Unconvincing: The Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian “Hacking” of US Election for Donald Trump

The 25 page Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” has just been released. Contrary to the impression that the Democrat-dominated media is anxious to convey, this assessment supplies no substantial evidence for the Democrats’ latest narrative that the Russian government intervened in the election.  In fact, what “evidence” it does offer undermines this narrative.

As for the notion, implied but never directly stated, that the Russians essentially handed President-Elect Donald J. Trump his victory, the report is even more telling. But we’ll get to this in due time.

(1)The authors of the ICA inform us in advance that because this is a “declassified” version of a “highly classified assessment,” the “full supporting information” that can (allegedly) be found in the latter to show that the Kremlin launched an “influence campaign” is absent from the former.

To repeat: One needn’t read any further than the first page of this “assessment” to discover that the remaining 24 pages will not provide any more substantiation for the charge against Russia that Trump’s detractors have been making since not long after Election Day.

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That is, there is no substantiation disclosed in the version of the ICA that is available to the public.

But matters are even worse than this.

(2)Even the original classified document lacks proof for the charge made. The report is an “assessment” based on the “judgements” of the CIA, FBI, and NSA.  On page 13, we are told how our intelligence agencies understand these terms. “Judgements are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” As for assessments, these “are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents” (emphases added).

However plausible is the idea that the Russian government, like the governments of America, China, Israel, and a whole lot of other countries, tried to influence the politics of another nation, the US Intelligence Community admits to having zero “proof” that the Russians did any such thing. It also admits that the information on the basis of which it levels this damning accusation against the second most heavily nuclear-armed nation on the planet is “incomplete or fragmentary.”

(3)Since there was never any intention on the part of our intelligence agencies to supply any proof for their claim, the question arises: Why release this document at all?

The answer, I submit, is obvious enough.  The political hacks who preside over the American intelligence community are motivated by exactly the same aching desire to undermine Trump that fuels leftist Democrat politicians and their media propagandists.

Unless this was the case, the thoughtful must ask, then why, when the report itself concedes that Russia has long sought to intervene in American elections, is the American government only now, after this election, making, quite literally, a public case out of it?

Why has our government permitted this to not only continue but (allegedly) worsen?

Why, after the most rancorous of election contests and at a time when the country remains as heavily divided as it is, why would anyone at this critical moment during a presidential-transition announce that a foreign government interjected in the election?

The most plausible answer to all of these questions is that Trump’s opponents want for Americans to think that if not for Russian interference, Hillary Clinton would be preparing to assume the office of the Presidency.

They want for Americans to think that Trump won 30 of America’s 50 states and 2600 of her 3100 counties because Vladimir Putin cheated for him.

The ICA is intended to lend a veneer of authority to this insinuation.

(4)Of course, this is just an insinuation. No one, or at least no one with an IQ above room temperature and the least bit of political savviness, would be willing to explicitly say that the Russian government won the election for Trump. Once stated this baldly, it is seen for the unmitigated nonsense that it is.

Least of all do our intelligence officials want to be associated with this assertion. In fact, in the report in question, the authors expressly assure us that intelligence agencies do “not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election” (emphasis added).

Read this last line carefully.  It isn’t just that intelligence agencies provide no evidence that Russia helped to get Trump elected.  It isn’t that they withheld information that was in some highly classified assessment regarding the latter.  They admit here that they have no such evidence because they never even pursued this possibility!

The ICA does, however, stress in boldfaced type that the Intelligence Community concludes that “the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

(5)That the ICA has nothing of substance to support its position is borne out by what flimsy considerations it adduces.

For starters, while it does indeed refer to Russia’s “cyber activities,” the report is remarkably speculative in tone on this score.  “We assess with high confidence,” the ICA reads, “that Russian military intelligence…used the Guccifer 2.0 and to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

Now, Guccifer 2.0 and may very well have been front operations for the Russian government. The argument provided for this conclusion in the ICA, though, is scandalously unpersuasive.

Guccifer has always self-identified as “an independent Romanian hacker,” the ICA acknowledges.  Then it informs us that “he” [Guccifer] “made multiple contradictory statements and false claims about his likely Russian identity throughout the election,” and that “press reporting suggests more than one person claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 interacted with journalists” (emphasis added).

This is a garbled paragraph if there ever was one. The reasoning seems viciously circular: Intelligence authorities begin their assessment with the suspicion that Guccifer is “likely” to be Russian or connected with the Russian government.  Because he denies this, intelligence authorities determine that he is of “likely Russian identity.”

