The media – and by virtue every Democrat and Republican – were in a froth flecked rage over the weekend, because a CIA briefing regarding Russia’s cyber meddling in U.S. elections was leaked to the press.
The assessment – as reported by Reuters – said that “Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.”
Citing U.S. officials briefed on the matter, the Post said intelligence agencies had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks.
The officials described the individuals as people known to the intelligence community who were part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and reduce Clinton’s chances of winning the election.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” the Post quoted a senior U.S. official as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”
As soon as the news came out, Trump supporters immediately went into fully defensive mode.
How do we know these reports are true?
Do all 17 intelligence agencies agree?
Are we supposed to disregard what was in those emails, because they may or may not have come from the Russians, and they probably haven’t, because MEDIA LIES!!!!11
Obama Administration lies!
This is the same CIA that assessed the presence of WMD in Iraq! (Which, by the way, many Republicans were more than happy to defend.)
WikiLeaks denies this, so it must be false! (Coming from the same people who attacked Julian Assange as a criminal and dog knows what else when he published Bradley Manning’s leaks.)
Clinton supporters worked themselves into a frenzy, because…
That means Hillary actually may have won!
Invalidate election results!
Challenge them in courts!
The Russians installed Trump in the White House!
Install Hillary in the White House using the courts! (This last bit of full retard recommendation came from none other than the Huffington Post, whose staff has apparently been eating paint chips and huffing Sharpies in an effort to get over the election.)
In the interest of accuracy and fairness, let’s examine the report.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
There are two assessments here – both about Russian intent. One is that they wanted to influence the election to help Donald Trump win, and the other is that they also wanted to undermine the confidence in the U.S. electoral system. These are not surprising assessments, and there’s nothing to disbelieve here, given the Russians’ history of meddling in sovereign nations’ affairs, and threatening the sovereignty and even territorial integrity of at least one of its neighbors in the not too distant past.
Anyone remember this report (in Russian) I cited back in 2014, detailing Russian meddling in the Crimean referendum prior to its annexation? Anyone see already filled out ballots being brought in?
Note what the assessment does not say.
The assessment does not say that Russia HELPED DONALD TRUMP WIN. That would be near impossible to quantify, because the agency would have to examine reasons why Trump voters voted the way they did, and assume said voters were telling the truth about their motivations. It would also have to quantify how many Trump voters would have voted for Hillary had it not been about the Russian revelations.
The agency did not assess any of this. They made a judgment call based on existing intelligence and historical evidence about Russia’s motivations for interfering. At no time did they make an assessment on the success or failure of these efforts!
The agency also did not judge (at least not judging from the available media reports) that Trump or anyone in his campaign were complicit in these efforts or somehow colluded with Russia to steal the election.
Why haven’t they released the underlying intelligence that was evidence for this assessment?
Because it’s classified.
But the briefing was released! We want to see the underlying intelligence!
My guess is the briefing was released without authorization – probably to influence policy. If you want to see the underlying intelligence, get a clearance, join the intelligence community, work on cyber issues. No one is going to give you read access to sensitive material that may compromise sources and put lives and collection in danger, because your tinfoil hat is so tight, that you think the CIA is somehow biased against Trump, and made an assessment about him cheating his way into the White House that the CIA didn’t actually make.
The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.
Some are using this bit in the report to claim that because there is disagreement, the assessment is false/biased/an Obama Administration plot to overturn the election. The DC, in particular, ran a story yesterday claiming the FBI disagreed with CIA’s assessment.
The FBI did not corroborate the CIA’s claim that Russia had a hand in the election of President-elect Donald Trump in a meeting with lawmakers last week.
Except, according to the original report, that’s not really what the CIA assessed. They assessed the motivations for the meddling (that the Russians wanted Trump to win), not that somehow Russia HELPED Trump win, because it’s nearly impossible to assess that Russia was actually responsible for Trump’s victory. CIA was assessing Russia’s motivations and desires vis-a-vis the election. I doubt anyone can dispute the Russians’ involvement given these activities detailed in an August report in which the FBI confirmed that Russians had, indeed, been mucking around in our elections systems. But FBI, being a law enforcement agency, uses a different standard of evidence than the intelligence community, because their ultimate goal is to bring a prosecution.
Were the Russians successful in undermining Americans’ confidence in their election systems, which is the second assessment CIA made? Gallup polling in September indicated that only 62 percent of Americans had confidence in the accuracy of the vote count, but this number is similar to the polls conducted in 2008 – before revelations about active Russian meddling came to light. So it’s difficult to attribute the low confidence to the Russians. But again, the assessment wasn’t about the Russians’ success or failure, but the motivations behind their hacking activities. Big difference.
Further, the Democrats weren’t the only ones hacked, according to the FBI, although the Republican Party denies it was hacked.
A solid explanation of the differences in FBI and CIA assessments can be found here.
For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said in a television interview that the “Russian government is not the source.”
Well, gosh. Because the information would arrive at
Assange’s Ecuadorean Embassy’s doorstep stamped: FOR WIKILEAKS — WITH LOVE — FROM THE KREMLIN! Of course, Kremlin’s involvement would be several times removed! That doesn’t prove or disprove anything. It would be rather suspicious if there were obvious links to the Kremlin. That’s when I would scream that something is off, because the Russians are never this obvious!
Hopefully, this clarifies some stuff, because both sides seem to be going full turnip on this issue.
Nothing in the reports claims that the intelligence community assesses that Russia helped Trump win – only that this was the Russians’ desired outcome.
Nothing in the reports claims that either Trump or his campaign were in any way complicit in those efforts.
Nothing in the reports or the assessments claims Hillary would have won had Russia not interfered. Frankly, she was a weak candidate to begin with
And by the way, nothing in the reports indicates in any way that Russia was successful in hacking the actual RESULTS or somehow changed them in some way. Nothing.
So maybe Republicans need to stop screeching about lies and CIA conspiracies.
And maybe the Democrats need to quit wailing about how the election was ostensibly stolen from Queen Pantsuit.
And maybe – just maybe – we need to focus on the fact that Russia, in addition to its activities threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors, and using outright thugs to do it, trying to weaken the NATO alliance, shooting down civilian airliners, and using militants to achieve its goals of increasing its influence in the former Soviet sphere, has also been trying to wage cyber warfare against us.
If you don’t think that’s a big deal, because “we deserve it for our own meddling,” and you think that’s just fine, because ultimately your guy won, I wonder if you’d be intellectually honest enough to admit if you’d feel similarly had Hillary won.
I’d wager to say you’d be screaming bloody murder.