Lies, damn lies, and assessment language

russia-cyberThe 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.

ballotsAnyone 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!

hatMy 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.


42 responses

  1. Lois E Brenneman, MSN, FNP

    It is quite possible that Russia hacked into US email and selectively released what they found. Bottom line is that if Hillary and the Dems did not commit such egregious act, they would not have been exposed. It is sort of like a person getting a speeding ticket and then getting arrested because the person had had illegal drugs on the car seat, in full view of the officer who pulled the car over. Well, if they were not transporting illegal drugs, they would not have been arrested. They would have simply come away with a speeding ticket. I have no sympathy for the Dems in this matter. If they did not do the things for which were exposed, they would not have been vulnerable. The Russians may well have exposed them but they certainly did not force the parties to commit the wrong-doings in question. Just another example of failure to take responsibility for one’s behavior and actions. Furthermore, why were the servers in question “hackable” in the first place. In Hillary’s case, we know the answer. Obviously whoever was responsible for keeping the DNC and RNC servers secure was not doing the job competently. Corrective action needs be taken. Don’t leave your car unlocked with your purse on the front seat and then complain that the purse was stolen

    Liked by 3 people

  2. […] Source: Lies, damn lies, and assessment language […]


  3. In the interest of accuracy and fairness, let’s examine the report.

    Small point here: WAPO never saw the report. The report is NOT out in the media. All WAPO has is hearsay evidence probably from one of the “gang of 12” who attended the briefing. So whatever WAPO posted is filtered through an unnamed source. So we are getting THIS person’s impressions of what was in the briefing…

    NONE of this is going to change the outcome: Trump will still be president.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I meant the Washington Post report. Not the briefing.


  4. Unless there comes to light evidence of Russia actually hacking the voting machines or stealing ballot boxes I’m not really worried about this. The Kremlin wants to take on the job of the media and report actual facts in news stories, more power to them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Remember that neither FBI nor CIA are static agencies. They change positions all the time because the agencies are run by people (who btw change all the time). Those in power make the decisions, the grunts must follow if they want to remain employed in a pretty good job.

    The fluidity of policy reflects upper reaches of political atmosphere in DC.

    Was CIA right? Not possible to say yet, but both agencies have agendi and want to retain the power they have. It is for sure that if a President or wannabe crosses CIA, the person feels it fast…too many to cite right now, but history is replete with examples.

    A friend of mine who worked at the Company told me he never met anybody who wasn’t brilliant nor did he meet anybody who was conservative. Wild Bill Donovan was appointed to OSS (Office of Strategic Services, progenitor of CIA) by the very liberal FDR. OSS was supposed to go after VJ Day, but Truman rolled it over into CIA.

    Both agencies were heavily political. Clinton made the mistake of blaming the agencies for her loss, and they got even. Her Presidency was doomed from the get go because she exposed stuff, inadvertently, she shouldn’t have. She left them out to dry after Benghazi by stupidly blaming a video when an arms deal went south.

    Don’t expect CIA to come clean on this…they used to upend governments for a living, and don’t expect Brennan to come to the rescue. He’s toast, has been since he was appointed.

    The leaks are disinformation. Believe half of what you see, and nothing that you hear.


  6. I’m torn. I don’t know which way to turn.
    It’s either read more John le Carre or completely give up Robert Ludlum and Ken Follett.
    I blame Nikita Krushchev for all of this. It’s his fault. Well, his and Brezhnev’s.
    I do not know how to react to these hysterical reports any more.
    Secret? Really? ‘The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment…’ If it’s a secret assessment, then how come we the people are hearing about it? Personally, I think that whatever or whoever is the source of this info is doing it for the sole purpose of finding out just how much trouble s/he can stir up before retirement. If it ain’t ‘DECLASS’, then how come we get it from the useless and unreliable news media? Is this meant to stir the pot before Inauguration in January? Or cause civil unrest on or slightly before December 19, which is the electoral vote deadline?
    This is ridiculous. I don’t think any of this is classified in any way. I think it is just plain bull shit meant to stir the pot some more and cause more trouble in the general populace, for what reason I cannot possibly understand, unless it’s meant to cause more public violence. If that’s the case, those who are responsible for that kind of thing must have the most warped fucking egos on the planet.


    1. I have a theory about why it was leaked. I think it was to influence policy to use the cyber EO, which hasn’t been used to designate anyone yet.


    2. Well, but — well, gee, Amazon just notified me, et al., that they now have Kindle Unlimited in Japan, and that’s all cyber-books. (Sigh.) So I guess that means that trip I was gonna take to Honshu will have to wait another decade or so…. 😉


  7. And yet our government’s involvement with the recent Israeli election is okay?


    1. Zero to do with what I’m talking about.


        1. Is that even possible? LOL!


  8. The Unknown Professor

    Nikki – don’t be trying to talk Nuance. If you’re not going straight to ELEVENTY!!!!!!! (and we know what Sir PTerry said about excessive usage of exclamation points), you must be a shill for someone. (sorry – couldn’t seem to say that with a straight face).

    In all seriousness, nice analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful analysis. Thanks for the clarity and the humor.


  10. In related news, the integrity of the Hall of Fame is at stake. Someone hacked Tom Brady’s phone, posting conversations of Brady encouraging the staff to help him cheat by deflating footballs. Americans should be very concerned by outsiders influencing the Hall of Fame vote.

    /that’s all this Russian nonsense is


  11. Very interesting text, and very relevant, at least to me. I love the USA, where I lived for 20 years, and currently live in Belarus, my country of birth. I loathe the Russian way of government, and I felt very supportive of the Maidan movement three years ago. At the same time, I’m skeptical of the American political establishment, and specifically, it’s policy vis-a-vis Russia. My impression is, the US has done everything to provoke Russia, and nothing to contain it. So, this made me think:

    “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.”

    “Deserve” is a word that has to do with fairness, justice, and morality, which makes it somewhat irrelevant when we speak about Russia. In other words, what I think matters is not whether Russia’s actions are justified – what matters is, what do we do about them? I hate Russia’s meddling in its neighbors’ affairs, but I think the US interference only made things worse. One reason for that, I think, is hubris, the belief that the US can fix anything that’s wrong in the world. We think simply admitting the Baltics into NATO, or voicing our support for Maidan, will protect these countries from Russia. What happened in reality is pretty much the opposite.

    The Kremlin rulers may be evil (in my view, they are), but that’s no reason to dismiss their capabilities. This means choosing our battles wisely – something the US has failed to do, ever since the war in Yugoslavia. I can only hope that Trump will do better in this respect, than his predecessors.


  12. Thanks for the even analysis of this situation. I find myself clicking out of most political pieces these days because of the extreme partisanship, left and right, and it’s nice to at least feel like the writer is trying to address the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. In 2008, Barack Obama accepted foreign donations by disabling AVS verification on his website. Democrats didn’t give a sh*t.
    In 2012, Barack Obama accepted foreign donations by disabling AVS verification on his website. Democrats didn’t give a sh*t.
    We have their candidate’s campaign ON VIDEO TAPE bragging about hiring thugs to incite violence against the other candidate’s supporters…. and more tape showing it was carried out. Democrats didn’t give a sh*t.
    We have their candidate’s campaign ON VIDEO TAPE bragging about how they committed election fraud in the past, and were going to commit it again…. and again more evidence showing that this was done, from precincts with more votes than voters to people showing up only to find they “had already voted” to Republican poll watchers kicked out when they protested. Democrats didn’t give a sh*t.

    And now they want us to believe that they consider election tampering a problem? After literally decades of doing everything they possibly could to undermine the integrity of our elections? They can just sit right down with a tall cold glass of STFU.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Typical case of politics blinding someone to reality. This isn’t democrats vs. republicans. This is intelligence community assessments based on available information. You don’t believe it, because you are a Republican? That makes you stupid and blind. These analysts aren’t political appointees. They’ve served through multiple administrations – both Republican and Democrat. But you go on flogging the same party line. Stupid is as stupid does.


      1. These people either sat by or cheered destroying our electoral integrity including with foreign influence for years, and called us “raaaaacist” whenever we tried to fix it.

        Oh, and not Democrat? Check the donation records on OpenSecrets. Oh, but that would involve evidence. And your having to admit something about your Bureaucrat tribe.

        Damn, you just can’t get past the TDS. Take a good look in the mirror, lady.


        1. Jesus, you’re a fucking idiot! You can’t even comprehend what the post is about, let alone have a coherent analysis of the facts involved or a comprehension of what I actually said in a comment!

          “These analysts aren’t political appointees. They’ve served through multiple administrations – both Republican and Democrat.” — my exact quote. OpenSecrets won’t tell you to whom CIA analysts donated money, you deranged moron!

          TDS? I’ve said nothing negative about Trump at all in this post! It was an analysis of existing press reporting, but your tongue is stuck so far up the GOP’s anus, you can’t even read properly!


