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Throwing a Curveball at ‘Intelligence Community Consensus’ on Russia

A January intelligence product has served as the basis for a series of Congressional hearings into the issue of Russian meddling into American elections—and has taken on a near canonical quality that precludes any critical questioning of either the authors or their findings. There is one major problem, however: the supposedly definitive assessment was not that which it proclaimed to be.

On January 6, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (DNI) released a National Intelligence Assessment (NIA), Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections. Billed as a “declassified version of a highly classified assessment” whose “conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment,” the report purported to be “an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.”

[1]A National Intelligence Assessment, like its big brother, the National Intelligence Estimate, is supposed to reflect the considered opinion of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  Products such as the Russian NIA are the sole purview of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), whose mission is to serve as “a facilitator of Intelligence Community collaboration and outreach” through the work of National Intelligence Officers (NIOs) who are the Intelligence Community’s experts on regional and functional areas—such as Russia and cyber attacks.

Although published under the imprimatur of the NIC, the cover of the Russian NIA lacks the verbiage “This is an IC-Coordinated Assessment,” which nearly always accompanies a NIC product, nor does it provide any identification regarding under whose auspices the Russia NIA was prepared. (Normally the name of the responsible NIO or identity of the specific office responsible for drafting the assessment would be provided.)

Simply put, the Russia NIA is not an “IC-coordinated” assessment—the vehicle for such coordination, the NIC, was not directly involved in its production, and no NIO was assigned as the responsible official overseeing its production. Likewise, the Russia NIA cannot be said to be the product of careful coordination between the CIA, NSA and FBI—while analysts from all three agencies were involved in its production, they were operating as part of a separate, secretive task force operating under the close supervision of the Director of the CIA, and not as an integral part of their home agency or department.

This deliberate misrepresentation of the organizational bona fides of the Russia NIA casts a shadow over the viability of the analysis used to underpin the assessments and judgments contained within. This is especially so when considered in the larger framework of what a proper “IC-coordinated assessment” process should look like, and in the aftermath of the intelligence failures surrounding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the lessons learned from that experience, none of which were applied when it came to the Russia NIA.

A Most Sensitive Source

Sometime in the summer of 2015, the U.S. intelligence community began collecting information that suggested foreign actors, believed to be Russian, were instigating a series of cyber attacks against government and civilian targets in the United States. The first indications of this cyber intrusion came from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British spy agency tasked with monitoring communications and signals of intelligence interest. GCHQ had detected a surge of “phishing attacks” targeting a wide-range of U.S. entities, and reported this through existing liaison channels to NSA, its American counterpart organization.

Among the targets singled out for this “phishing attack” was the Democratic National Committee; malware associated with these intrusions mirrored the operational methodologies and techniques previously used by Russian actors some cyber security analysts believed were affiliated with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Both the NSA and the FBI began actively monitoring this wave of attacks, tipping off entities targeted, including the DNC, that their computer systems had been compromised.

Separate from the phishing attacks, the DNC claims to have detected a separate cyber intrusion into its servers in April 2016. The DNC called in a private cybersecurity company, Crowdstrike, to investigate, despite the fact that it was in active discussions with the FBI about the earlier intrusion. Crowdstrike claims to have discovered evidence of a separate malware attack, which Crowdstrike concluded was being directed by Russian Military Intelligence (GRU). Curiously, the DNC made no effort to coordinate its findings with the FBI, or to turn over its servers to the FBI for forensic examination, instead opting to go to the Washington Post, which published the Crowdstrike findings, including its attribution of responsibility for the intrusions to Russian intelligence services, on June 22, 2016.

The Washington Post/Crowdstrike attribution took on domestic political import when, in July 2016, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention where Hillary Clinton was to be nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for president, the online publisher Wikileaks released emails sourced from the DNC that were embarrassing to the Democratic Party and considered damaging to the Clinton campaign. Despite claims by Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange that the emails did not come from Russia, the Clinton campaign immediately charged otherwise, and that the leak of the emails to Wikileaks was part of a Russian campaign to undermine the campaign.

According to reporting from the Washington Post, sometime during this period, CIA Director John Brennan gained access to a sensitive intelligence report from a foreign intelligence service. This service claimed to have technically penetrated the inner circle of Russian leadership to the extent that it could give voice to the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he articulated Russia’s objectives regarding the 2016 U.S. Presidential election—to defeat Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump, her Republican opponent. This intelligence was briefed to President Barack Obama and a handful of his closest advisors in early August, with strict instructions that it not be further disseminated.

The explosive nature of this intelligence report, both in terms of its sourcing and content, served to drive the investigation of Russian meddling in the American electoral process by the U.S. intelligence community. The problem, however, was that it wasn’t the U.S. intelligence community, per se, undertaking this investigation, but rather (according to the Washington Post) a task force composed of “several dozen analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI,” hand-picked by the CIA director and set up at the CIA Headquarters who “functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community.”

The result was a closed-circle of analysts who operated in complete isolation from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community. The premise of their work—that Vladimir Putin personally directed Russian meddling in the U.S. Presidential election to tip the balance in favor of Donald Trump—was never questioned in any meaningful fashion, despite its sourcing to a single intelligence report from a foreign service. President Obama ordered the U.S. intelligence community to undertake a comprehensive review of Russian electoral meddling. As a result, intelligence analysts began to reexamine old intelligence reports based upon the premise of Putin’s direct involvement, allowing a deeply disturbing picture to be created of a comprehensive Russian campaign to undermine the American electoral process.

These new reports were briefed to select members of Congress (the so-called “Gang of Eight,” comprising the heads of the intelligence oversight committees and their respective party leadership) on a regular basis starting in September 2016.  Almost immediately thereafter, Democratic members began clamoring for the president to call out Putin and Russia publicly on the issue of election meddling. These demands intensified after the November 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. Intelligence collected after the election, when viewed from the prism of the foregone conclusion that Putin and Russia had worked to get Trump elected, seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of the intelligence analysts and their Congressional customers (in particular, the Democrats). Calls to make public intelligence that showed Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election intensified until finally, on December 9, 2016, President Obama ordered the U.S. intelligence community to prepare a classified review of the matter.

The review was completed by December 29, and briefed to the President that same day. Brennan’s task force did the majority of the analysis, which solidified the premise of Russian interference that emanated from the original foreign intelligence report that started this process back in early August. President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreation facilities the FBI believed were being used to spy on American targets, as well as levied sanctions against persons and entities in Russia, including those affiliated with Russian intelligence, in retaliation for the Russian meddling in American electoral affairs detailed by the intelligence review.  

Remember ‘Curveball’

Any meaningful discussion of the analytical processes involved in the production of the Russia NIA must take into account the elephant in the room, namely the October 2002 NIE on Iraq, Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Iraq NIE will go down in history as the manifestation of one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, created under Presidential order in 2004 to investigate this failure, was unforgiving: “We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about weapons of mass destruction. This was a major intelligence failure.” The problem was more than simply getting the assessments wrong. “There were,” the commission noted, “also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers”—in short, the NIE process had fundamentally failed.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2004, Congress mandated the creation of the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in an effort to encourage the free flow of intelligence information between the various agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community to prevent the kind of intelligence failures that led to the failure to detect and prevent the 9/11 attacks. While the ODNI was created after the publication of the Iraq NIE, and had as its impetus the intelligence failures surrounding the 9/11 terror attacks, and not Iraq, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities believed that this new structure was a step in the right direction toward resolving some of the underlying systemic failures that led to the intelligence failure regarding Iraq. The Commission, moreover, made several recommendations regarding the organization of the U.S. intelligence community that were designed to forestall the kind of systemic failures witnessed in the Iraq case.

One of these recommendations was the need to create “mission managers” who would “ensure that the analytic community adequately addresses key intelligence needs on high priority topics.” One of the ways Mission Managers would achieve this would be through the fostering of “competitive analysis” by ensuring that “finished intelligence routinely reflects the knowledge and competing views of analysts from all agencies in the Community.” In this way, the Commission held, mission managers could “prevent so-called ‘groupthink’ among analysts.”

The Commission made other recommendations, including that the DNI build on the statutory requirement for alternative analysis and the existing “red cell” process that postulates speculative analytical positions in response to more formal assessments, and formally empower specific offices to generate alternative hypothesis and part of a systemic process of alternative analysis. In doing so, the DNI would ensure that the kind of blinder-driven analysis such as which took place with the Iraq NIE—such as not considering that Saddam Hussein would have gotten rid of his WMD stocks in 1991—would never again occur.

Most of these recommendations were approved by President Bush and subsequently acted on by the DNI. The heads of the National Counterintelligence Center, the National Counter-proliferation Center, and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center were converted into functional National Intelligence Managers, while the NIOs serving under the aegis of the National Intelligence Council became regional National Intelligence Managers. Cyber-driven issues took on a new importance, with a new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center being formed in 2015, following the creation of a new NIO for cyber Issues in 2011.

The CIA followed suit, embarking on a program that broke down the powerful regional divisions that had dominated the agency since its founding in 1947, and replacing them with new “mission centers” headed by “mission managers” drawn from the ranks of the most experienced senior CIA officers in their respective fields. There is no “Cyber Mission Center” per se; instead, the CIA created a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” in 2015, whose officers support the work of the existing functional and regional mission centers.

The CIA was mandated to incorporate “red cell” alternative analysis processes into its work in the aftermath of 9/11; rather than replicate this activity, the DNI instead published new analytic standards in 2015 that required the incorporation of “analysis of alternatives”—the systematic evaluation of differing hypotheses to explain events of phenomena—into all analytical products.

All of these new mechanisms were in place at the time of the “phishing attacks” detected by GCHQ unfolded in the summer of 2015, emails stored on the computer servers of the DNC were compromised in the summer of 2016, and Brennan obtained his foreign-intelligence report directly attributing Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And yet none of these “lessons learned” were applied when it came to the production of the Russia NIA.

The decision by Brennan early on in the process to create a special task force sequestered from the rest of the intelligence community ensured that whatever product it finally produced would neither draw upon the collection and analytical resources available to the totality of the national intelligence community, nor represent the considered judgment of the entire community—simply put, the Russia NIA lacked the kind of community cohesiveness that gives national estimates and assessments such gravitas.

The over reliance on a single foreign source of intelligence likewise put Brennan and his task force on the path of repeating the same mistake made in the run up to the Iraq War, where the intelligence community based so much of its assessment on a fundamentally flawed foreign intelligence source—“Curveball.” Not much is known about the nature of the sensitive source of information Brennan used to construct his case against Russia—informed speculation suggests the Estonian intelligence service, which has a history of technical penetration of Russian governmental organizations as well as a deep animosity toward Russia that should give pause to the kind of effort to manipulate American policy toward Russia in the same way Iraqi opposition figures (Ahmed Chalabi comes to mind) sought to do on Iraq.

The approach taken by Brennan’s task force in assessing Russia and its president seems eerily reminiscent of the analytical blinders that hampered the U.S. intelligence community when it came to assessing the objectives and intent of Saddam Hussein and his inner leadership regarding weapons of mass destruction. The Russia NIA notes, “Many of the key judgments…rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior.” There is no better indication of a tendency toward “group think” than that statement. Moreover, when one reflects on the fact much of this “body of reporting” was shoehorned after the fact into an analytical premise predicated on a single source of foreign-provided intelligence, that statement suddenly loses much of its impact.

The acknowledged deficit on the part of the U.S. intelligence community of fact-driven insight into the specifics of Russian presidential decision-making, and the nature of Vladimir Putin as an individual in general, likewise seems problematic. The U.S. intelligence community was hard wired into pre-conceived notions about how and what Saddam Hussein would think and decide, and as such remained blind to the fact that he would order the totality of his weapons of mass destruction to be destroyed in the summer of 1991, or that he could be telling the truth when later declaring that Iraq was free of WMD.

President Putin has repeatedly and vociferously denied any Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Those who cite the findings of the Russia NIA as indisputable proof to the contrary, however, dismiss this denial out of hand. And yet nowhere in the Russia NIA is there any evidence that those who prepared it conducted anything remotely resembling the kind of “analysis of alternatives” mandated by the ODNI when it comes to analytic standards used to prepare intelligence community assessments and estimates. Nor is there any evidence that the CIA’s vaunted “Red Cell” was approached to provide counterintuitive assessments of premises such as “What if President Putin is telling the truth?”  

Throughout its history, the NIC has dealt with sources of information that far exceeded any sensitivity that might attach to Brennan’s foreign intelligence source. The NIC had two experts that it could have turned to oversee a project like the Russia NIA—the NIO for Cyber Issues, and the Mission Manager of the Russian and Eurasia Mission Center; logic dictates that both should have been called upon, given the subject matter overlap between cyber intrusion and Russian intent.

The excuse that Brennan’s source was simply too sensitive to be shared with these individuals, and the analysts assigned to them, is ludicrous—both the NIO for cyber issues and the CIA’s mission manager for Russia and Eurasia are cleared to receive the most highly classified intelligence and, moreover, are specifically mandated to oversee projects such as an investigation into Russian meddling in the American electoral process.

President Trump has come under repeated criticism for his perceived slighting of the U.S. intelligence community in repeatedly citing the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction intelligence failure when downplaying intelligence reports, including the Russia NIA, about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Adding insult to injury, the president’s most recent comments were made on foreign soil (Poland), on the eve of his first meeting with President Putin, at the G-20 Conference in Hamburg, Germany, where the issue of Russian meddling was the first topic on the agenda.

The politics of the wisdom of the timing and location of such observations aside, the specific content of the president’s statements appear factually sound. When speaking on the issue of U.S. intelligence community consensus regarding the findings of the Russia NIA, President Trump commented, “I heard it was 17 agencies [that reached consensus on the Russian NIA]…it turned out to be three or four. It wasn’t 17.”

Trump went on to opine about allegations of Russian hacking: “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure…I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq—weapons of mass destruction—how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong.”

On both counts, the President was correct.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.  He is the author of “Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War” (Clarity Press, 2017).

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Throwing a Curveball at ‘Intelligence Community Consensus’ on Russia"

#1 Comment By Brett Gilland On July 11, 2017 @ 11:38 pm

I just want to say that I applaud you for having the balls to push this today, of all days. Really showing off the quality at TAC.

#2 Comment By polistra On July 12, 2017 @ 2:49 am

Yes, but this isn’t the point that needs to be driven. The point is that colluding with Russia, factual or not, is a minor offense compared with colluding with Saudi. All of DC, including Trump, MASSIVELY conspires with Saudi.

Compare those two countries. Saudi ATTACKED US on 9/11. Saudi killed 3000 Americans. Russia has NEVER attacked us. Not once.

We’ve shared a maritime border, with islands separated by 3 miles, since 1867, and Russia has never invaded us. Russia has never flown airliners into our buildings or fired ONE SINGLE BULLET or bomb at us.

We invaded and occupied Russia briefly in 1918, so we are the sole offender in this bilateral relationship.

Why then do all the politicians meekly obey the country that ACTUALLY ATTACKED US and hate the country that NEVER ATTACKED US?

#3 Comment By polistra On July 12, 2017 @ 2:53 am

Footnote: In case the 1918 reference sounds strange, look up “1918 War of Intervention”.

#4 Comment By Howard On July 12, 2017 @ 7:21 am

First of all, the mission of intelligence agencies is not to provide truthful information to the public. It just isn’t. It is to provide truthful information to political leaders, whose commitment to providing truthful information to the public you can judge for yourself. In the meantime, intelligence agencies lying to the public is not a theoretical possibility, it is a historical fact.

Secondly, even if 17 intelligence agencies reached the same conclusion, would we we be talking about 17 unbiased and well-informed agencies independently reaching the same conclusion, or would we be talking about 17 agencies with deep political connections each aware of what the other is saying and reaching a consensus based on knowing what side their bread is buttered on? After all, isn’t that the reason only American agencies are being considered — we don’t trust the Russian or Chinese agencies, for example, to make statements contrary to the positions of their political sponsors? Are we really supposed to believe in American exceptionalism to the point that we assume American spy agencies, unlike their international counterparts, will boldly snub their benefactors?

#5 Comment By Simon On July 12, 2017 @ 7:53 am

Thank you for pointing out the problems that still exist within the IC. Many of them stem from the top, and the politicization of intelligence continues no matter what senior leadership in the IC and the government tries to purport. The IC has 17 agencies, and yet only 3 were called upon to do this analysis. This demonstrates that the IC is a “first among equals” entity, where senior gvt. leadership favors the prominent agencies over the others.

#6 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 12, 2017 @ 9:42 am

In this excellent assessment Scott Ritter has laid the groundwork for a real, thorough-going analysis of this whole series of interconnected issues.

Nothing could be more appropriate at this point in time than for Philip Giraldi to jump right into this discussion — to give his own assessment and to provide links to sources that he believes would be helpful to TAC readers.

#7 Comment By SteveK9 On July 12, 2017 @ 9:49 am

Trump is kinder than I would be. They weren’t ‘wrong’, they knew they were lying.

#8 Comment By Michael Kenny On July 12, 2017 @ 10:47 am

Mr Ritter is simply haggling over internal intelligence service procedure. In addition, he can hardly expect us to believe that Putin would simply “own up” and that the fact that he isn’t doing so “proves” that there was no interference! On the one hand, MacronLeaks proves Russiagate. On the other, the recent revelations concerning Trump Junior’s contacts with a Russian lawyer prove that there was at least an attempt to influence the US election. The only question is what did Putin know and when did he know it?

#9 Comment By Mark Thomason On July 12, 2017 @ 11:25 am

Washington insiders know how to game the intelligence system. They perfected that for selling the Iraq War. Here, they do it again. Surprise!

#10 Comment By Thomas Greentree On July 12, 2017 @ 11:26 am

Interesting but let’s remember there was no ongoing discovery of corroborating evidence that surfaced to support the WMD assertion. In contrast, it seems like nearly every day we are treated to more corroborating evidence that supports the intelligence findings.

#11 Comment By John S On July 12, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

An article like this, now, compels one to wonder: does TAC receive money from Russian sources?

#12 Comment By Waz On July 12, 2017 @ 1:51 pm

Cui bono? Surely Russia spies on and tries to influence US and vice versa. Standard stuff. But meddling in US elections offers no big returns for Russia but rather potential PR risks.
I’d expect them to be smart enough to allocate their cyber resources where returns are much better.

#13 Comment By former weekly standard reader On July 12, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

You can’t accuse these people either of a surfeit of imagination or of overestimating the intelligence of the American people: they pull the same f***ing stunt every time.

#14 Comment By Steve Waclo On July 12, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

Scott, as much as I respect your integrity and service to our country, I believe your appraisal of CIA Director Brennan’s motivation in pursuing his investigation is an insult to his intelligence.

And dragging out mistakes made in the run up to Iraq are a red herring. Yes, and Custer made poor decisions, based on faulty intelligence (OK and hubris) at Little Big Horn, but do we continue to tar the 7th Cavalry for his errors?

#15 Comment By Cynthia McLean On July 12, 2017 @ 7:32 pm

Thank you for this detailed account of allegations of Russia meddling in the 2016 elections. I think, too, that much of the mainstream “Liberal” media — NYT, Washington Post, MSNBC etc — bears responsibility for magically turning allegations into FACTS without examining their sources. They did the same in 2003 promoting the US invasion of Iraq.

#16 Comment By SteveK9 On July 12, 2017 @ 8:19 pm

The whole Russia-gate fiasco has been a pile of garbage from the beginning. It’s nice that people like Scott Ritter spend the time to dig through the rubbish, but it’s hardly necessary.

This was obvious as an attempt by HRC to blame something (other than her odious self) for her loss in the election, and later by many people who think they can actually overthrow the results of the election.

Trump is on the hit-list of virtually every power center in this country, excepting the electorate. He threatened to stop these idiotic wars and that is very threatening to the ‘War’ party, which is by far the most influential political party in this country.

Again, yesterday Craig Murray, a former UK Ambassador wrote another article disparaging this reprehensible attempt at political assassination. This is the man who stated that he delivered the DNC emails to Wikileaks, from an insider at the DNC! Has anyone asked to question him? No.

Of course there is a mountain of actual information out there that debunks this whole game. So much that it’s not worth digging through anymore.

At the end of the day, if something makes no sense whatever, there is no evidence, and alternative explanations are very believable … you can assume that something is false.

#17 Comment By Adrian du Plessis On July 12, 2017 @ 8:27 pm

Thank you for writing and publishing such thoughtful and fact-grounded analyses. These days the corporate media outlets have so much invested in their collective narrative that they fail the public repeatedly by not doing proper review of the unfolding history. As a retired forensic investigator, it’s alarming to witness the lack of solid foundation to our news today.

In recent weeks, Americancyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr has responded to the myth that multiple entities have independently verified the “Russians” hacked the DNC – he stated: “Actually, no. They all used the same flawed assumptions (exclusive use, Moscow working hours, Cyrillic characters, etc.). There is no proof.”

It’s Carr who, earlier this year, debunked claims made by the private outfit CrowdStrike vis-à-vis an Ukrainian artillery “hack” eg. see “The GRU-Ukraine Artillery Hack That May Never Have Happened” @ [2]

When, months later, glimpses of Carr’s work made it into wider circulation (eg. “Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data”, Voice of America, March 21, 2017 [3]) – CrowdStrike, the only people allowed access to the DNC’s servers, was forced to recast its report. Still the hyped and misrepresented Ukrainian situation stands uncorrected in the mainstream press (eg. The Washington Post @ [4]) This is how campaigns of disinformation are constructed and supported.

And, it’s this linkage between supposed actors behind the Ukrainian and DNC purported hacks that serves as the foundation for CrowdStrike – most publicly via its pitchman Dmitri Alperovitch (working with ex-FBI Shawn Henry) – providing intell agencies in late 2016 with “high confidence” that the GRU was behind the DNC server happenings. This was followed by Obama’s last round of sanctions.

It’s an house-of-cards that does not bear scrutiny.

Some other good reading: from Jeffrey Carr @ “FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report: A Fatally Flawed Effort” @ [5] ; and other analysts @ “Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?” @ [6]

Only through reasoned and clear-headed review of IC operations, such as you’ve provided here, will the truth emerge.

#18 Comment By Syd On July 12, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

Putin’s denials aren’t the alternatives that needed yo be considered. The election interference is premised almost entirely on what Wikileaks published from the DNC and Podesta. The denials to take seriously were those proferred by Assange, the evidence that Seth Rich was the DNC leaker, and former UK ambassador Craig Murray’s statement that the Podesta emails came to Wikileaks via an insider leak, not an outsider hack, and originated from someone in the US government. Veteran former intelligent agents like Binney and Garaldi agree that it was insider leaks rather than outsider hacks and presumably speak for skeptical current CIA and NSA agents screened out when Brennan handpicked the assessment committee. And of course the CIA documents recently published by Wikileaks that show that the CIA spent billions to be able to set up foreign actors like Russia for cybercrimes make one suspect that the whole affair could be the doing of the CIA. Why else would the FBI have failed to impound the DNC server? Is Comey that slipshod, or was it because direct inspection of the servers might reveal what Brennan, Clapper, and their minions were really up to?

#19 Comment By Sub On July 13, 2017 @ 1:28 am

All of you and the American public deserve to u derstamd that every intelligence agency has a different charter and different authorities – some tactical and some strategic. Every intelligence service in the world understands who their counterparts are despite the ignorance of the American public and its willingness to be swayed by suggestions that only 4 of 17 intel agencies made this sssessment. The only 4 entities charged with assessing and countering strategic threats such as those posed by North Korea, Russia, Iran, Cuba, etc ALL are in agreement that the Russians were intent on disrupting our election process. We as Americans have to STOP the infighting and skepticism of the intelligence community – this is PRECISELY the Russians goal and those who are rejecting reality are playing into a foreign government’s hands. This is absurd and embarrassing and scary / it undermines the fabric of our country.

#20 Comment By SUSUL On July 13, 2017 @ 2:43 am

From reliable sources, the famous journalist Alex Jones learned that the story of Russian hackers causes an increase in the rating of news channels.
Therefore, Russian hackers will interfere for a long time in the American elections.
And American journalists will receive awards for high-rating tales

#21 Comment By Robert Charron On July 13, 2017 @ 8:13 am

Now while we take great pride in having freedom of speech, still so many people will resort to ad hominem attacks if someone states something they don’t agree with. I mean they don’t dispute the points made with counter arguments, instead they use smear tactics of questioning the motives of those expressing an opinion that they do not like. I was brought up to believe it was an American trait to want to see alludes to an issue. But possibly now it is party loyalty and/or hyper nationalism that has superseded any search for the truth.

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 13, 2017 @ 11:16 am

“And dragging out mistakes made in the run up to Iraq are a red herring. Yes, and Custer made poor decisions, based on faulty intelligence (OK and hubris) at Little Big Horn, but do we continue to tar the 7th Cavalry for his errors?”

Hopefully the 7th Cav has better battlefield assessment capabilities. In other words they learned from error and moved forward.

The reason Iraq matters is that it continues have repercussion and it matters because apparently, we don’t seem to have learned much. The problem with leaving the past behind is that sometimes, the past has visceral meaning now. Furthermore, if Gen Custard had survived, its questionable he would a major influence on policy choices afterward without earning his way back. But if the same mistakes are replayed and they come from the same leadership —

the past matters now. I am huge fan of the CIA, but make no mistake, its very clear, a lot remains the same. Now that may be more of a structural issue organizationally, but whatever the case, reminders of what as opened the organization up to this scrutiny is relevant.

The people who don’t want to own up to error are always quick to say,

“Let’s move on’ ‘Get over it.’ ‘Old News’ —

or my favorite ‘Grow up.’

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 13, 2017 @ 11:17 am

The herring is still flopping around the front door, it may smell dead, but its ailve and well.

#24 Comment By Joe Calgarian On July 13, 2017 @ 2:52 pm

Meanwhile it’s known that Americans interfered in Canada’s last election. Hypocrisy much?


#25 Comment By MM On July 13, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

“Despite claims by Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange that the emails did not come from Russia, the Clinton campaign immediately charged otherwise, and that the leak of the emails to Wikileaks was part of a Russian campaign to undermine the campaign.”

GOP hypocrisy vis-a-vis foreign (Russian) interference, I absolutely recognize and accept.

But I can easily imagine an alternate universe where Secretary Clinton won the election, and Democrats secured majority control over the legislature, and ideologically packed the Supreme Court, after the government of mainland China, which has a long history with the Clintons, worked to undermine the Trump campaign due to his anti-trade rhetoric. Collusion via PRC contacts with the Clinton Foundation is not out of the question.

But here’s the difference I see in this alternate universe, compared to the reality if today:

There would be no Congressional investigations. There would be no DOJ counterintelligence investigations. There would be no Special Prosecutor appointed. There wouldn’t be nearly as many leaks from the intelligence community. And the Clinton White House would be righteously indignant at the suggestion they didn’t win the election fair and square, or that they should be investigated for anything whatsoever.

And of course, they’d be calling Trump and every GOP critic who brought up the issue of China paranoid, and of course, racist, just to top things off…

#26 Comment By VJ On July 15, 2017 @ 10:17 am

These “failings” were not the result of mere foolishness or incompetence.

Those who sought to mislead and deceive the American public must be prosecuted for treason and publicly executed by hanging.

Likewise for those who pushed us into Iraq. They must all hang for their heinous crimes against humanity and the American People.

#27 Comment By boiledfrog On July 16, 2017 @ 11:05 am

Winston Smith would shudder at Americans’ adroit move from two minutes of hate to our 24/7 hate cycle.

If it wasn’t for the CIA owned mass media Americans wouldn’t be so easily fooled.

#28 Comment By Adrian Engler On July 21, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

“On the one hand, MacronLeaks proves Russiagate.”

“The head of the French government’s cyber security agency, which investigated leaks from President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, says they found no trace of a notorious Russian hacking group behind the attack.

In an interview in his office Thursday with The Associated Press, Guillaume Poupard said the Macron campaign hack “was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone.”

He said they found no trace that the Russian hacking group known as APT28, blamed for other attacks including on the U.S. presidential campaign, was responsible.

Poupard is director general of the government cyber-defense agency known in France by its acronym, ANSSI. Its experts were immediately dispatched when documents stolen from the Macron campaign leaked online on May 5 in the closing hours of the presidential race.

Poupard says the attack’s simplicity “means that we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone. They could be in any country.”


If any conclusions can be drawn from the allegations about Russian hacking in France, it is that it may well be that evidence is just as lacking in the US as it is in France, but that the French investigations were perhaps less politicized than the ones in the US.

#29 Comment By Steve C On July 25, 2017 @ 9:44 am

When you boil it all down, this piece simply says that the report claiming Russia interfered did not go through sufficient “alternative analysis”.
Oddly , it never once claims that the conclusions are false. More importantly, while it claims there is no evidence that the alternative analysis occurred, it provides no proof whatsoever that it did not occur.
Dozens of analysts from several agencies were involved. There could have been many discussions with people from all over the intelligence community. We have no way of knowing. But since the title page did not have the proper acronyms, and the report did not explicitly explain that the process included alternate analyses, Ritter concludes that none were performed. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

#30 Comment By Growcode On February 26, 2018 @ 3:42 am

Great answer, very nice that you give such answer here. You describe this very well. I would not do it myself.