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Piece of Paper Tells American People It Was Russia. You Can Trust Them!

11:30 pm - 01/10/2017
Corporate Media Sounds Drums of War. Russians Will Greet Us as Liberators!

Declassified US Intelligence Report on Russia: a Critical Review

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently released a declassified report concerning Russia and the 2016 US presidential elections.  The report is titled, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” The report is the joint effort of The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA).

It’s an easy read (25 pages). I suggest reading the entire report and forming your own conclusions. I was originally going to dissect the report line-by-line, but instead decided a quick overview would be more useful. Plus, most of the report is redundant and provides virtually no new information, let alone evidence or sources.


Background

The report suggests that this “assessment” was “highly classified,” which again, I find quite amusing as this report reveals nothing new:

The Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise basis for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.

Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods (2).


In other words, the public is supposed to take the intelligence community’s word at face value and accept the conclusions reached in this report with no evidence.

Scope and Sourcing

The report reads, “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion” (i).

Here, an important distinction must be made because many Americans, particularly liberals and Democrats, assume that Russian influence had a direct impact on the 2016 US election results. Right now, even the US intelligence community suggests there is absolutely no evidence for such a claim.

Sourcing

“Many of the key judgments in this assessment rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior” (i). One might ask what, exactly, is the intelligence community’s “understanding of Russian behavior?”

Here, the US intelligence community, either knowingly or unknowingly, is making the same mistake it made during the Cold War, where the US not only overestimated the projection of Soviet power, but also miscalculated Soviet intentions.

The report goes on, “The Russian leadership invests significant resources in both foreign and domestic propaganda and places a premium on transmitting what it views as consistent, self-reinforcing narratives regarding its desires. . .” (i). Here, again, it’s important for Americans to recognize that all state apparatuses around the world, including and especially the US, do the same thing to varying degrees.

Key Judgements

The wording of the report, especially in this section, leads one to believe that Putin had a profound role in the operation, “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” (ii). This is quite the claim. The notion that Putin directly ordered the campaign will be difficult, if not impossible to corroborate if the public is provided no evidence.

Furthermore, the report suggests that Russia’s “activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations” (ii). Again, difficult to prove without adequate and available evidence. Let’s assume this is true. How would one go about determining whether or not this is true? If the public isn’t allowed the details and evidence, can we at least get clarification about the methods used to examine the evidence?

The fundamental judgement is not only that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, or portions of the Russian government, preferred Trump over Clinton, but that these entities also “aspired to help” Trump win. The CIA and FBI have “high confidence” while the NSA has “moderate confidence” this is true.

On a side note, I would warn that the Russian government, like all governments, is not a homogenous entity. It doesn’t hold one party line. Even in the most dictatorial governments opinions vary and internal disputes and conflicts of interest are inherent in governmental processes.

The report suggests that Russia used, “covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls'” to discredit the Clinton campaign and “unfavorably contrast the two candidates” (ii).

While the report insists that the “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards,” it also clearly notes, “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying” (iii). Again, this is important to note as many liberals and Democrats have hinted that the Russians tampered with the actual vote totals, which is an entirely different charge.

Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election

The main charge in this section, once again, is that Putin directly ordered an “influence campaign,” whose primary goals were to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency” (1).

First of all, the US public doesn’t need the Russians to “undermine” our “faith in the [so-called] US democratic process.” Americans are already quite cynical about their so-called “democratic processes.” Further, Secretary Clinton’s personal baggage and neoliberal-hawk legacy “denigrated” her campaign more than any supposed Russian interference could ever dream of accomplishing. As many people have pointed out, Secretary Clinton’s campaign was a complete disaster – both ideologically, but also organizationally.

The report also suggests that Putin used the Panama Papers and the Olympic doping scandal as a way to “defame Russia” and cast the US as hypocrites. Again, even if these claims are true, is one to believe that such efforts were necessary? Doubtful. The world already recognizes American hypocrisy – they live it. Many Americans recognize their government’s hypocrisy, without the help of Russian propaganda.

This section also contains one of the most important statements in the report: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him” (1).

This sentence is typical of the way the US government uses language as a propaganda tool. In other words, the public is led to believe that Putin and the Russian government make political decisions primarily based on Putin’s emotions and interpersonal disputes as opposed to their very real national interests. This is a very important rhetorical/ideological tool. The lesson, for the US audience at least, is that foreign leaders are emotional and childish, whereas US leaders are reasonable and rational.

Most importantly, the report suggests that Putin preferred Trump over Clinton because of Clinton’s aggressive stance on Ukraine and Syria. Once again, this makes sense not only from the Russian perspective, but also from the perspective of someone who seeks to live in a decent world. Some commentators have downplayed the risk of a new Cold War, while others, such as Stephen F. Cohen, insist that the US and Russia are currently engaged in the most dangerous set of relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Russia Campaign Was Multifaceted

“By their nature, Russian influence campaigns are multifaceted and designed to be deniable because they use a mix of agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations, and false-flag operations. Moscow demonstrated this during the Ukraine crisis in 2014, when Russia deployed forces and advisers to eastern Ukraine and denied it publicly” (2).

Here, again, it’s important for Western audiences to realize that the US, UK and various other governments have also used “agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations and false-flag operations,” to a much greater degree, and with much greater success. That being said, the public is once again supposed to take the intelligence community’s word at face-value. The report, as noted above and admitted by those who wrote it, does not provide any specific information, evidence, sources, facts, etc.

Cyber Espionage Against US Political Organizations

According to this section, “In July 2015, Russian intelligence gained access to Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks and maintained that access until at least June 2016” (2). In addition, “The General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the GRU operations resulted in the compromise of the personal e-mail accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures. By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC” (2). Again, these claims are unsubstantiated.

Public Disclosure of Russian-Collected Data

This section of the report claims that Russia used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, Wikileaks and DCLeaks.com to release data about the DNC and broader US electoral process (3). The US intelligence community claims, “with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks” (3).

The remainder of this section seeks to tie RT (formerly Russia Today) to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, primarily because Assange had a program on RT (hardly a substantial relationship to the Kremlin).

Russian Propaganda Efforts

“RT and Sputnik—another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences—consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment,” the report states (4). While this may be the most truthful portion of the report, this section still doesn’t provide any evidence showing how these efforts are directly ordered and/or coordinated by the Kremlin.

It’s unquestionable that RT consistently aired anti-Clinton propaganda and disinformation, but the question remains: to what extent, exactly, did the Kremlin play in disseminating such information? These are questions we will return to in the Annex A section which will be listed below.

Influence Effort Was Boldest Yet in the US

The report claims, “Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election represented a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations aimed at US elections” (5). Yet, the evidence is missing. This section goes on to note that Russia has learned from the success of Wikileaks and thus seeks to utilize the leaked material on a more regular basis and in a more effective manner.

Election Operation Signals “New Normal” in Russian Influence Efforts

This section claims that “Russia has sought to influence elections across Europe” (5). While this statement is most likely true, the report lacks the evidence necessary to back up such a claim. What elections? When? How? And with what intent? Those are the questions the public should ask when confronted with such claims.

ANNEX A: Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US

This section primarily deals with the media entity commonly known as RT, or Russia Today:

RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties. The rapid expansion of RT’s operations and budget and recent candid statements by RT’s leadership point to the channel’s importance to the Kremlin as a messaging tool and indicate a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest. The Kremlin has committed significant resources to expanding the channel’s reach, particularly its social media footprint. A reliable UK report states that RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK. RT America has positioned itself as a domestic US channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government (6).

The report claims that RT escalated its critiques of US policies just prior to the 2012 US presidential election, and added shows that were extremely critical of US political systems and “liberal democracies.” This section of the report also notes that “RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham'” (6). In this case, RT is simply reporting what US media outlets should be reporting: namely, the truth.

Interestingly, this section of the report finds a way to not only badmouth Russia and Putin, but also Occupy, as the report asserts that RT aired documentaries about the Occupy movement and other “revolutionary” movements in an attempt to stir violent resistance to the US government (7).

