Thursday, January 5, 2017

Few Facts and Much Innuendo on Russian Election Tampering So Far

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

First, let me say from the start I have little doubt that Russia is capable of carrying out operations to mess with our elections. What I write here is not a defense of Russia, but a clarification of what the US government has released so far regarding the US intelligence agencies assessments, and press reactions. I see a tendency by the media to over state what has actually been said. It seems possible that the degree of Russian influence over the election is less significant than what we have been lead to believe.

For example, Russian hacking of the DNC, and the WikiLeaks publication of DNC emails, is linked together in the public mind. Google it all you want, however, and you won't find any "official" US government claim that documents published by Wikileaks were obtained from Russia or Russian sources. You can find a clear denial from Julian Assange that any of the emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russia or any other government source.

There is a steady stream of innuendo against Wikileaks and Julian Assange. The following is an explanations of how hacked emails got released to the public. Pay close attention to what The Hill is actually saying (I numbered the points for discussion below:

1) The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence publicly blamed Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other political organizations this year. 
2) “The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the [above referenced] statement read. 
3) Security experts have long believed that the previously-unknown hacker Guccifer 2.0 was a front for Russian interests, despite his claims to be a single Romanian hacker. He — or they — published the DNC and DCCC documents on a Wordpress blog set up shortly after the hacks.

4), which published the Powell emails, claims to be American but is also thought to be a Russian intelligence front.

5) The anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks also published the DNC emails, but would not reveal where it got them.


Beginning with the third statement above, it summarizes a case being made that Guccifer 2.0 has a direct connection with the Russians. You can read fairly compelling arguments for this claim elsewhere. The fourth statement ties to Russian intelligence with respect to the Colin Powell emails, a lesser know breach of a less relevant set of email. The fifth statement doesn't attempt to tie WikiLeaks to Russian directly, but manages to taunts Julian Assange by contrasting his "anti-secrecy platform" with his not revealing from where his DNC emails came.

The Hill's reporting in the first two statements above, however, is really misleading. There is general agreement that Russia is among those that hacked the DNC. Hacking political organizations is rampant. All governments do it all the time, including our own. But notice how the Hill worded their reporting of this joint statement. They say that the USIC statement blames Russia for "the hack of the Democratic National Committee." (emphasis mine)

Was there only a single hack of the DNC? Did the joint statement actually say this? This reporting gives a false impression. It has been widely reported, and confirmed, that the DNC  and the RNC were both hacked multiple times. Here below is an excerpt the actual language in the U.S. Intelligence Community's joint statement. Compare it to what The Hill reported:

" The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. "

What is and isn't being said here? You can read this joint statement in full and you will find no specific mention of the DNC. The compromised e-mails were clearly from various "institutions" and "people," both plural terms. You will see that "recent compromises" is also plural, not singular. You may notice that compromises seems to refers to the "disclosures" of allegedly hacked e-mails. It doesn't directly state that Russian intelligence was the actual hacker. Most importantly, the statement says that the release of these e-mails to websites "like" those mentioned is "consistent with" Russia's "methods and motivations." The statement doesn't directly accuse Guccifer 2.0, DCLeaks or WikiLeaks of any complicity with the Russian government.

So, to restate the facts in this USIC joint statement, as I would report:

According to a joint statement by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC), e-mails from various U.S. political organizations and people were allegedly stolen by hackers. The contents of these stolen emails were publically release by websites such as Guccifer 2.0, and The USIC believes that the manner in which these e-mails were allegedly stolen and publically released is consistent with the way Russia does things, and Russia has the motivation to do these thing. The USIC says it is "confident" that Russia directed this activity.

When you accurately report the facts released by the USIC statement, it becomes clear that little new information was actually provided. Furthermore, the implied logic of the statement is that because what Russia does looks like what happened, and because they wanted it to happen, the did it. This is seriously flawed logic.

Hopefully, the USIC , Congress and the President will do a better job in the future to present actual body of significant facts to support their allegations of Russian meddling in our elections. It is too serious an allegation to conceal evidence from the public. I am keeping an open mind, but the American people deserve to see the facts.


  1. Since I posted this piece yesterday, new information came out of NBC and the Congressional hearings to suggest that Russia was disproportionate hacking of the DNC, broadly engaged in social media activity and fake news activity against the Clinton campaign. It was also said thatt the USIC has direct evidence of individuals (associated with Russia?) giving hacked documents to WikiLeaks. If the public release of the USIC report provides actual evidence of these activities it will support the Intelligent Communities claim that Russia was engaged in meddling in our elections. It still doesn't mean Julian Assange knowingly collaborated with Russia. An important question to be put to the Intelligence community, not asked at yesterday's hearing I think, is what is the state of the evidence on Russian hacking of the RNC? You can't say the DNC hacking was targeted by Russia without answering that question.

    I am still happy that information about the operations of the DNC was revealed. It didn't influence my vote for Clinton in any way. I imagine NRC emails would be more horrific, but the DNC emails have strengthened my resolve to press for DNC reforms.

  2. I am two-thirds of the way through the publicly released Russian Hacking report and I still am struggle to find any facts. Almost every paragraph begins with "We assess..." An assessment is not an assertion of fact. I'll keep looking.


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