12 December 2016

OK, This Has Completely Blown Up

There has been poo flung all over the place over the past few days regarding allegations of efforts of the Russians to influence the US elections.

With the exception of Marcy Wheeler's astute observation that the CIA is studiously avoiding the obvious, that this is blowback against US regime change efforts against Russia and its allies:
The most logical explanation for the parade of leaks since Friday about why Russia hacked the Democrats is that the CIA has been avoiding admitting — perhaps even considering — the conclusion that Russia hacked Hillary in retaliation for the covert actions the CIA itself has taken against Russian interests.

Based on WaPo’s big story Friday, I guessed that there was more disagreement about Russia’s hack than its sources — who seemed to be close to Senate Democrats — let on. I was right. Whereas on Friday WaPo reported that it was the consensus view that Russia hacked Hillary to get Trump elected, on Saturday the same journalists reported that CIA and FBI were giving dramatically different briefings to Intelligence Committees.


Remarkably, only secondary commenters (including me, in point 13 here) have suggested the most obvious explanation: The likelihood that Russia targeted the former Secretary of State for a series of covert actions, all impacting key Russian interests, that at least started while she was Secretary of State. Those are:

  • Misleadingly getting the UN to sanction the Libya intervention based off the claim that it was about protecting civilians as opposed to regime change
  • Generating protests targeting Putin in response to 2011 parliamentary elections
  • Sponsoring “moderate rebels” to defeat Bashar al-Assad
  • Removing Viktor Yanukovych to install a pro-NATO government
Importantly, the first three of these happened on Hillary’s watch, with her active involvement. And Putin blamed Hillary, personally, for the protests in 2011.
So, it's pretty clear that IF Russia actively meddled in our election (and the operative word is if) it appears that their actions were fare less intrusive than what we did. in Libya, Syria, Russia, or the Ukraine, where we have supported jihadists and (not a term of art) fascists.

In determining the veracity of the CIA's assertions there are a couple of articles to review.

First, an article from The Guardian that quotes Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, and close associate of Assange:  (See also more extensive comments from Mr. Murray here.)
Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, called the CIA claims “bullsh%$”, adding: “They are absolutely making it up.”

“I know who leaked them,” Murray said. “I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”
(%$ mine)

Note that in ALL the articles, this is the only absolute claim that is made on the record.\

Also note that FBI and CIA have given conflicting briefings to lawmakers: (Also see here.)
In a secure meeting room under the Capitol last week, lawmakers held in their hands a classified letter written by colleagues in the Senate summing up a secret, new CIA assessment of Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

Sitting before the House Intelligence Committee was a senior FBI counterintelligence official. The question the Republicans and Democrats in attendance wanted answered was whether the bureau concurred with the conclusions the CIA had just shared with senators that Russia “quite” clearly intended to help Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton and clinch the White House.

For the Democrats in the room, the FBI’s response was frustrating — even shocking.

During a similar Senate Intelligence Committee briefing held the previous week, the CIA’s statements, as reflected in the letter the lawmakers now held in their hands, were “direct and bald and unqualified” about Russia’s intentions to help Trump, according to one of the officials who attended the House briefing.

The FBI official’s remarks to the lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee were, in comparison, “fuzzy” and “ambiguous,” suggesting to those in the room that the bureau and the agency weren’t on the same page, the official said.
I'm with what Glenn Greenwald wrote for The Intercept, "Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence."

Though I would include the caveat/cliché that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I would also note the following paragraph buried in the original Washington Post story, which relied entirely on anonymous sources:
The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.
(emphasis mine)

So, the actual facts of the matter are not clear, though people of different political bents are doing their best impression of blind men and an elephant.

Certainly, Russia has an interest in undermining faith in the Democratic process in the United States.

Additionally, Hillary Clinton's record with Russia as Secretary of State was implacably and reflexively hostile to Russian concerns, so I could see how Russia might find the proverbial inverted traffic cone as a preferable alternative.

This means that the assertions are plausible, but by no means persuasive, particularly since the CIA appears to be flying solo with these assertions.

Additionally, the anonymous sourcing might imply that someone well into the "No f%$#s left give" category **cough** retiring Senator Harry Reid **cough* might simply be throwing some shade Donald Trump's way.

I'm not sure what to believe, but even if all the allegations against Putin are true, they are far less aggressive than what the Obama administration, and the Hillary Clinton State Department were doing with Russia.

In any case, this all falls firmly in the "Sauce for the Gander" category for me.


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