RT Conducts Strategic Messaging for Russian Government

The report notes, “RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan recently declared that the United States itself lacks democracy and that it has ‘no moral right to teach the rest of the world’ (Kommersant, 6 November)” (7). Indeed, Simonyan is correct: the US lacks credibility. Again, in this section the US intelligence community seeks to cask Occupy in the same light as the Russian government and in some dubious way tie its actions to RT: “Simonyan has characterized RT’s coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement as ‘information warfare’ that is aimed at promoting popular dissatisfaction with the US Government. RT created a Facebook app to connect Occupy Wall Street protesters via social media. In addition, RT featured its own hosts in Occupy rallies (“Minaev Live,” 10 April; RT, 2, 12 June)” (7).

The report continues:

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).

RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November) (7).


It’s almost as if RT is attempting to tell the American public the truth, as opposed to the sensationalist nonsense regurgitated by US media outlets on a daily/nightly basis. The fact that these sections were even incorporated in the report is a clear indication of not only who the report is meant to be read by, but also whose interests the report reflects.

This continues as the report goes on to question RT’s anti-fracking programming, as well as its programming highlighting Western military intervention in Syria (8). “In recent interviews, RT’s leadership has candidly acknowledged its mission to expand its US audience and to expose it to Kremlin messaging. However, the leadership rejected claims that RT interferes in US domestic affairs” (8). Such statements indicate that the US intelligence community isn’t only, or even primarily interested in Russian meddling in the internal affairs of the US – its primary concern is the expansion of Russian influence vis a vi social media and alternative media outlets such as RT.

RT Leadership Closely Tied to, Controlled by Kremlin

The main claim is that, “RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan has close ties to top Russian Government officials, especially Presidential Administration Deputy Chief of Staff Aleksey Gromov, who reportedly manages political TV coverage in Russia and is one of the founders of RT” (9). Again, while this may be true, it’s no different than the sort of connections Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner enjoy with top US officials.

RT Focuses on Social Media, Building Audience

Like any media outlet, “RT aggressively advertises its social media accounts and has a significant and fast-growing social media footprint. In line with its efforts to present itself as anti-mainstream and to provide viewers alternative news content, RT is making its social media operations a top priority, both to avoid broadcast TV regulations and to expand its overall audience” (10).

The section notes that, “RT’s website receives at least 500,000 unique viewers every day. Since its inception in 2005, RT videos received more than 800 million views on YouTube (1 million views per day), which is the highest among news outlets [higher than CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC]” (10). Unsurprisingly, the report goes on to note that social media (commonly demonized by mainstream press and political elites) helps expand RT’s coverage, and that the Occupy Wall Street movement helped boost RT’s numbers (10).

Without question, RT is a growing media empire, with “the most rapid growth (40 percent) among all international news channels in the United States over the past year (2012)” (10). Moreover, “RT states on its website that it can reach more than 550 million people worldwide and 85 million people in the United States” (10). Clearly, the issue is RT’s influence on public opinion, not the Russian government’s actual influence on US election results.

Formal Disassociation From Kremlin Facilitates RT US Messaging

According to the report, “RT America formally disassociates itself from the Russian Government by using a Moscow-based autonomous nonprofit organization to finance its US operations” (12). The remainder of this section is, for the most part, concerned with media licensing and financing. Like most media outlets,”RT hires or makes contractual agreements with Westerners with views that fit its agenda and airs them on RT” (12).

Toward the end of the section, however, the report manages to take one more crack at activists and social movements in the US, “Some hosts and journalists do not present themselves as associated with RT when interviewing people, and many of them have affiliations to other media and activist organizations in the United States (‘Minaev Live,’ 10 April)” (12).

Conclusions

As mentioned above, this recently declassified US intelligence report tells us very little, and virtually nothing new. Any geopolitical analyst, professor, activist or conscious person already knew what the US intelligence community’s claims. The primary task of this report is to reinforce existing assumptions about Russia and Putin, and to mislead the public.

The reason I methodically went through the report is so average folks can understand what they should be thinking about when reading such reports. These reports, like legalistic language, are meant to confuse people. The average person becomes intimidated when they see a report by the CIA, FBI and NSA. My review hopes to challenge those assumptions and provide an accessible and critical review.

Declassified US Intelligence Report on Russia: a Critical Review


Independent Bipartisan Commission Now More Than Ever
The report contains not a shred of forensic evidence that the Russian government directed the hacks of the DNC or of John Podesta.

In 1966, the scholar-diplomat George F. Kennan testified before Senator William J. Fulbright’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said that the United States would be well advised to quit its habit of overhyping communist threats abroad. To continue, in Kennan’s words, to “jump around” like “an elephant frightened by a mouse” was unbecoming a great power and ultimately detrimental to its national security interests.

The 25 page declassified report on Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) proves, if nothing else, that old habits die hard: we are still jumping around like that frightened elephant.

Released on January 6, the public version of the ODNI report is presented as an “analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA).”

The report assesses with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The aim of Putin’s campaign was threefold: “undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The trouble with the ODNI report, as quickly becomes clear, is that there is simply “no there there.” The report contains not a single shred of forensic evidence that the Russian government directed the hacks of the DNC or of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Instead of demonstrating conclusive links between the government of Russia and the hackers or between the government of Russia and Wikileaks, we are provided with a series of undocumented, evidence-free assertions of “high confidence” that Vladimir Putin directed an influence campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton in order to hurt her chances at the polls in November.

The report is marred by a reliance on innuendo and amateur psychological insights into Putin’s motives, while adding no new forensic or other hard evidence. Nowhere does the report indicate the ODNI’s sweeping conclusions were based on either HUMINT (human intelligence) or SIGINT (signals intelligence).

Nor does the report necessarily indicate agreement between the three lead agencies. According to The New York Times, “the eavesdroppers of the NSA believe with only ‘moderate confidence’ that Russia aimed to help Mr. Trump, while their colleagues at the CIA and the FBI have ‘high confidence.’” This is especially troubling because, as William Binney, a 36-year veteran of NSA and the creator of many of its collection systems, has pointed out, “the NSA would know where and how any ‘hacked’ emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network.”

Given the shoddy, and at times risible, nature of the ODNI report, one can’t help but wonder why it was released in the first place, particularly since the bulk of the report is focused not on the hacking allegations but on the Russian state media channel RT, to which seven of the 25 pages of the report are dedicated.

While it’s certainly not wrong to say Russia is trying to influence public opinion in the United States through its English language channel (as the US does through its own government-funded media outlet in Latin America, the Spanish language Radio Martí, or in Eastern and Central Europe through the Slavic language programming of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) the level of influence Russian media actually have in the United States is really quite small.

The country’s leading expert on Russian media, Duke University professor Ellen Mickiewicz, asks why the ODNI takes at face value RT’s own estimate of its viewership at “550 million people worldwide and 85 million in the US.” That estimate, says Mickiewicz, “is wholly imaginary. It refers to potential audience: households that can receive a signal—if and only if—they bother to turn it on.”

The question remains: Do large numbers of Americans tune in to RT? According to Professor Mickiewicz, “They do not. Nielsen analyzed the top 94 cable news programs from December 2014 through March 2015. RT did not even make it onto the list.”

In that case, another question arises: did the ODNI not know that? And if not, why not?

In any event, the focus on RT is puzzling for another reason: A number of RT’s best-known personalities, like former MSNBC host Ed Shultz, the radio host Thom Hartmann, and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Chris Hedges, were openly critical of Trump during the campaign. So the idea that RT was exclusively an engine for pro-Trump messaging just doesn’t hold up. Still more puzzling is that one of the RT programs singled out by the report for its role in influencing the election results, Breaking the Set, ended 2 years ago.

Simply put: The report gives Russian media far too much credit for shaping American public opinion.

Meanwhile, major media outlets have gone into overdrive in denouncing President-elect Trump for seeming to question the validity of the intelligence community’s fundings. On January 7 Trump took to Twitter to pronounce: “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!”

Trump, it must be said, is a lousy messenger, and progressives are right to view his coming presidency with a very deep sense of alarm—but he is not, in this case, wrong.

