When it comes to national security reporting corporate journalists have time and again shown they are practicing something other than journalism, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The highly politicized unclassified report was gobbled up without skepticism by corporate media, playing its dutiful role of passing disinformation onto the American public without question.
The opening paragraph says it all:
“The Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the specific information on which it bases its analytic conclusions, as doing so could endanger sensitive sources and methods and imperil the Intelligence Community’s ability to collect critical foreign intelligence. The analytic judgments outlined below are identical to those in the classified version, but this declassified document does not include the full supporting information and does not discuss specific intelligence reports, sources, or methods.”
That should be a red flag for anyone who calls him or herself a journalist. Demand some kind of proof before proceeding. But when it comes to national security reporting corporate journalists have time and again shown they are practicing something other than journalism.
Any self-respecting reporter would never accept “just trust us,” especially from U.S. intelligence that for decades, especially since the Iraq invasion and the original Russiagate fiasco (and for decades before that as exposed in the 1975 Church and Pike Committees), has been thoroughly discredited.
If the opening page of this report wasn’t enough to give pause, then the closing one was the clincher:
“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”
Russia, Russia, Russia, Iran!
Nonetheless, the report squarely blames Russia and Iran for interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“We assess that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US. …
We have high confidence in our assessment; Russian state and proxy actors who all serve the Kremlin’s interests worked to affect US public perceptions in a consistent manner. A key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of proxies linked to Russian intelligence to push influence narratives-including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden-to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration.”
No evidence again is provided to back up such assertions. Essentially unnamed “proxies” in the media and on social media are allegedly carrying out this Russian interference. The report specifically says Moscow did not in anyway meddle with the electoral process. Who are these proxies?
The report doesn’t say but it is a fair guess that dissident American voices, who see through U.S. official lies about “spreading democracy” and expose the real American motives of expanding its economic and geo-strategic power, are among them. In other words, U.S. intelligence agencies cover-up U.S. activities abroad by attacking legitimate and independent domestic criticism by smearing it with a false association with a hostile foreign power.
The report throws a dose of realism into its assessment about why Russia might benefit from a weakened United States, though it gave no evidence to show Russia was responsible for it. Rather than just blame Putin as a madman out to control the world and mess with the U.S. just for the hell of it, the assessment acknowledges in a back-handed way that Russia sees itself on the defensive against U.S. aggression.
“We assess that Moscow will continue election influence efforts to further its longstanding goal of weakening Washington because the Kremlin has long deemed that a weakened United States would be less likely to pursue assertive foreign and security policies abroad and more open to geopolitical bargains with Russia.”
The allegations against Iran are much the same:
“We assess with high confidence that Iran carried out an influence campaign during the 2020 US election season intended to undercut the reelection prospects of former President Trump and to further its longstanding objectives of exacerbating divisions in the US, creating confusion, and undermining the legitimacy of US elections and institutions. We did not identify Iran engaging in any election interference activities, as defined in this assessment. Tehran’s efforts were aimed at denigrating former President Trump, not actively promoting his rivals.”
And why would Iran want to do that, if that is what it actually did? Could it be because Trump pulled out of the six-nation Iran nuclear deal and reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran?
The only “interference” identified is through media.
“We assess that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei probably authorized Iran’s influence campaign and that it was a whole of government effort, judging from the involvement of multiple Iranian Government elements. We have high confidence in this assessment. • Iran focused its social media and propaganda on perceived vulnerabilities in the United States, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession, and civil unrest.”
Neither Russia nor Iran was accused on interfering in the 2020 election other than through unsubstantiated efforts in the media. How much influence could that have been given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by both candidates on the election?
Covering Biden’s Butt
It is not an exaggeration to say that American intelligence leaders hated Donald Trump and love Joe Biden. It’s not a partisan thing. They loved Republicans Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, and hated the Democrat Jimmy Carter. It’s about presidents not getting in their way. Trump tried, and mostly failed, to get in their way. They hated him for trying.
For instance, he failed to declassify CIA files on the John F. Kennedy assassination, though Congress had mandated their release. Trump even failed to declassify files that would shed light on how the CIA and FBI tried to interfere in his election and undermine his presidency, gross violations of inserting themselves into domestic politics that went well beyond anything they allege Russia has done.
The present report is also direct interference into domestic politics. It is highly politicized interference, which crosses a red line.
The report attempts to whitewash legitimate concerns about an array of Biden’s activities in Ukraine as vice president, the first being participation in a coup.
Weeks before the 2014 overthrow of democratically-elected (and OSCE-certified) President Viktor Yanukovych, then under-secretary of state Victoria Nuland talked about who would make up the new Ukrainian government. After discussing the coup, Nuland said Biden would play a key role in seeing it through.
After the coup Biden was appointed as Obama’s viceroy in Ukraine. An American citizen who was a former State Department official was given Ukrainian citizenship the day before she became the country’s finance minister. Just months after the U.S. takeover Biden’s son and a family friend of then Secretary of State John Kerry got lucrative positions on the board of Burisma Energy.
Monsanto and other U.S. corporations landed contracts in Ukraine. Biden boasted that he got Ukraine’s chief prosecutor fired, a man who testified in a court case in Vienna that Biden got him booted because he was investigating Burisma. Then Hunter Biden’s laptop was found with potentially incriminating evidence from Ukraine, as The New York Post reported before the November election, and Democratic pressure got Twitter to shut down the Post‘s account.
Though the present intelligence report does not go into any of these details, it says:
“We assess that Russia’s intelligence services, Ukraine-linked individuals with ties to Russian intelligence and their networks, and Russian state media, trolls, and online proxies engaged in activities targeting the 2020 US presidential election. The primary effort the IC uncovered revolved around a narrative-that Russian actors began spreading as early as 2014-alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other US officials and Ukraine. Russian intelligence services relied on Ukraine-linked proxies and these proxies’ networks-including their US contacts-to spread this narrative to give Moscow plausible deniability of their involvement. …
Russian state media, trolls, and online proxies, including those directed by Russian intelligence, published disparaging content about President Biden, his family, and the Democratic Party, and heavily amplified related content circulating in US media, including stories centered on his son. These influence actors frequently sought out US contributors to increase their reach into US audiences.”
Spy vs. Spy
Every government with spying capabilities is spying on other governments, whether friend or foe. Yes Russia, Iran, China as well as Israel, France, Britain and other allies are spying on the United States. Do these governments voice opinions about U.S. politics? Often. Do they try to influence U.S. decision-making to their advantage? It would be a failure of diplomacy if they did not.
No government has greater espionage capabilities than the United States. That the United States has done everything alleged in this report and far worse is without question, and the evidence doesn’t need to be hidden, as it is here. Without mentioning the numerous U.S.-backed coups and invasions since World War II, it is sufficient to name just two examples of U.S. direct interference in foreign elections.
The CIA has admitted doling out $1 million to centrist politicians to influence the 1948 general election in Italy, according to a memo given to the 1975 Pike Committee. “We had bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians, to defray their political expenses, their campaign expenses, for posters, for pamphlets,” said CIA operative F. Mark Wyatt. The CIA was also accused of forging letters to discredit Italian communist politicians.
In the 1996 Russian election, Democratic Party operatives flew to Russia to support the faltering Boris Yeltsin in his re-election campaign, an effort blasted on the front page of Time magazine.
U.S. Spying on U.S. Elections
The report reveals a little known, if unsurprising, fact about domestic U.S. intelligence spying on U.S. elections.
“We assess that it would be difficult for a foreign actor to manipulate election processes at scale without detection by intelligence collection on the actors themselves, through physical and cyber security monitoring around voting systems across the country…”
Who You Gonna Blame?
Blaming Russia for just about anything that goes wrong in the U.S. has proved too useful to discard.
If a U.S. politician is embroiled in a scandal who better to blame than Moscow, as Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee did in 2016?
If intelligence agencies and the Pentagon need to justify their budgets who better to blame than Russia (and China)?
As social unrest, racial divisions and a lack of faith in U.S. elections continues to grow, who better to blame for stirring this up than the Kremlin?
Anything but blaming oneself.
Why Does Anyone Believe This?
This intelligence assessment takes the American people for fools. They’ve known since the 2000 election in Florida that there’s something seriously wrong and untrustworthy about the American electoral system. They’ve known for years that both major parties are bought by major donors and don’t serve the public’s interests.
But anyone pointing this out is not just following their common sense or the facts, but is framed as a stooge of the Russian government.
It’s wearing thin. But this report was not only written as political cover for Biden the politician. But for Biden the aggressive president.
A day after it was released Biden said Russia would “pay a price” for its “meddling” with new U.S. sanctions, in fact not to further weaken an enemy “undermining American democracy” but to weaken states that won’t fall into line. Biden in an ABC interview also agreed to call Putin a “killer.” (Biden was a fierce proponent of the Iraq invasion that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis).
This report is just further evidence that U.S. security services are not run by intelligence professionals but highly politicized agents zealously promoting a militarist agenda against any nation standing in their way, willing to blame others for America’s own failings and to protect any politician that gets with the program.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe