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:
Yet another useless U.S. intel report. Inferences anyone could have made from reading The Washington Post. I wonder if that's what they do
— Leonid Bershidsky (@Bershidsky) January 6, 2017
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.