There are indeed many grounds on which to criticize the president-elect. But the current hysteria over Russia may tie Trump’s hands during a time when US-Russia relations are at an exceedingly dangerous point. And that puts us all at risk. As Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary William Perry told Politico magazine last week, “We are starting a new Cold War.”

“We seem,” says Perry, “to be sleepwalking into this new nuclear arms race. We and the Russians and others don’t understand what we are doing.” If the ODNI report is anything to go by, that is almost certainly the case.

With that in mind, we should welcome an independent, bipartisan commission to examine the intelligence community’s classified findings and to recommend measures to ensure the integrity of our elections going forward. Legislation sponsored last week by Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and California Congressman Eric Swalwell to create such a commission is, perhaps, a good first step.

Independent Bipartisan Commission Now More Than Ever


US Report Still Lacks Proof on Russia ‘Hack’
Exclusive: Despite mainstream media acceptance, the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment on alleged Russian “hacking” still lacks hard public evidence, a case of “trust-us” by politicized spy agencies, writes Robert Parry.

Repeating an accusation over and over again is not evidence that the accused is guilty, no matter how much “confidence” the accuser asserts about the conclusion. Nor is it evidence just to suggest that someone has a motive for doing something. Many conspiracy theories are built on the notion of “cui bono” – who benefits – without following up the supposed motive with facts.

But that is essentially what the U.S. intelligence community has done regarding the dangerous accusation that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a covert information campaign to influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.

Just a day after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper vowed to go to the greatest possible lengths to supply the public with the evidence behind the accusations, his office released a 25-page report that contained no direct evidence that Russia delivered hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta to WikiLeaks.

The DNI report amounted to a compendium of reasons to suspect that Russia was the source of the information – built largely on the argument that Russia had a motive for doing so because of its disdain for Democratic nominee Clinton and the potential for friendlier relations with Republican nominee Trump.

But the case, as presented, is one-sided and lacks any actual proof. Further, the continued use of the word “assesses” – as in the U.S. intelligence community “assesses” that Russia is guilty – suggests that the underlying classified information also may be less than conclusive because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses.”

The DNI report admits as much, saying, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

But the report’s assessment is more than just a reasonable judgment based on a body of incomplete information. It is tendentious in that it only lays out the case for believing in Russia’s guilt, not reasons for doubting that guilt.

A Risky Bet

For instance, while it is true that many Russian officials, including President Putin, considered Clinton to be a threat to worsen the already frayed relationship between the two nuclear superpowers, the report ignores the downside for Russia trying to interfere with the U.S. election campaign and then failing to stop Clinton, which looked like the most likely outcome until Election Night.

If Russia had accessed the DNC and Podesta emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication, Putin would have to think that the National Security Agency, with its exceptional ability to track electronic communications around the world, might well have detected the maneuver and would have informed Clinton.

So, on top of Clinton’s well-known hawkishness, Putin would have risked handing the expected incoming president a personal reason to take revenge on him and his country. Historically, Russia has been very circumspect in such situations, usually holding its intelligence collections for internal purposes only, not sharing them with the public.

While it is conceivable that Putin decided to take this extraordinary risk in this case – despite the widely held view that Clinton was a shoo-in to defeat Trump – an objective report would have examined this counter argument for him not doing so.

But the DNI report was not driven by a desire to be evenhanded; it is, in effect, a prosecutor’s brief, albeit one that lacks any real evidence that the accused is guilty.

Further undercutting the credibility of the DNI report is that it includes a seven-page appendix, dating from 2012, that is an argumentative attack on RT, the Russian government-backed television network, which is accused of portraying “the US electoral process as undemocratic.”

The proof for that accusation includes RT’s articles on “voting machine vulnerabilities” although virtually every major U.S. news organizations has run similar stories, including some during the last campaign on the feasibility of Russia hacking into the actual voting process, something that even U.S. intelligence says didn’t happen.

The reports adds that further undermining Americans’ faith in the U.S. democratic process, “RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates.” Apparently, the DNI’s point is that showing Americans that there are choices beyond the two big parties is somehow seditious.