To this the authors of the ICA may object that it isn’t Guccifer’s denial of his “likely Russian identity” per se that exposes him but, rather, the “multiple contradictory statements and false claims” that he made regarding it.  As to what this means, however, I confess to being oblivious. At a minimum, whether Guccifer 2.0 is one person or multiple parties, as the ICA thinks, nothing that it has provided here points to the Russian government.

The argument for regarding as a front outfit for the Russians is just as circular as this last.  The Intelligence Community “assesses” that in March of 2016 “the GRU [General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or Russian military intelligence]” extracted “content” from “e-mail accounts” that, three months later, began appearing at

So, because our intelligence agencies suspect (on the basis of “incomplete” and “fragmentary” information) that the Russians obtained these emails on this date, and because those emails appeared at website X sometime after this date, website X must be one and the same party as the Russians who initially obtained the emails!

To see how weak this argument is, consider an analogy.  Suppose that the answers to a test that I was planning on giving to my students went missing from my classroom.  There is one student in particular who I have reason, good reason, in fact, to suspect is guilty of the transgression.  Let’s call him “Bob.”  Bob has earned a reputation for dishonesty and, given his otherwise poor academic performance, he would likely stand the most to gain from having the answers in advance of the test. Yet try as I may, I can never directly link the stolen answers to Bob.  Not long after I search Bob, though, I find the answers in the notebook of “Suzie,” another student of mine. Suzie is respectful, diligent, and the last person who I’d suspect of cheating.  But she has the answers and admits that she did, in fact, steal them.

If I were to conclude from this that Suzie must be in cahoots with Bob, even though both Suzie and Bob staunchly deny Bob’s involvement, or if I concluded that Suzie really is Bob, the illogic could immediately be seen for what it is.

Yet this is the same reasoning that is exhibited in the ICA report.

Given that, as we now know, DNC servers were as unsecured as they were, and considering that America is the world’s preeminent superpower, is it not more likely than not that many independent entities, state and non-state actors alike, would have had both the capability and the will to acquire emails?

That the ICA never so much as raises this as a possibility reinforces the impression that its results are cooked.

(6)Of course, the cooked nature of the ICA is gotten easily enough from the broadness and elasticity of the term—“influence”—with which it chooses to label Russia’s activities vis-à-vis the election.

“Influence” functions not dissimilarly in this context to the way in which “sexual assault” has been made to function for radical feminist activists who try to show that one in four college women are attacked. Just as “sexual assault” has been stretched to cover everything from forced sexual intercourse to one fully clothed person rubbing up, “in a sexual way,” against another person, so too “influence” is designed to cast as large a net as possible.

Thus, it is no coincidence that a substantial portion of the ICA is devoted to RT. The latter is Russia’s first international news channel. Founded in 2005, RT has three 24 hour channels that broadcast in English, Arabic, and Spanish. It is available to 700 million people in five continents and 100 countries.

RT America airs straight from Washington D.C.

According to the ICA, such “state-owned Russian media” as RT “made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”

For more than one reason, the ICA’s allusion to RT is disconcerting.

First, there is nothing in the least objectionable about the citizens and/or government of one country expressing judgments—or assessments—about the affairs of another country. For anyone, especially American media figures and politicians who find it difficult to only comment on foreign affairs, or whose comments typically involve calls for force (sanctions, military operations)against other countries, to suggest otherwise is, at best, the textbook display of national chauvinism.

Should, lest Russia be guilty of waging war by other means, those in Russian media refrain from expressing any opinion whatsoever regarding the United States election?

Second, among those who have their own shows at RT America are people like Larry King and former MSNBC host Ed Shultz—hardly Trump supporters or Russian apparatchiks.

Third, it is just patently incorrect that RT America has been a Trump propagandist outlet. As the site Zerohedge has shown, the network has featured such prominent guests as Bernie Sanders, who accused Trump of injecting “bigotry” into the election.  RT’s own hosts have devoted shows to such topics as, “Is Donald Trump a Traitor or Merely Stupid?”  And it publishes news stories with titles like: “Pay to play? Donald J. Trump Foundation has ‘dubious’ and ‘surprising’ practices-report.”

In the meantime, RT has aired debates between third-party presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  Whether this was meant, as the US Intelligence Community allegedly believes, to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process,” we can be sure that neither Trump nor any other candidate of either of our two national parties has any sort of interest invested in third-party candidates receiving air time.

There is more that can be said about this ICA report. Hopefully, from the foregoing, the reader will recognize that it has the marks of any other piece of political propaganda. This is unfortunate, for the Intelligence community has been undermining its credibility repeatedly since it insisted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

With this latest excursion into politics, it has undercut itself further.

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