Russia “Hacking” and the Intel Credibility Gap

The following is a news commentary and analysis.[hr]

At a hearing today, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) today said it was “astounding” that anyone would question the credibility of our intelligence agencies.

That comment defies the factual record.

It’s not that Americans don’t appreciate our many honest, hardworking intelligence professionals. But there are concrete examples of false information promulgated by some U.S.intelligence officials under Democrat and Republican administrations. That’s why it would be imprudent to blindly accept, without question, everything our intelligence officials say or, for that matter, everything any government claims.

[button link=”” style=”info” color=”silver”]Read: 8 Facts on the Russian Hacks[/button]

In fact, one need look no farther than a lead witness at today’s hearing on Russian election hacking: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In June 2013, Clapper provided false testimony to Congress denying existence of a National Security Agency (NSA) secret, massive data collection program.

Sen.Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions of hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: “No sir.”

Clapper’s testimony was proven false by subsequent revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden’s documents exposed shocking government programs that amounted to spying on massive numbers of U.S. citizens without warrants. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said it wasn’t the only instance of Obama intelligence officials providing false information. He referred to separate comments from NSA head Keith Alexander.

Sen. Wyden: “They chose to make these statements in public that weren’t accurate.”

Read Politifact on Clapper’s 2013 False Testimony

There has also been a concerted, political effort to blame the Russians for Trump’s victory. In fact, as I wrote in 8 Facts on the “Russian Hacks“, to prove that the DNC hack or leak (whoever committed it) helped Trump win, one would have to know that tens of thousands of Trump voters were planning to vote for Clinton but changed their mind based solely on the WikiLeaks emails; that the emails somehow managed to only affect the electoral vote but not the popular vote (which Clinton won); and that they somehow selectively swayed voters in key swing states, but not voters in states where Clinton won. To date, such evidence has not been provided.

Watch Full Measure: Fmr. Obama Defense Intel. Agency head on Russia “hack”

[quote]This isn’t to say the U.S. assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails is incorrect. But the huge effort to put the allegations on the front pages only after a Donald Trump victory, the rush to act and retaliate in the final weeks of the Obama administration when there’s been years of inaction regarding comparable or more egregious hostile acts, and the attempts to portray the DNC hacks as something that changed the election outcome, certainly raise reasonable questions.[/quote]

The Kremlin, Russia's seat of power
Near the Kremlin, Russia’s seat of power

It should be noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and at least one official familiar with publication of the DNC emails deny that the Russians were the source. There has been no allegation or evidence that the published emails weren’t true and accurate. In fact, the overall track record for accuracy when it comes to WikiLeaks documents appears to be better than that of U.S. intel officials. It’s easy to understand why figures like Snowden and Assange evoke such disdain among powers-that-be, whether liberal or conservative. Instead of addressing the revelations revealed, these powers direct public sentiment against the whistleblowers or conveyors of the apparently truthful information.

Instead of demonizing those who are skeptical of information and narratives emerging in a highly-politicized setting, it’s helpful to understand the genesis of the widespread distrust that’s fueling the skepticism.

[hr]Preorder “The Smear,” the sequel to my NYT bestseller “Stonewalled.” #fakenews #astroturf #propaganda

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-2-12-53-pm[hr]Watch Full Measure on TV or online Sundays

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21 thoughts on “Russia “Hacking” and the Intel Credibility Gap”

  1. I watched the hearings thinking about your article of 8 Facts about the Russian hacking.
    So, my question is WHY? WHY is all the apparent lying going on? I figured weeks ago that it was about putting more seeds of doubt into the election of Trump, but they seem to decry that now.
    Another question is about having hearings in public like this….a military acquaintance says “nothing classified is discussed,’ but the inferences are there….(not to mention one Female Asian Senator (I mention the qualifiers because I didn’t get her name) who asked a truly insulting question about the president elect possibly being unprepared for his job because he disagrees with Intel…Not sure I disagree but it was over the top….or should I say under the top?)
    If classified info wasn’t shared in public, there were inferences I wish were also spared us; we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not prepared, our offense is better than our defense…etc etc. Perhaps that’s all true, but I’m thinking that, while our adversaries might know all that, it might be all better said in private meetings? That’s, of course, if we trust those involved….what a tangled web we weave.

  2. As one who has been involved with computers in the day where the Input/Output was done with binary switches I fully understand the technology.
    First of all we DO know, as Snowden revealed, that the NSA and the government has a policy that doesn’t “allow” the securing of computers and networks. We first became aware of such during the days of Clinton and the “clipper chip” technology. It was then, and persists today, that the US is more interested in “Their” ability to gain access to these computers and networks than securing them.

    Some of the remedies would require a complete and thorough change in the way website code is written. The entry of malware into a computer system, and is the process by which the NSA uses, is the application of scripting code technology. Generally this is done via JavaScript code, which is the worst and most insecure of code technology. This scripting technology can infiltrate a computer no matter what procedures are implemented. It is for this reason that I forbid virtually ALL scripts from loading when visiting a web page. Pure HTML code isn’t capable of writing code to your system. Since Java is an interpretive language there has to be an interpreter to convert it to instructions that different Operating Systems can understand. Thus it opens up a computer for a malicious attack. Therefore Java should be relegated to the dustbin and a better technology should be developed, especially considering all the areas that are attached to the web.

    The other issue is in reference to email client and server technology. Current software has made it difficult to monitor the source of emails. Email server software could easily be written to take into account issues of malware, but this would propose difficulties in Government Agencies in pursuing their own form of malware.

    Regarding the hacking issues and whether or not Russia was the actor should be nearly immediately determined. It would be difficult to determine where a malware attack originated but when there is actual ‘data transfer’ there has to be a path from one end to the other. If the Russians actually transferred the data it wouldn’t take months in determining this. The wording that has been used throughout this episode suggests that they haven’t found that point to point contact. If they cannot determine the end points then it is mere speculation. If they do have the end points there is NO necessity in protecting sources and methods. I have my own methods for such determinations which are publicly available. If THIS is stated then we should be suspicious of the outcome.

    1. Thanks Greg , you’ve helped me a little to understand what’s going on with the computer issue. Unfortunately this show by the Dems is not about hacking since they have hacked us in at least 8 sensitive areas of gov. I found it amusing that they would not say the name “Putin” did it or what it is. I will continue to research about comp hacking , from your statements are you saying they want their cake and eat it too ? Thanks again

  3. The picture labeled “The Kremlin” is actually a picture of St. Basil’s Cathredal, located in Red Square, NEAR the Kremlin. I lived in Moscow for 2 years, which is how I kniw this.

  4. Great article Sheryl is it possible to investigate true reasons why we are so (stupid) when it comes to cyber security.It seems reasons are either political, maybe favors were promised to foreign nations or Dems are just to lazy to perform the aggressive and persistent actions to secure the us

  5. “The Intel Credibility Gap” is spot on. Hacking has been going on for a long time under both Democrats and Republicans yet the very first time it’s blown up as a super-heated public issue just happens to be during a lame duck period when the president-elect is man who has many enemies on both sides of the aisle (which is one of the primary reasons he was elected in the first place).

    It wasn’t a big deal when Hillary committed multiple national security felonies in the U.S. Department of State, it wasn’t a big deal when China hacked the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, but it’s a huge deal now when Russia is suspected of hacking the private, non-governmental DNC (and remember that Podesta wasn’t hacked, he fell for a basic email phishing scam). That smells like the leadership of our intel agencies are more interested in partisan politics than actual national security. There’s a big chunk of your Intel Credibility Gap right there.

    Why should I believe anything they say when so many factors point to it being rank political gamesmanship and they won’t release any actual evidence supporting their “high confidence” conclusions? They hide behind the all-purpose “classified information” yet they had no such qualms about the sanctity of classified information when it was time to hold Hillary accountable.


    1. I agree. I think this may be about punishing Assange and trying to get him to reveal who within the intelligence community leaked information and at the same time using the Russian hack excuse as a way to help delegitimize Trump’s election. Sort of a “let’s get everyone we dislike in one final attempt” before the administration comes to a close

  6. I have four questions:

    1) When they say 17 intelligence agencies agree, how many of those actually looked at anything independently or simply signed on to what 2-3 told and/or shared with the others?

    2) Comey said it was likely that 5-6 state actors had hacked into Hillary’s emails, but that sophisticated actors rarely leave a trace. Apparently that wasn’t a problem with the Russian hacks of Podesta/DNC, so how much time was spent looking for evidence of Russia hacking Hillary’s versus Podesta’s?

    3) If the Russians decided Hillary would win and they wanted to use the info gathered to use against her presidency, what else did they have besides the Podesta emails?

    4) Last but not least, when will your program be available in Philadelphia?

  7. And does our government deploy billions in assets to spy on us all? The intelligence community and how it is politically used by its management under our leaders is part of the Donald’s swamp!

  8. What was most troubling in the Senate hearing today was that the Russian “hacking” was presented as a causus belli, in distinction to the Chinese hack of the OPM databases (which included security clearance data), which Clapper tutored Sullivan was mere espionage.

    The activities purportedly undertaken at Putin’s behest comprise a social media campaign to influence the vote and the ipse dixit hack of the DNC emails — through an intermediary. No evidence was presented to substantiate a link to Russian state sponsorship (which Assange has emphatically denied), nor did the DNC even allow the FBI access to their server(s) to enable this determination!

    I believe our own government has funded programs to influence opinion on social media, which is not a crime, no matter who sponsors it, and because the DNC is not an agency of our government, hacking the DNC server does not constitute an attack against our country any more than posting fake Twitter tweets does — accept the authenticity of the DNC emails has been established using their PKI signatures.

