I have just reviewed the newly released declassified version of the U.S. ‘intelligence’ community’s report on Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the U.S. election. I did not find in that report any proof that the Russian government or persons acting on its behalf committed the hacking activities it is alleged to have committed by the U.S. government.
On the contrary, the report contains nothing but unsubstantiated allegations of hacking, and a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that Putin strongly preferred that Trump rather than Clinton win the election.
The mere fact that Putin preferred that Trump win the election (which is hardly surprising, given Trump’s stated desire to work constructively with Putin) or that Putin’s government wanted to discredit the warmonger Hillary Clinton (also, hardly a surprise) does not amount to proof of Russian hacking.
Standing alone, a motive to commit an act does not prove that the alleged perpetrator committed the act. Take, for example, an individual who is desperately poor – such an individual may well have a motive to steal food or clothing, but the existence of that motive does not prove that the individual committed theft.
Furthermore, a rational evaluation of these accusations obliges us to examine not only the motives of the accused, but also the motives of the accusers.
The Democratic establishment has a strong motive to accuse Putin falsely of undermining Clinton through hacking. The election of Trump is an unmitigated disaster and, by pointing the finger at Putin, the Democratic establishment deflects attention away from its shameless efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders, who was far better qualified and positioned than Clinton to defeat Trump.
The U.S. intelligence and military establishments also have a powerful motive to generate fear and loathing toward Russia: such sentiments can be exploited – and frequently have been – to justify ever larger budgetary outlays on intelligence services and the military.
Quite apart from all of this, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a proven liar. It is now beyond reasonable dispute that Clapper committed perjury when he responded “no, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Yet Clapper has evaded prosecution. Why would anyone believe a government official who is known to have lied under oath to lawmakers on a matter of national importance, and who has never had to pay any price for his criminal lies?
Finally, note the following statement from the newly released report on Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election:
Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise bases for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future. Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.
Again and again, Western intelligence services have demanded that we simply trust them, because the disclosure of their sources and methods would imperil national security. Yet these same intelligence services urge or provide support for military actions that undermine our security.
The most notorious example of this from recent history is the CIA’s woefully erroneous assessment that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, an assessment used by the Bush administration to justify a criminal war of aggression against Iraq. Islamic State, a terrorist organization widely considered to be worse than Al-Qaeda, rose to power precisely because of the devastation wrought by the Iraq war. Therefore, we should be sceptical that the reason for the U.S. intelligence community’s refusal to disclose its sources and methods is a desire to protect the American people.
For the time being, there are plenty of reasons to criticize Trump and Putin. An as yet unsubstantiated allegation of hacking isn’t one of them.