If you we’re paying attention through the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, you probably can’t think of too many people less credible than Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, former CIA Director James Woolsey, or really any neoconservative who was outspoken at the time. That makes it difficult for a lot of progressives to accept them as allies in a dispute with Donald Trump over the quality of the Intelligence Community’s product when assessing Russia’s role in getting Trump elected. That’s totally understandable, and maybe Woolsey quitting the president-elect’s transition team in disgust doesn’t impress you in the least.
If you need more evidence, try reading Jeremy Ashkenas’s piece in the New York Times. It looks pretty cut and dry that Russian hackers were responsible for the phishing attack against John Podesta. The same accounts were used to hack into the DNC. Most of their activity outside the United States was against targets “in Russia and states formerly in the Soviet Union.” Most of the authors and journalists who were targeted “wrote about Russia, Ukraine and global affairs.” Their nonpolitical targets were mainly military, mostly in the United States, but also in NATO and Syria.
These aren’t the types of targets that a 14-year-old hacker would come up with, nor a primarily criminal group of operators.
This doesn’t answer every question, but it settles a lot.
Now, the next thing to know is if these Russian hackers are the ones who shared this information with Wikileaks. And that appears to be the case, although here we have to go on faith until the IC shows us their work.
US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.
It stands to reason that the organization that successfully hacked into the DNC and Podesta’s email would be the organization to share the pilfered information with Wikileaks, but it definitely helps to know the actual couriers. The public would like to see more on how they identified them, but that may be something a little too sensitive to divulge. We’ll see what’s in the declassified version of the report when we get it next week. Some people are just inclined to give more credibility to Julian Assange than to our own Intelligence Community, and I can sympathize with that disposition. But you should look deeper in Assange’s record with Russia. Take a look at the long piece by Zack Beauchamp at Vox, for example.
The next step is to ask whether the Russians tried to get Trump elected or if they they were just looking to cause us embarrassment and hurt our global reputation. Everyone seems to agree that Putin holds a grudge against Hillary Clinton from her time as Secretary of State, but was there a deeper reason than spite and revenge?
That needs to be explored, but the most damning evidence is in clear sight. It’s what Trump has said, what he has done, who he has hired, the policies he’s proposed, and who he defends, attacks, and chooses to believe or disbelieve.
In every case, his actions are more in line with what Putin would want than what an American president would want.
We don’t need to believe the CIA or the NSA or John McCain to believe our own eyes and ears.