Is there any evidence those expelled are “intelligence operatives”? Any hard evidence Russia was behind the Hillary hacks? Any credible evidence that Putin himself is to blame?
The answers are No, No, and No. Yet, once again the American press is again asked to co-sign a dubious intelligence assessment.
In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.
“These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,” he wrote.
The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.
If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham noted the “small price” Russia paid for its “brazen attack.” The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, said Thursday that taken alone, the Obama response is “insufficient” as a response to “attacks on the United States by a foreign power.”
The “small price” is an eyebrow-raiser.
Adding to the problem is that in the last months of the campaign, and also in the time since the election, we’ve seen an epidemic of factually loose, clearly politically motivated reporting about Russia. Democrat-leaning pundits have been unnervingly quick to use phrases like “Russia hacked the election.”
This has led to widespread confusion among news audiences over whether the Russians hacked the DNC emails (a story that has at least been backed by some evidence, even if it hasn’t always been great evidence), or whether Russians hacked vote tallies in critical states (a far more outlandish tale backed by no credible evidence).
As noted in The Intercept and other outlets, an Economist/YouGov poll conducted this month shows that 50 percent of all Clinton voters believe the Russians hacked vote tallies.
And reports by some Democrat-friendly reporters – like Kurt Eichenwald, who has birthed some real head-scratchers this year, including what he admitted was a baseless claim that Trump spent time in an institution in 1990 – have attempted to argue that Trump surrogates may have been liaising with the Russians because they either visited Russia or appeared on the RT network. Similar reporting about Russian scheming has been based entirely on unnamed security sources.
Now we have this sanctions story, which presents a new conundrum. It appears that a large segment of the press is biting hard on the core allegations of electoral interference emanating from the Obama administration.
Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind.
Maybe the Russians did hack the DNC, but the WikiLeaks material actually came from someone else? There is even a published report to that effect, with a former British ambassador as a source, not that it’s any more believable than anything else here.
We just don’t know, which is the problem.
We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.
Where the Hell is the Evidence?
‘I Can Guarantee You, It Was Not the Russians’
The Joint Analysis Report from the FBI contains an appendix that lists hundreds of IP addresses that were supposedly “used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services.” While some of those IP addresses are from Russia, the majority are from all over the world, which means that the hackers constantly faked their location.
McAfee argues that the report is a “fallacy,” explaining that hackers can fake their location, their language, and any markers that could lead back to them. Any hacker who had the skills to hack into the DNC would also be able to hide their tracks, he said
“If I was the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into the organization,” McAfee said, adding that, in the end, “there simply is no way to assign a source for any attack.”
Question of Patriotism
It’s not patriotic to accept accusations as facts, given US history of lies, deceit, meddling, and wars.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock