What is ‘counter-intelligence’ anyway? I imagine that anything with an intelligence service of its own, will also have a counter-intelligence service, to protect its intelligence service against penetration, but that that is its entire proper extension. It shouldn’t claim competence beyond that. Other objects are not its to surveil – RB
FBI and CIA give differing accounts on Russia’s motives in 2016 hacks
Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, WaPo, Dec 10 2016
Sitting before the House Intelligence Committee was a senior FBI counter-intelligence boxtop. The question the Republicans and Democrats in attendance wanted answered was whether the bureau concurred with the conclusions the CIA had just shared with senators that Russia “quite” clearly intended to help Trump defeat Clinton and clinch the White House. For the Democrats in the room, the FBI’s response was frustrating, even shocking. During a similar Senate Intelligence Committee briefing held the previous week, according to one of the boxtops who attended the House briefing, the CIA’s statements about Russia’s intentions to help Trump were “direct, bald and unqualified,” as reflected in the letter the Congress critturs now held in their hands. The FBI boxtop’s remarks to the House Intelligence Committee were “fuzzy” and “ambiguous” by comparison, suggesting to those in the room that the bureau and the agency weren’t on the same page, said the source. The competing messages, according to those in attendance, reflect cultural differences between the FBI and the CIA. The bureau, true to its law enforcement roots, wants facts and tangible evidence to prove something beyond all reasonable doubt. The CIA is more comfortable drawing inferences from behavior. One of the boxtops said:
The FBI briefers think in terms of criminal standards: they ask, can we prove this in court? The CIA briefers weigh the preponderance of intelligence and then make judgment calls to help the Congress critturs make informed decisions. High confidence for them means ‘we’re pretty damn sure.’ It doesn’t mean they can prove it in court.
That’s a straw man argument, because “prove it in court” is not required, but only “prove it confidentially,” which is what they should do, whether before the Congressional Committees or their own so-called “Gang of 12” – RB)
The FBI is not sold on the idea that Russia had a particular aim in its meddling. One source said:
There’s no question that their efforts went one way, but it’s not clear that they have a specific goal or mix of related goals.
The murky nature of the assessments is maddening many Congress critturs who are demanding answers about the Kremlin’s role in the presidential race. The FBI under Comey is already under fire for dropping a bombshell letter days before the election on the discovery of new emails potentially related to the Clinton private server investigation. The emails proved irrelevant to the case. On Saturday, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on Comey to resign, saying the FBI director deliberately kept quiet evidence about Russia’s motives before the election. With so much of the evidence about Russia’s alleged role in the election shrouded in secrecy because of strict classification rules, Democrats and Republicans in Washington who have access to the underlying intelligence say they have struggled to make their respective cases, leaving an already deeply divided public convinced that both sides are shading their conclusions to help the candidate they backed on Election Day.
The clamor from Democrats and some Republicans for a more fulsome accounting prompted the White House on Friday to announce that Obama had ordered a full review of Russian cyber-actions during the 2016 campaign. The president wants the report to be completed before he leaves office next month. The White House said Obama intends to declassify as much of the report as possible. The Congress critturs want the review to be accompanied by a joint congressional investigation. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was briefed but did not comment on what he had learned. He said:
Only in this way can the Pindo sheeple (or creeple) know the extent of Russian interference and we can attempt to inoculate ourselves against continued meddling in our elections.
Angus King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said:
The intelligence community’s information needs to be made public, not to revisit this election, but to see that this doesn’t happen again. Russia regularly tries to influence European politics and elections, and I don’t want this to be the case here. I don’t believe Moscow’s efforts end with Trump’s election. It could happen in the midterms. It could be in the next presidential election. They have shown us that they are capable and willing to do it here. For us not to react with the highest level of investigation and preparing responsive measures would be negligent.
Meanwhile, top Republicans on the committee have pointed to the possible ambiguity of the evidence, to question the soundness of the claim that Russia acted to help Trump. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said:
There is no clear evidence, even now. There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.
At the start of the House Intelligence Committee briefing, the senior FBI boxtop walked the critturs through the evidence that the bureau thought was credible about Russia’s role in the election. It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the statements that the CIA briefer had made to the Senate Intelligence Committee, making the case for the first time that Russia intended to help Trump win the election. Previous CIA assessments of Moscow’s goals were more cautious, saying they were limited to undermining faith in the Pindo electoral system. In earlier statements to the Intelligence Committees in Congress, the agency stopped short of saying the intrusions were meant to benefit one candidate over another. During the nearly two-hour briefing, the Democrat critturs in the room tried again and again to pin the FBI boxtop down on whether the bureau believed that Russia had a preference in who won the election. A boxtop who attended the briefing said:
It was shocking to hold these statements made about Russian intentions and activities, and to hear this guy basically saying nothing with certainty and allowing that all was possible.
Many of the Republican critturs welcomed the FBI’s caution. They didn’t think the CIA had a basis for coming to the conclusions presented to the Senate Inrtelligence Committee. Some of the Republicans on the House side thought it would have been more logical for the CIA to conclude that Russia preferred Clinton. At one point during the discussion in the secure room, according to an aide who was present, a Republican crittur turned to his Democrat colleagues and said:
It’s like Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus. We’re looking at the same evidence and drawing very different conclusions.
Here’s the original story, cos I didn’t do it before – it’s long! – RB
Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House
Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, WaPo, Dec 9 2016
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the Pindo electoral system, according to sources present at a White House briefing to key senators and their aides. Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked DNC + Podesta emails, according to the FBI, who described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community as part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances, saying verbatim:
It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. That’s the consensus view.
The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with NSC boxtops concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign. In September, during a secret briefing for Congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence. The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. The statement read:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and Make America Great Again.
Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking. He told Time Magazine this week:
I don’t believe they interfered. It could be Russia, and it could be China. and it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.
The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators and their aides last week, in which FBI boxtops cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency boxtops told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the sources. The CIA presentation to the senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal ODNI assessment, summarizing the results produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior FBI boxtop said there were minor disagreements among intel boxtops about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered. For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin directing the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a FBI boxtop said. Those actors, according to him, were one step removed from the Russian government, not government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations, so it has plausible deniability. Julian Assange has said in a television interview:
The Russian government is not the source.
On Friday, the White House said Pres Obama had ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to influence the electoral process. Obama’s counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters:
We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned.
Obama wants the report before he leaves office Jan 20, Monaco said. The review will be led by DNI Clapper. During her remarks, Monaco didn’t address the latest CIA assessment, which hasn’t been previously disclosed. Seven Democrat senators last week asked Obama to declassify details about the intrusions and why all these anonymous boxtops believe that the Kremlin was behind the operation. Wyden’s aides said Friday that the senators specifically were asking the White House to release portions of the CIA’s presentation. This week, top Democrat critturs in the House also sent a letter to Obama asking for briefings on Russian interference in the election. In previous assessments, the DNI told the White House and sleected senior Congress critturs that they believed Moscow’s aim was to undermine confidence in the Pindo electoral system. The assessments stopped short of saying the goal was to help elect Trump. On Oct 7, DNI Clapper officially accused Moscow of seeking to interfere in the election through the hacking of “political organizations.” Though his statement never specified which party, it was clear that he was referring to cyber-intrusions into the computers of the DNC and other Democrat groups and individuals. Some key Republican Congress critturs have continued to question the quality of evidence supporting Russian involvement. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team, said:
I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence, even now. There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.
Though Russia has long conducted cyber-spying on Pindosi agencies, companies and organizations, this presidential campaign (allegedly) marks the first time Moscow has attempted through cyber-means to interfere in or actively influence the outcome of an election. The reluctance of the Obama White House to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions before Election Day upset Democrats on the Hill as well as members of the Clinton campaign. Within the administration, different agencies sparred over whether and how to proceed. The White House was concerned that covert retaliation for the supposed attacks would incur an escalation in which Russia with sophisticated cyber-capabilities might have less to lose than Pindostan with its vast and vulnerable cybernetic underbelly. The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left them weighing more limited measures such as the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.
By mid-September, the White House had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally, without bipartisan congressional backing, just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes. So instead, the White House devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top Congress critturs and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of Twelve, a camarilla that includes House and Senate leaders and the chairs and ranking members of both chambers’ intelligence and security committees. Obama dispatched Monaco, Comey and Johnson to make the pitch to Congress for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election. Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign a bipartisan statement urging state and local electoral bodies to take federal help in protecting their voting registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions. Though the Pindo intelligence agencies were skeptical that hackers would be able to manipulate the election results in a systematic way, the White House feared that Russia would attempt to do so, sowing doubt about the fundamental mechanisms of democracy and potentially forcing a more dangerous confrontation between Faschingstein and Moscow.
In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, Monaco, Comey and Johnson on behalf of the White House broadly laid out the evidence that the intelligence agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in the DNC + Podesta hacks, and they made a case for a united bipartisan front in response to what somebody described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.” The Democrat Congress critturs in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests. According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics. Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands. After the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary. Some Clinton supporters saw the White House’s reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting, said:
The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress. The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.
Here’s Trump’s reaction:
Trump: Reports of Russian hacking ‘ridiculous’ (extract)
Louis Nelson, Politico, Dec 11 2016
Pres-elect Donald Trump called reports that the Russian government endeavored to help him win last month’s election “ridiculous” and “just another excuse” in an interview that aired Sunday morning, once again questioning the intelligence community he will take charge of when he is inaugurated next month. Trump told Fox News Sunday that he suspects that Democrats are behind reports that hacking attacks by the Russian government were intended to help install the Manhattan billionaire as president. He told host Chris Wallace in an interview taped over the weekend:
No, I don’t believe that at all. I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. I don’t know why, and I think it’s just — you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.
A WaPo report published late last week cited a Pindo boxtop who stated the “consensus view” of the intelligence community as:
Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.
But Trump disagreed and said the source of the election season’s hacking attacks remained in doubt among members of the intelligence community. He told Wallace that the hacking could have been done by Russia or China or “somebody sitting in a bed someplace.” Trump said:
The source was most likely Democrats, upset because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country!
