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"Amateurish"
Russia Cries Foul on IC Election Tampering Report

The Kremlin today responded to last week’s U.S. public intelligence assessment report. Echoing President-elect Donald Trump’s language from last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections as “a full-scale witch hunt.” The Wall Street Journal:

“These absolutely unsubstantiated allegations sound rather amateur and emotional, which is hardly applicable to the highly professional work of truly top-notch security services,” said Dmitry Peskov.

The public report was indeed underwhelming to anyone following the story with even a modicum of interest. Leonid Bershidsky’s assessment on Twitter captured most observers’ feelings on the matter:

That said, the word around town is that the classified assessment relies on concrete and very compartmentalized intelligence sources that would be completely impossible to reveal without severely compromising U.S. capabilities going forward. After President Obama insisted that a declassified report be released to the public, U.S. spooks got to work fleshing out what is the most they could responsibly reveal. That fleshing out amounted to padding the naked assessments with a whole lot of material on Russia’s well-documented information warfare efforts.

The problem is that many in the media (see Matt Taibbi’s recent article for an example) are having flashbacks to the abuse of top secret intelligence assessments in the run-up to the Iraq War, and are therefore justifiably jaundiced about people brandishing privileged knowledge to push a foreign policy agenda. And as Damir Marusic wrote in December, it’s clear that this fight has been politicized from both the Right and the Left.

Still, any observer of recent events won’t find anything outlandish in the Intelligence Community’s bare assessments: that the Kremlin very likely intervened in the elections in order to 1) undermine the U.S. public’s faith in the system, 2) harm Hillary Clinton out of revenge, and 3) bolster Donald Trump, whom they (incorrectly?) assessed to be more likely to try to cooperate with them. Indeed, at this point it would strain credulity to think that the Russians would have just sat back and done nothing at all.

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  • Frip88

    I dunno man. I just don’t know.

  • Andrew Allison

    There are two issues which nobody seems to want to address: did Russian meddling affect the outcome of the election, and that is was the content of the Posesta leaks, which nobody has denied, that did any damage.

  • Jmaci

    One puzzling aspect of the election “hack” is that our intelligence agencies seem certain that Podesta’s computer had been hacked and that the Russians did it. I don’t remember any such certainty about whether the Russians or any other state had hacked into Hillary Clinton’s unprotected home email server. Comey, as I recall, would only say it was highly likely Hillary had been hacked, Why are they sure about hacking now and not then?

  • Anthony

    “Regardless of the truth value (putting aside our partisans perspectives) of the report, the nation’s intelligence agencies (the report is based on assessments by the NSA, the CIA, and the FBI) are strongly suggesting that the person who is about to walk into the White House got there with the help of a foreign power.” Russian denials and cries of foul to the contrary, the significance of the idea ( clandestine foreign power electoral help) and its affect institutionally remains underappreciated – further erosion of our American national institutions (democracies and American democracy specifically need robust institutional legitimacy).

  • Disappeared4x

    “many in the media” are working from someone’s talking points on how to delegitimize the Trump45 Presidency. A Russian Head Fake? That’ll do. …

  • Beauceron

    Of course the Russians are hacking us.

    So are the Chinese, the Israelis, the Europeans and anyone else who has the wherewithal to do it.

    And we have certainly hacked the Russians and everyone else.

    What’s being left out of all this is that what affected the election is not the hack– after all the RNC was hacked just as the DNC was hacked– but rather what the hack revealed. The RNC emails are like a soporific. Boring and of no interest to anyone. The DNC hacks revealed a party apparatus that was corrupt, condescending, spiteful, and nasty.

    The leftist press and the Obama administration and the Dems are merely diverting attention away from the content of the hack to the process of the hack. Those who were abusing the political system, like using the office of the Secretary of State as a profit generating position for your foundation, have used the Russian angle to successfully morph into victims. They are not victims, the American people are the victims.

    Frankly, I consider the hack a sort of twisted public service.

    • RedWell

      Of course they are redirecting, to some extent, but is that not what Trump is doing, also? At minimum, Putin either wanted him or thought, as seems to be the intel assessment here, that Trump is basically bad for the American political process and wouldn’t it be fun to help him out a bit. Both are damning, so Trump won’t even admit that it happened. Sad!
      In addition, in a world of robust conservative media and Trump’s direct Twitter feed, complaints about “leftist press” are overwrought.

      • Arkeygeezer

        Its also possible that Mr. Trump rolled the Russians like he did the American news media. If he knew that the Russians were likely to hack political party computers, a couple of tweets saying nice things about Putin could keep the Russians on his side.
        He also said nice things about the Chinese leadership during the campaign while complaining about their trade policies. That kept the other notorious hackers on his side.

  • Fat_Man

    Forget about it. I just don’t care.

  • ljgude

    I just don’t see the Russians actually being the perps simply because if they sided with Trump and she won, as I hope we can all still recall was a done deal, it would have made things awkward in trying to deal with second Clinton Administration come next week. Unless they have Trump dead to rights on something impeachable and totally own him – perhaps even blackmailing him into running I don’t see them trying to put a mercurial alpha male into office over a known quantity like Clinton.

  • Eurydice

    If the Russians’ purpose was to delegitimize the election, then the US is doing a great job of playing along. Sometime during this whole mess Obama made the statement that whatever it was the Russians were planning didn’t actually affect the outcome of the election, but that has been drowned in the subsequent cacophony. Nowhere in the public report does it say Trump was at fault for this or in collusion with the Russians. Nowhere does it say that the leaking of some emails caused the meltdown of the entire Democratic Party, from Clinton down to local dogcatcher. But the reaction to this has been an interesting sleight of hand to point the attention away from security and intelligence deficiencies in the Obama administration.

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