“The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,’” the report said. Yet, polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties, So, the implicit RT criticism of the U.S. political process is certainly not out of the ordinary.

The report also takes RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken U.S. public support for Washington’s policies (although, again, these are topics of genuine public interest).

Behind the Curtain

Though it’s impossible for an average U.S. citizen to know precisely what the U.S. intelligence community may have in its secret files, some former NSA officials who are familiar with the agency’s eavesdropping capabilities say Washington’s lack of certainty suggests that the NSA does not possess such evidence.

For instance, that’s the view of William Binney, who retired as NSA’s technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and who created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.

Binney, in an article co-written with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, said, “With respect to the alleged interference by Russia and WikiLeaks in the U.S. election, it is a major mystery why U.S. intelligence feels it must rely on ‘circumstantial evidence,’ when it has NSA’s vacuum cleaner sucking up hard evidence galore. What we know of NSA’s capabilities shows that the email disclosures were from leaking, not hacking.”

There is also the fact that both WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and one of his associates, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, have denied that the purloined emails came from the Russian government. Going further, Murray has suggested that there were two separate sources, the DNC material coming from a disgruntled Democrat and the Podesta emails coming from possibly a U.S. intelligence source, since the Podesta Group represents Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments.

In response, Clapper and other U.S. government officials have sought to disparage Assange’s credibility, including Clapper’s Senate testimony on Thursday gratuitously alluding to sexual assault allegations against Assange in Sweden.

However, Clapper’s own credibility is suspect in a more relevant way. In 2013, he gave false testimony to Congress regarding the extent of the NSA’s collection of data on Americans. Clapper’s deception was revealed only when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of the NSA program to the press, causing Clapper to apologize for his “clearly erroneous” testimony.

A History of Politicization

The U.S. intelligence community’s handling of the Russian “hack” story also must be viewed in the historical context of the CIA’s “politicization” over the past several decades.

U.S. intelligence analysts, such as senior Russia expert Melvin A. Goodman, have described in detail both in books and in congressional testimony how the old tradition of objective CIA analysis was broken down in the 1980s.

At the time, the Reagan administration wanted to justify a massive arms buildup, so CIA Director William Casey and his pliant deputy, Robert Gates, oversaw the creation of inflammatory assessments on Soviet intentions and Moscow’s alleged role in international terrorism, including the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.

Besides representing “politicized” intelligence at its worst, these analyses became the bureaucratic battleground on which old-line analysts who still insisted on presenting the facts to the president whether he liked them or not were routed and replaced by a new generation of yes men.

The relevant point is that the U.S. intelligence community has never been repaired, in part because the yes men gave presidents of both parties what they wanted. Rather than challenging a president’s policies, this new generation mostly fashioned their reports to support those policies.

The bipartisan nature of this corruption is best illustrated by the role played by CIA Director George Tenet, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton but stayed on and helped President George W. Bush arrange his “slam dunk” case for convincing the American people that Iraq possessed caches of WMD, thus justifying Bush’s 2003 invasion.

There was the one notable case of intelligence analysts standing up to Bush in a 2007 assessment that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, but that was more an anomaly – resulting from the acute embarrassment over the Iraq WMD fiasco – than a change in pattern.

Presidents of both parties have learned that it makes their lives easier if the U.S. intelligence community is generating “intelligence” that supports what they want to do, rather than letting the facts get in the way.

The current case of the alleged Russian “hack” should be viewed in this context: President Obama considers Trump’s election a threat to his policies, both foreign and domestic. So, it’s only logical that Obama would want to weaken and discredit Trump before he takes office.

That doesn’t mean that the Russians are innocent, but it does justify a healthy dose of skepticism to the assessments by Obama’s senior intelligence officials.

US Report Still Lacks Proof on Russia ‘Hack’
prehnite 10th-Jan-2017 08:47 pm (UTC)
RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ [...] RT’s anti-fracking programming

Everyone knows that Russian propaganda is the only reason anyone could be against fracking or mass surveillance. Duh!
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