Overnight the media propaganda wars escalated after the late Friday release of an article by the Washington Post (which last week admitted to using unverified, or fake, news in an attempt to smear other so-called "fake news" sites) according to which a secret CIA assessment found that Russia sought to tip last month’s U.S. presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, a conclusion presented without any actual evidence, and which drew an extraordinary, and angry rebuke from the president-elect’s camp.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition team said, launching a broadside against the spy agency. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”
The Washington Post report comes after outgoing President Barack Obama ordered a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle, amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference in the campaign. The newspaper cited officials briefed on the matter as saying that individuals with connections to Moscow provided WikiLeaks with email hacked from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief and others.
Without a shred of evidence provided, and despite Wikileaks' own on the record denial that the source of the emails was Russian, the WaPo attack piece claims the email messages were steadily leaked out via WikiLeaks in the months before the election, damaging Clinton’s White House run. Essentially, according to the WaPo, the Russians’ aim was to help Donald Trump win and not just undermine the U.S. electoral process, hinting at a counter-Hillary intent on the side of Putin.
“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 newspaper quoted a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation last week to key senators as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”
CIA agents told the lawmakers it was “quite clear” - although it was not reported exactly what made it "clear" - that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post, citing growing evidence from multiple sources.
And yet, key questions remain unanswered, and the CIA’s report fell short of being a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies the newspaper said, for two reasons. As we reported in November "The "Fact" That 17 Intelligence Agencies Confirmed Russia is Behind the Email Hacks Isn’t Actually…A "Fact", and then also because aside from so-called "consensus", there is - once again - no evidence, otherwise the appropriate agencies would have long since released it, and this is nothing more than another propaganda attempt to build tension with Russia. In fact, the WaPo admits as much in the following text, which effectively destroys the article's entire argument :
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.
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.
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“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”
And since even the WaPo is forced to admit that intelligence agents don’t have the proof that Russian officials directed the identified individuals to supply WikiLeaks with the hacked Democratic emails, the best it can do is speculate based on circumstantial inferences, especially since, as noted above, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied links with Russia’s government, putting the burden of proof on the side of those who challenge the Wikileaks narrative. So far that proof has not been provided.
Nonetheless, at the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Obama called for the cyberattacks review earlier this week to ensure “the integrity of our elections.”
“This report will dig into this pattern of malicious cyberactivity timed to our elections, take stock of our defensive capabilities and capture lessons learned to make sure that we brief members of Congress and stakeholders as appropriate,” Schultz said.
Taking the absurdity to a whole new level, Obama wants the report completed before his term ends on January 20, by none other than a proven and confirmed liar: "The review will be led by James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence, officials said." In other words, the report that the Kremlin stole the election should be prepared by the time Trump is expected to be sworn in.
“We are going to make public as much as we can,” the spokesman added. “This is a major priority for the president.”
The move comes after Democrats in Congress pressed the White House to reveal details, to Congress or to the public, of Russian hacking and disinformation in the election.
On Oct. 7, one month before the election, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence announced that “the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” they said.
Trump dismissed those findings in an interview published Wednesday by Time magazine for its “Person of the Year” award. Asked if the intelligence was politicized, Trump answered: “I think so.”
“I don’t believe they interfered,” he said. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Worried that Trump will sweep the issue under the rug after his inauguration, seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on Nov. 29 for the White House to declassify what it knows about Russian interference. The seven have already been briefed on the classified details, suggesting they believe there is more information the public should know. On Tuesday this week, leading House Democrats called on Obama to give members of the entire Congress a classified briefing on Russian interference, from hacking to the spreading of fake news stories to mislead U.S. voters.
Republicans in Congress have also promised hearings into Russian activities once the new administration comes in.
Obama’s homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said the cyberinterference goes back to the 2008 presidential race, when both the Obama and John McCain campaigns were hit by malicious computer intrusions.
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An interesting aside to emerge from last night's hit piece and the Trump team response is that there is now a full blown turf war between Trump and the CIA, as NBC's Chuck Todd observed in a series of late Friday tweets:
The implication in the Trump transition statement is that he doesn't believe a single thing from the CIA.— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) December 10, 2016
Is the next Commander-in-Chief is signaling that the CIA won't be a major player in his national security team?— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) December 10, 2016
So stunned by the Trump transition statement on the Post-CIA-Russia story that I half expect a walk back by tomorrow— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) December 10, 2016
How helpful is it for the CIA's reputation around the world if the next US questions their findings so publicly? Good luck Mike Pompeo— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) December 10, 2016
To which Glenn Greenwald provided the best counterargument:
Yes, the CIA's sterling reputation around the world for truth-telling and integrity might be sullied if someone doubts their claims... https://t.co/2uyQXvFdOK— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 10, 2016
When is it hardest to get people not to blindly accept anonymous, evidence-free CIA claims? When it's very pleasing to believe them.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 10, 2016
However, of the mini Tweetstorm, this was the most important aspect: the veiled suggestion that in addition to Russia, both the FBI and the Obama presidency prevented Hillary from becoming the next US president...
While Obama's FBI director smeared Hillary, Obama sat on evidence of Russian efforts to elect Trump that had basis in evidence.— Franklin Foer (@FranklinFoer) December 10, 2016
... which in light of these stunning new unproven and baseless allegations, she may very well have renewed aspirations toward.
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So while there is no "there" there following the WaPo's latest attempt to fan the rarging fires of evidence-free propaganda, or as the WaPo itself would say "fake news", here is why the story has dramatic implications. First, the only two quotes which matter:
"...there is no clear evidence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”
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"...Obama wants the report before he leaves office Jan. 20, Monaco said. The review will be led by [PROVEN LIAR] James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence, officials said."
And then the summary:
- Announce "consensus" (not unanimous) "conclusion" based in circumstantial evidence now, before the Electoral College vote, then write a report with actual details due by Jan 20.
- Put a proven liar in charge of writing the report on Russian hacking.
- Fail to mention that not one of the leaked DNC or Podesta emails has been shown to be inauthentic. So the supposed Russian hacking simply revealed truth about Hillary, DNC, and MSM collusion and corruption.
- Fail to mention that if hacking was done by or for US government to stop Hillary, blaming the Russians would be the most likely disinformation used by US agencies.
- Expect every pro-Hillary lapdog journalist - which is virtually all of them - in America will hyperventilate (Twitter is currently on fire) about this latest fact-free, anti-Trump political stunt for the next nine days.
Or, as a reader put it, this is a soft coup attempt by leaders of Intel community and Obama Admin to influence the Electoral College vote, similar to the 1960s novel "Seven Days in May."