Intelligence Report Determines Russia Influenced U.S. Election; Trump Continues Denial by Tweet

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

The saga of the did-they-didn’t-they Russian cyber hacks continues. On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that determined Russian President Vladimir Putin personally, “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”

According to the New York Times article summarizing the 25-page report’s findings, Russia hoped to achieve this goal by promoting President-elect Trump while smearing Hillary Clinton. The document is part of a declassified intelligence analysis ordered by President Obama.

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While this sounds revelatory, the report is really a rehashing of allegations Democrats made during the course of the election. Per the Times:

The report described a broad campaign that included covert operations, including cyberactivities and “trolling” on the internet of people who were viewed as opponents of Russia’s effort. While it accused Russian intelligence agencies of obtaining and maintaining “access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” it concluded — as officials have publicly — that there was no evidence of tampering with the tallying of the vote on Nov. 8.

But the declassified report contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions. So it is bound to be attacked by skeptics and by partisans of Mr. Trump, who see the review as a political effort to impugn the legitimacy of his election. Intelligence officials have rejected that view.

What the Times’ analysis brushes over is that it’s easy to be a skeptic of this document without being a Trump partisan or much of an incredulous type to begin with. The report offers “high confidence” (an intelligence term), for instance, that a Russian military intelligence unit is responsible for Guccifer 2.0 and the DCLeaks website, which released emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Still, heads of the CIA, the FBI, director of national intelligence James Clapper, and President Obama all stand behind and jointly presented the report’s findings, according to the Times. It’s an awkward reunion seeing as the Democrats and the U.S. intelligence community have recently been at each others’ throats over the FBI’s Clinton email probes.

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Russia is already making fun of the report. Russian Parliament member Alexey Pushkov, for instance, posted on Twitter on Saturday, “Mountains gave birth to a mouse: all accusations against Russia are based on ‘confidence’ and assumptions. US was sure about Hussein possessing WMD in the same way.”

Speaking of Twitter, guess who I’m going to mention next. If you can believe it, our raging maniac President-elect’s Wall-du-jour is going to keep out people who are “stupid” about Russia relations.

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Earth to Democrats, you can’t beat this guy at his own game for a single second, why not try anything else.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece claimed that U.S. intelligence agencies provided no evidence of Russian hacking, and misinterpreted the term “high confidence” as defined by the intelligence community. In fact, several released intelligence reports from the United States and Britain, including and predating the redacted, classified one cited here and in the New York Times, have offered specific evidence. Official testimony before the Senate has provoked concern from lawmakers across party lines.

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Additionally, the CIA’s intelligence on Saddam Hussein and WMDs was correct; it was the Bush Administration’s agenda that resulted in the information being willfully skewed to mislead the public and to justify war with Iraq. Jezebel regrets the errors.

contributing writer, nights

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DISCUSSION

g3la
Gelatinous Cube

Hannah, I’m disappointed in the clickbait title. Claiming these agencies “did not present evidence” is not merely misleading but untrue. You are spreading same sort of misinformation that drives clicks for conspiracy bloggers and Fox News.

I would hope you are aware that unfortunately many people in our nation struggle with reading comprehension and tend to not read much beyond headlines. The wording of your headline can have a great influence on these folks.

Our intelligence agencies have already publicly shared evidence about the nature of these hacks even before this report, and before last week:

Please take a look at the complete DNI report: https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

And here is what FBI & DHS shared last week: https://www.scribd.com/document/335307386/JAR-16-20296#download

And here is what was shared previously by Crowdstrike, FBI, DHS, Microsoft and SecureWorks:

- FANCY BEAR and COZY BEAR, two government-sponsored Russian hacking groups, on the DNC servers, discovered by multiple parties, including Crowdstrike and the FBI.

- Microsoft, whose OneDrive service was used to ferry the stolen information back to Russia, confirmed Russian involvement on both sides of the transfer based on logs.

- Matt Tait discovered user metadata revealing that Guccifer 2.0, who claims to be Romanian, was communicating exclusively in Russian and incapable of using Romanian. User metadata contained reference to an alias related to the KGB and emails demonstrated direct connections with the Russian government.

- The machine controlling the malware used to break into the DNC is owned by the Russian government and was used previously to hack Germany’s parliament.

- SecureWorks, a cybersecurity firm, gained access to the Bitly-based automated system FANCY BEAR was using to coordinate its attacks and tracked its efforts against the DNC from that route as well.

How does this “delegitimize Trump’s presidency” in any way? How can Trump be responsible for what Russia does?

The election results are legitimate. The results of investigation into the hacking (by DNI, FBI, DHS, CIA, Crowdstrike, Secureworks, Microsoft) are legitimate.

Yes, DNC email server was hacked by Russia’s GRU and various groups with clear ties to Russian government. Yes, Putin’s longstanding animosity toward Clinton since 2012 Russian elections was not any kind of secret. The fact they supported one candidate over the other doesn’t make Trump a puppet of Putin and it doesn’t make the election results invalid.

Acknowledging the glaringly obvious facts and making some kind of effort to counter future attacks, condemning Russia’s actions, would make Trump look good, not bad. It looks a hell of a lot worse to keep ignoring it.

I don’t get the weird cognitive dissonance among Trump supporters (and Trump himself) who seem to want to pretend this never happened. Hiding his head in the sand and attacking our own intelligence officers doesn’t help.