There is something very wrong with the Russian hacking story

Bronson Kaahui Blog, International Relations

In an interview in  2015, Colin Powell said about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, “The intelligence community, all 16 agencies assured us that it was right, my speech at the UN was based on that information.”

In hindsight, it seems obvious that the “evidence” for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was always flimsy, but that ignores the incredibly emotionally charged political climate at the time. “Evidence” that should have been met with skepticism, or at a minimum, rational scrutiny from journalists, was instead parroted by every major publication in the country. Reporters simply repeated whatever the Bush administration had to say on the matter without bothering to validate any of these claims.

Of course, Cheney and his gang of thugs never actually said that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11 or had ties to Al Qaeda, they were just sure to mention all 3 in every speech and, coincidentally, a majority of Americans believed that we were invading Iraq because of Saddam’s role in 9/11. In other words, “anonymous officials,” insinuations, circumstantial and highly ambiguous “evidence” were used to convince millions of people to go to war with a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the September 11th attacks.

And now, just as then, the media is all too eager to report these insinuations and unverified reports of Russia “hacking the election.” 52% of Democratic voters believe that Russia “hacked” the voting machines despite the fact that zero evidence exists to support this belief, and neither President Obama nor the intelligence community ever stated this. Does any of this sound familiar?

The “intelligence community” has, for unexplained reasons, become a sacrosanct institution in the media, above reproach or question. “Journalists” seem incredulous that Trump (or anyone for that matter) would even dare to express skepticism over the conclusions of the “intelligence community” offered with no evidence. Apparently, the fact that a claim comes from “the intelligence community” is supposed to be taken as evidence itself. Political pundits on both sides are treating a lack of blind-faith in secret spy organizations with a history of lying as treason. Neo-McCarthyism is alive and well in the United States. After all, you’re either with us, or you’re with the Russians!

Apparently, being good patriotic Americans requires us to accept as a matter of faith that “16 intelligence agencies” have concluded that Russia “hacked” our election and that Wikileaks is controlled by the Kremlin. I guess we are supposed to believe that Coast Guard Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, and DEA Intelligence were somehow involved in examining the DNC servers. Based on their extensive knowledge of Russian intelligence hacking methods, they determined that Vladimir Putin ordered these “hacks” to help Trump win the White House. We’re supposed to believe that not only did they all weigh in on this issue, but somehow they are all in agreement!

Wait, I forgot, no US government agency ever examined the DNC servers because the DNC refused to give the FBI access. Instead, they relied on a private company, Crowdstrike, that just happens to work for the DNC, when they made their determination that Russia hacked the election to help Trump. Let me say that again:  the FBI issued a report attributing the DNC hack to the Russian government without ever having examined the DNC servers. On top of that, “all 16 agencies” in the intelligence community have also, somehow, determined that Vladimir Putin personally ordered these “hacks” in order to help Trump win the election, all without ever having examined the servers. Needless to say, it’s quite preposterous to actually believe that “all 16 agencies” have even examined the evidence, or that all 16 agencies are equally qualified to have an opinion on the matter.

What they really mean by “all 16 intelligence agencies” is one man named James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. This is the same man who lied under oath to Senator Ron Wyden (D) – Oregon when asked directly whether or not the NSA was collecting data on millions of Americans. Shockingly, Clapper said, “No.” As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Wyden knew Clapper was lying under oath but was prohibited by law from publicly revealing the secret NSA program. It was Clapper’s false testimony which motivated whistleblower Edward Snowden to come forward and reveal the truth to the American public. To this date, James Clapper has never been indicted for perjury, but he is, apparently, still speaking on behalf of “16 intelligence agencies.”

On top of that, it’s important to keep in mind that every single intelligence head, from the FBI to the CIA to Homeland Security, is a political appointee of President Obama and will leave office on January 20th [Update:  FBI Director James Comey will stay]. None of these men have any incentive whatsoever not to go along with the Russian hacking narrative, as they can all expect to be rewarded for their loyalty in Washington D.C.’s revolving door of politics, long after this whole narrative falls apart. To pretend as if the “intelligence community” is somehow above partisan politics is beyond absurd. As evidence, how on Earth did an obviously fabricated story about Trump and Russian prostitutes make it into an official intelligence briefing? Is this the quality of the classified intelligence that we’re all supposed to blindly trust?

Speaking of evidence, what has been offered thus far has been utterly laughable. The proof that was offered to corroborate the “Putin tried to help Trump” claim was that unnamed “Russian officials” were celebrating Trump’s victory in an intercepted communication. In other words, innuendo, circumstantial, ambiguous, “classified” hearsay and conjecture, highly reminiscent of the lead-up to the Iraq War. Remember, no actual evidence has ever been presented to support the “intelligence community’s” claims besides, well, the intelligence community’s claims. That is why this entire “Russian hacking” narrative revolves around us accepting claims made by the “intelligence community” as evidence itself, despite the lack of evidence.

Does this sound like real journalism to anyone who lived during the Bush era? Are we supposed to blindly accept claims made by “the intelligence community” under a Trump administration? The media has utterly failed to keep the public informed about the truth of this whole “Russian hacking” story. Does Russia hack computers in the United States? Of course, just as we do to literally every other country, including our allies. But this in no way demonstrates the very specific claims that the “intelligence community” is making about Putin “helping Trump win.” I certainly hope that the media and journalists will take a more skeptical view of “top secret classified” information that magically gets “leaked” at politically convenient times. With the sad and sorry state of the US media after this election, who knows what we’ll expect in the next 4 years.