higher quality of international malevolence.

Learning that Powell regards Cheney and his daughter as complete dopes (now there's a revelation for you) hardly rises to Ernst Stavro Blofeld-esque cat-stroking duplicity.

There is some speculation that as we edge closer to Nov. 8 the Russkies will endeavor to hack into American election computer systems to manipulate the outcome of the vote. Russian geeks could corrupt the ballot count to favor either Trump or Clinton, but perhaps for the fun of it, they might also cause mischief by finagling cyberspace to award Alan Grayson with a U.S. Senate seat after all.

Not exactly an Auric Goldfinger moment.

I've been spoiled. I like my villains bent on conquering the planet to reside in vast mountain redoubts, or mysterious islands, or immense remote castles as they conspire to steal nuclear weapons, or lure nations into war, or manipulate the world's diamond market. Ooooooh, crazed megalomaniacal henchmen with nondescript eastern European accents. What fun.

And then, of course, there's all the gratuitous sex.

Instead, imagine James Bond being called into M's office to be given his next assignment.

"007, we need you to ferret out a 14-year-old nerd sitting in his jammies somewhere in Moscow, who is trying to disrupt Hillsborough County Clerk of Court Pat Frank's re-election bid. Forget the Walther PPK and the Aston Martin. Q will outfit you with an iPod."

For decades, John Le Carre's laconic George Smiley did world-weary battle with the master spy Karla, hunting down moles infiltrating British intelligence. What now? The old spook getting to the bottom of who leaked Powell's less than charitable views of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a complete moron? There's a page-turner.

Robert Ludlum must be spinning in his grave at the prospect of the next Jason Bourne thriller — "The QWERTY Conspiracy."

It's come to this? Russia has employed its vast cyber-spying apparatus to pilfer the email of a retired general who has not served in government for more than 10 years to reveal he thinks Trump is an "international pariah." This is news? Meanwhile the United States has responded by announcing the technological breakthrough of UberEATS.

What might we call this new era of U.S.-Russia snooping? The Cold Bore?

Still, you have to suspect if Russian hackers are foraging around Powell's emails to expose his irritation at not getting the same big bucks speaking fees Hillary Clinton commanded, then certainly U.S. computer dweebs must be causing some mischief of their own.

Might we be treated to a cache of purloined Vladimir Putin email exchanges with Fidel Castro in which the Russian president admits Hillary Clinton's well-turned ankles drive him insane with lust? Or that be prefers Jackie Collins potboilers rather than that overrated Leo Tolstoy? "There was just no end to that Anna Karenina — 864 pages and she throws herself in front of a train?!?! I wanted to throw myself in front of a train."

The Kremlin files might also include the explosive revelation in a note to North Korea's Kim Jong Un that the reason the president keeps Dmitry Medvedev around is the 5-foot-4 prime minister is the only Russian government official shorter than the 5-foot-7 Putin.

Could there be a testy Putin email to Oliver Stone expressing disappointment that George Clooney wasn't cast to portray the Russian president in Snowden? The resemblance is uncanny.

It does make one yearn for the good old days of the Cuban Missile Crisis instead of what passes for foreign intrigue — "The Man With the Golden Keyboard."

Sigh.

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