        2. Look, let’s get something clear: what the Russians did (arguendo, as with all intel this report is “we think there’s a high probability that…”) is to obtain and leak real emails. IF this had been done by the New York Times — check that — if this had been done by the New York Times to Donald Trump, they’d be on their way to a Pulitzer. And if that meant Trump lost, no one would be bitching about “electoral integrity”.

          Russian cyber attacks: problem.
          “Electoral integrity issues” because of the leaks: Fake problem


        3. And what this turd doesn’t understand is that I wrote this post, in part, to combat this last part: “Electoral integrity issues” because of the leaks: Fake problem.

          And I specifically said so.


        4. Electoral Integrity Issues whether the Russians were involved or not: big problem.
          People willing to blow off Electoral Integrity Issues because of TDS: big problem.

          But hey, it’s always good to know where people stand and what motivates them.


    2. Of course they complain about election tampering, if it’s not them doing it.


      1. Except there’s nothing in reporting indicating ELECTION TAMPERING. They didn’t penetrate election results. They hacked into private systems, including the Illinois GOP, and 20 states’ election systems (probably to probe for vulnerabilities). But there is nothing to suggest they tampered with the results. People need to stop conflating the two.


  14. Great analysis Nicki! Pretty much puts into text what has been rattling around in my head for the day.


    1. Thanks, bud! It bothered me enough, because of the way the media was reporting it, and because of the way both sides of the political aisle were interpreting it, that I had to write something.


  15. Despite my rather supercilious comments above, none of the 17(?) intelligence agencies seem to be able to agree on the source of this information. (17 is the number I got from a Reuters article, don’t know how reliable.)

    In my view, this smacks loudly of someone on the inside, some DNC insider, leaking the stuff anonymously, which is funny as hell if true. Someone else said this and it makes sense to me. The real issue is the mismatch between pre-election poll results and the actual votes. This is because the polls were taken only in areas where Clinton actually ran a heavy-duty campaign. She did not, for instance, pay much attention to Wisconsin, if any at all. Us flatlanders living in what is termed ‘fly over country’ were dismissed and ignored.

    When Cliinton started her campaign in Iowa in October 2015, she made some grandiose statement about putting solar panels on every building in Amerca, right in the middle of the Corn Belt to a bunch of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the weather and commodities prices at the grain elevator. She was so obviously disconnected from the reality of that place that it showed up on camera. She was not well-received at all. She ignored the very states that could have voted for her.

    As a result of her lack of connection to the farming population of a farm state, Iowa gave Trump 51.8% of the vote, while she got barely 42.2%.

    I think it is that simple, and the media can use excuse after excuse after lame-ass excuse to explain how Trump won and Clinton didn’t, but the fact is, and will remain, that he got the job and she didn’t. End of story.


    1. “none of the 17(?) intelligence agencies seem to be able to agree on the source of this information.” – That’s not true.


    2. The real issue is the mismatch between pre-election poll results and the actual votes.

      Only to people who don’t understand polling, which sadly appears to be most of the general populace.

      By the time the election came, nearly every poll had HRC over Trump, but within the margin of error. That means, basically, that the polls were predicting that there was a 19 in 20 chance that one of them was going to win and it would be close.


  16. Remember, the probability that a leaked intelligence report will serve the interests of the leaker is the only probability that exceeds 1.0.


    1. Not necessarily. The leaker could be an inept fuckwit shooting himself in the foot.


  17. Remember the good old days when people who stated that Russia was serious threat were mercilessly mocked? Now those very same people who did the mocking are seeing Russkies everywhere?


  18. How exactly did they attempt to influence the election? By hacking DNC and RNC emails. And only releasing the DNC emails that showed what a corrupt cesspool the DNC had become (and continues to be)? Is that what the media is supposed to be doing?
    Remember when the 80s called and wanted their foreign policy back? I guess the administration finally answered that call


    1. “2016 is the year hackers became journalists, and journalists became hacks.”

      That’s a meme I read that made me laugh out loud (literally) but it’s not true; journalists have been hacks for far longer than just this past year.


  19. […] victory was invalid, even though the revelations about the Intelligence Community’s assessments of Russian meddling in our elections did not judge that the Russians succeeded in helping Trump, did not implicate Trump or his campaign in any way, […]


  20. […] Understand that you can acknowledge that he won the election fair and square AND recognize that the Russians tried to meddle in our elections. […]


  21. […] system, as well as undermine Hillary Clinton in favor of Trump. I’ve said this before on this very blog. The declassified ICA confirms what I’ve said […]


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