    Whence the outrage? Even presuming all the accusations are true, for which the intelligence report provides flimsy substantiation, are we expected to support military sanctions (Graham’s “bigger stone”) against a country whose nuclear deterrent is superior to our own, based on such a farcical provocation?

    Our politicians are playing a very dangerous game under the false pretext of protecting our security.

  9. Here is a link to the zerohedge posting re: the intelligence summary:

    Don’t miss the informative comments following the article.

    zerohedge editors published the full-length document that Obama requested. The language in the document advances no hard, factual evidence to support the “assessments & assertions” of the intelligence community.

    U.S. government bureaucracy is absolutely & totally out of control. The bureaucrats will do whatever they must to remain in power, money & luxury for as long as possible.

  10. Another purpose of the false “Russia hacking” narrative is to distract us from the actual voter fraud that occurred especially in Detroit, Milwaukee and California.

    During the recount, I was watching Milwaukee carefully. For days, the absentee ballots had not been counted. In many Milwaukee wards, up to 50% of the ballots were absentee. In my town in rural upstate NY, we have less than 1 percent absentee ballots.

    The “Russia hacking” narrative pushed these stories out of the news. My guess is that, with illegal ballots removed, President-elect Trump actually won by many millions of legal votes.

  11. Anonymous high sources deep within the “Intelligence Community” are now reporting that the “Intelligence Report on Russian ‘Hacking'” was a joint work of Hillary Clinton’s staff, Baghdad Bob, Tokyo Rose, the Queen of Hearts, Joe Isuzu and Inspector Clouseau.

  12. Thank you for mentioning Craig Murray. He’s a big part of the story, and the MSM seems to have agreed between themselves to entirely censor his name and his part in the story. I’ve been writing to the ombudsman’s office at NPR incessantly about it. Murray has some rich stuff on his blog about it all.

    Yes, why does everyone in Washington seem to want a full-blown war with Russia, another World War???

    Why is Obama pushing this so hard, right before he leaves office? I think of him as standing for nothing in 8 years besides assassination, bombing 7 countries in 8 years, and now beating this huge drum for war with Russia.

    Actually, the idea of the CIA accusing someone else of regime change is hilarious! Worthy of a year’s worth of Saturday Night Live skits, until it devolved into Keystone Cops on Friday with the leak of the intelligence report to the media, before Trump’s briefing. Madness, all of it!

  13. Please, please help stop this explicitly fake news. I am truly concerned for the well being of my country.

    You said “officials declare…”. That’s right on.

    Fox (et al) are using the words certainty’, and ‘fact’ based on Friday’s hacking report. Lies. Fake news. On page 13 yesterday’s hacking report makes it crystal clear that nothing at all in the report is a certainty. Nothing.

    Obama’s appointed intelligence officials are historically well proven liars. Even if you choose to believe them this time, ‘fact’ or ‘certainty’ are clearly uncalled-for. Even seeing ’17 intelligence agencies agree’ is fishy. Figure the odds.

    President Trump did not express any opinion based on seeing the classified info because a major edict always in that security world is not to confirm nor deny. Simple.

    Also: At one point NSA uses ‘moderate confidence’ instead of ‘high confidence’. Note that nobody even looked at Podesta’s server and that NSA does most international intercept. Maybe it’s honest and maybe simply as far as NSA was willing to bend while risking its’ own credibility?

    I’m not saying the Russians did it or not. I’m saying the media, including Fox, are using ‘certain’ and ‘fact’ based on this report. Lies. False news.They either don’t do their homework and/or they have an agenda. I think this varies by individual.

    I cannot help noting that I get ‘phishing’ email on occasion. Are the Russians after me? I have not been impaired enough to give my password to a junk mail for many years. I bet that (still unknown to me) hacker got a laugh out of ‘password’ spelled out. Another anachronism. Podesta should be hiding quietly in a closet instead of stirring up trouble. And I hope the I.T. guy who took the weight got a fat envelope. Anyone really that ill informed couldn’t do 15 minutes of actual I.T. work.

    Thanks for your help.

  14. Point to ponder: At 55, I’ve seen and heard numerous things in my life. Some I cannot by law discuss. I can tell you this for a fact. The Obama Administration will be held accountable for THEIR unlawful actions. I DO NOT trust ANYTHING that comes out of this administration, not one single thing!

  15. One need only reflect on Ms. Attkisson’s reporting on the Operation Fast and Furious activity, on its motivations and the bungled cause and effect. Apply that to the claims of an honest and credible intelligence community and it’s no wonder that President Elect Trump has some skepticism.

    We escalated the Viet Nam War exponentially based on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Today we know that it was made up.

    Did we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Some of the US Intelligence Community knew, communicated that, and they were overridden.

    Asking questions is a good thing.

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