Congress needs to dust off its Magic 8 Ball. At this point, how else are our elected representatives going to get to the bottom of allegations that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, tried to influence the U.S. general election?
After all, the Central Intelligence Agency isn’t being very open – at least not with our elected representatives.
Instead of briefing the House Intelligence Committee about the alleged Russian role in hacked emails made public during the campaign – which Democrats desperately seek to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss – the agency is leaking conclusions without facts to the Washington Post, New York Times and television networks. The media, naturally, are quick to report the anonymous bits of “blame Putin” information to the public.
So to the extent Putin meddled, our own spies have at least matched his efforts to discredit our electoral system.
To recap: Private emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign were made public via WikiLeaks, allegedly through hacking, even though the FBI had tried to warn the DNC back in September 2015 of problems with its security system. The agency couldn’t get past the party’s technical help desk – harking back to Hillary’s email security problems on her own private server.
The media reported on the leaks daily – and if a reporter had obtained the same information from inside sources, there would be no controversy at all. Today’s uproar is over the source – not the substance.
But the CIA’s alleged conclusion – that Russia intervened to help Trump win – does not square with comments made Nov. 17 by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence. He said he lacked “good insight” about whether there was a connection between the WikiLeaks releases and Russia.
Congressional Republican leaders are taking the allegations seriously. “The Russians are not our friends,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. House Speaker Paul Ryan called any Russian intervention “especially problematic because, under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.”
But Intelligence Committee member Peter King of New York flatly accused the U.S. intelligence community of waging a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining Trump’s credibility – if not changing the course of the Electoral College.
Not surprisingly, President Obama is seizing a newfound political opportunity and is taking a new interest despite earlier claims of knowing all along of Russian shenanigans but choosing not to go public with whatever evidence he had – none of which he has produced.
He has ordered an investigation into whether Russia has attempted to influence U.S. elections going back to 2008. He said the reported CIA findings should come as no surprise to anyone, as suspicions that Russia was trying to influence the election were widely reported before the general election. Clinton herself spoke frequently about the possibility.
President-elect Donald Trump rejected the idea that Russia helped him win as “ridiculous.” Concerning the source of the leaked emails, on Sunday he told Chris Wallace of Fox News, “Personally, it could be Russia. I don’t really think it is. But who knows? … They don’t know and I don’t know.”
The source of the campaign leaks remains an interesting question, but one unlikely to be answered credibly unless the CIA coughs up its findings to Congress. Cooperation also might help answer the question of possible Russian motives if it was involved: Was it to cast doubt on the U.S. election system? If so, it was highly successful with the help of our own intelligence community and desperate Democrats who simply can’t accept that Trump won 306 Electoral College votes.
Though the CIA based its supposed findings of pro-Trump intervention on the fact that no Republican emails were leaked before the election, the Republican National Committee says it wasn’t hacked.
And Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange stands firm in his claim the Russians were not the source of the leaks.
Cyber hacking has become one of the mainstays of life – Yahoo most recently was hacked of more than one billion user accounts. And intervention into foreign elections is something many nations, including the United States, do regularly. Obama recently tried to influence the Brexit vote.
And while nobody should feel good about foreign interests intervening in U.S. elections, the reluctance of the U.S. intelligence community to share its information with official sources charged with making decisions about national security, while leaking information via media outlets, is very disturbing, raising the spectre of a political coup by our nation’s intelligence forces.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.