The unclassified report on Russian hacking

The unclassified CIA-FBI-NSA report asserts that they have “high confidence” that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in order to elect Donald Trump.

office_of_the_director_of_national_intelligence_seal_usaPossible motives are retaliation for the Panama Papers leaks, the reports on Russian doping of Olympic athletes, and activities of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy in Russia.

But the report presents no actual evidence that this happened.   All it says is that Vladimir Putin hoped Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, which is plainly true, and that this is the sort of thing that Putin would do, which might well be true.  Most of the report is devoted to analysis of anti-Clinton reporting by RT News, a Russian-funded TV news broadcaster.

It’s possible that the conclusion is true, but the report does not consider alternative explanations, such as leaks by a disgruntled DNC employee.   It does not describe the scope of the investigation—for example, whether the FBI had access to the DNC e-mails, or relied on the word of the DNC contractor, or whether it used NSA signal intelligence.

Maybe the classified version of the report does answer the unanswered questions.   I look forward with great interest to the congressional investigation.


The Panama Papers were files of a law firm based in Panama which handles offshore tax havens.    They revealed that, among other things, a cellist friend of Vladimir Putin nominally controls corporations worth billions of dollars.  Since the cellist doesn’t live like a billionaire, it’s reasonable to think that he is a front for somebody else, probably Putin.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the release of the Panama Papers was arranged by the CIA. Would that have been an act of war?  I see nothing wrong with disclosure of accurate information of public interest, no matter what the source and what the motive.


Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Declassified Russian Hack Report by Marcy Wheeler for emptywheel.

New Intelligence Report Adds No Evidence of “Russian Hacking” (updated) on Moon of Alabama.

On Whitewashing Russia: Power-worshippers Only See Black-and-White by Jacob Hirthler for Counterpunch.

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