LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Claims of Russian hacking, election interference lacking in facts

When President Trump claimed recently that there were millions of fraudulent votes cast for his opponent, cheating him of a win in the popular vote, journalists correctly pointed out that there is no evidence for his claim. On the other hand, when U.S. intelligence agencies and leading Democrats, such as Delaware’s senator Chris Coons, in his interview with Chris Matthews, claim that Russia hacked into DNC networks and released damaging (but true) emails via WikiLeaks, journalists fail to point out that there is also no evidence for that claim. Democrats even claim that the Russians did this to deliberately tilt the election to Trump, scapegoating the Russians for their election loss.

Should we believe what the CIA tells us, even if no evidence is presented? The agency does not have a promising track record of reliability. Recently, it was revealed that the agency lied to Congress when it denied that it had tortured helpless prisoners after 2001. In 2002, the CIA claimed that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction; that claim was false. Maybe mainstream journalists are trusting souls when our intelligence agencies speak, but I have learned from long experience to be skeptical of the pronouncements of U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

The claim that Russia hacked the emails in question and then provided them to WikiLeaks has been rejected by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), whose memorandum, titled “Allegations of Hacking Election Are Baseless,” appeared on Consortiumnews.com on Dec. 12. This group’s roster includes independent former intelligence experts, such as former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel; William Binney, a 36-year National Security Agency veteran and a former technical director of the agency; Ray McGovern, a 27-year U.S. Army and CIA veteran; and Scott Ritter, a former nuclear weapons inspector. Their memorandum concludes the emails were leaked, not hacked. The difference is crucial. If they were leaked, they were released to WikiLeaks by an insider (basically a whistleblower). If they were hacked, they were instead obtained by someone from the outside who broke into the system.

In a Jan. 5 column in The Baltimore Sun, titled “Emails Were Leaked, Not Hacked,” Binney and McGovern discussed the recent “Joint Analysis Report” issued Dec. 29 by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. This report had been advertised in advance as providing evidence for the hacking claims. Not so. Of this report, Binney and McGovern wrote, “The thin gruel that it did contain was watered down further by the following unusual warning atop page 1: ‘DISCLAIMER: This report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.’” The report does not provide evidence for the claim that Russia provided the emails to WikiLeaks, and in fact, never mentions WikiLeaks, as Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, recently pointed out.

McGovern, in a Jan. 20 column titled “Obama admits Gap in Russian ‘Hack’ Case,” pointed out that many governments hack. The outstanding question is whether the Russians gave those emails to WikiLeaks for release to the public, and McGovern says the U.S. intelligence community does not know. He points out Obama admitted as much in his last press conference on Jan. 18 when the president said: “… the conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails which were leaked.” Here, Obama was talking about a leak, not a hack. He never claimed that the Russians gave WikiLeaks the DNC emails. Yet, the President unleashed sanctions on Russia based on this lack of evidence.

Julian Assange says the Russians were not the source of the emails for WikiLeaks. Former British ambassador Craig Murray, who works with WikiLeaks, stated that he was handed the emails in question by a disgruntled Democrat in Washington, D.C. Murray’s claim, reported in a major British paper, has been virtually ignored by U.S. media.

Leading Democrats have previously been hostile to Russia, and have been pushing us towards a new Cold War. President Obama, while talking up nuclear arms reduction, has done the opposite by instead developing a plan to spend trillions to upgrade our nuclear weapons. Yet, I see nothing hostile that Russia has done to the U.S. Personally, I want peace with Russia. Now these Democratic leaders have taken up the unfounded story that Russian actions caused them to lose the election (by releasing true information). That kind of scapegoating bodes ill for the ability of the Democratic Party to rebound.

The refusal of independent intelligence professionals in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to accept the CIA’s claims of Russian hacking and supplying emails to WikiLeaks means we also should refuse to accept these claims, unless and until convincing evidence is forthcoming. Trump needs to supply evidence for his outlandish claims, and the Democrats also need to supply evidence for their claims.

Desmond Kahn
Newark

EDITOR’S NOTE: Desmond Kahn earned a Ph.D. in biology, works in marine fisheries management and has been a peace activist since the Vietnam War.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.