Later, he told Wallace that those leaks “could be” politically motivated, because “they’re very embarrassed.” Obama has ordered a “deep dive” into the cyber-attacks, which targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and the DNC, among other victims. The president has asked for a final report before he leaves office next month, and Trump on Sunday endorsed Obama’s effort to get to the bottom of the hacking that plagued the 2016 election. Trump said of the investigation ordered by Obama:
I want it too. I think it’s great. I think — well, I don’t want anyone hacking us, and I’m not only talking about countries, I’m talking about anyone, period. But if you’re going to do that, I think you shouldn’t just say Russia, you should say other countries also, and maybe other individuals.
Trump vs Congress on Russian hacking
Seung Min Kim, Burgess Eeverett, Politico, Nov 11 2016
Influential senators from both parties amplified calls for an independent investigation of Russian meddling in the Pindo election, setting up a clash with Pres-elect Donald Trump over policy toward Russia and potentially his pick for sec state. Walnuts McCain and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement Sunday with incoming Democrat leader Chuck Schumer and top Armed Services Committee Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island that Russian interference in the election “should alarm every Pindosi.” They said Congress must investigate further, but without allowing it to become a partisan issue. But in an interview on Fox News Sunday, Trump again bluntly dismissed reports of Russian meddling, calling them “ridiculous” and an attempt to undermine his victory. At the same time, Trump’s incoming chief of staff suggested the president-elect would not oppose congressional inquiries. Still, the competing statements from Trump and the bipartisan group of senators set the stage for a possible showdown over how far Congress goes to investigate Russia’s apparent interference in the election. The joint statement from the group of prominent senators from both parties will make it difficult for congressional leaders to dismiss the issue. Schumer, Reed, McCain and Graham said in the joint statement:
Democrats and Republicans must work together across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks. This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyber-attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.
Schumer had previously called for a congressional probe into Russia’s influence in the election, saying Saturday that Democrats would continue to press for one when the new Congress convenes next year. McCain flatly disagreed with Trump on the issue, saying Sunday on CBS Face the Nation:
I don’t know what to make of (this), because it’s clear the Russians interfered. Facts are stubborn things.
McCain predicted that a congressional investigation would likely be lengthy and said that in an ideal world he would prefer a select committee on the matter, made up of key committee leaders. After declining to engage at length with Trump’s policy stances and controversial remarks for much of this year, Walnuts is emerging again as a lead foil to Trump on national security matters. Other Republicans indicated Sunday that they were on board with a bipartisan investigation into Russian influence. Rand Paul said of potential Russian interference on ABC This Week on Sunday:
We need to get to the bottom of it. There should be an investigation. It’s a little premature to talk about responses until we know what happened. But we should know what happened.
James Lankford tweeted Sunday morning that he backs the effort. Claire McCaskill said she “absolutely” supports the investigation but is “not questioning that Donald Trump won the election.” She said on ABC This Week:
Vladimir Putin is a thug and a bully. … He has to be held accountable. For Donald Trump to dismiss out of hand the intelligence community’s fact-gathering frankly doesn’t bode well for him protecting our country.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the possibility of Russian interference in the election. On Sunday, Trump called allegations of Russian interference “ridiculous” and an “excuse” from Democrats who lost the election, saying on Fox News Sunday:
Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace.
The joint statement from the senators comes on the heels of an explosive WaPo report that the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win, instead of simply trying to undermine confidence in Pindo democracy. Walnuts declined to make that explicit link during his CBS interview Sunday, saying whether Russians interfered to benefit a “certain candidate” would be subject to the congressional investigation. Trump’s transition team immediately disparaged the CIA assessment as the work of “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Trump’s incoming chief of staff, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, tried to walk back that criticism Sunday, saying that Trump “trusts the CIA.” Priebus denied that the RNC was hacked, but said that he and Trump would support the bipartisan calls for an investigation. Priebus said on ABC This Week:
I support anything that we can do, including investigations and otherwise, to protect Pindosis from foreign interference, so I’m all for finding out how in the world this stuff is happening … We don’t like this. I think the president-elect supports anything we can do.
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the transition team, said Trump “will not interfere with the legislative branch” when asked about congressional calls for an investigation into Russian meddling into the election. A spox for Paul Ryan issued a statement Sunday saying:
(Rep Ryan as House speaker) has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable. The speaker can not comment on or characterize the content of classified briefings but he rejects any politicization of intelligence matters.
The statement did not address the call for congressional investigations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a Monday news conference and will almost surely be asked about the matter. Obama has ordered a “full review” of (any & all) hacking-related activity aimed at disrupting last month’s presidential election. The WaPo reported that he was among senators briefed in September on Russian meddling in the election, but that McConnell asserted to government officials that he had doubts about the veracity of the intelligence and said he would push back against efforts to go public. An aide to McConnell said Saturday that any foreign breach of Pindo cyber-security is “disturbing.” McConnell has largely deferred to the current White House, which has launched its own investigation into Russia’s activities. But other senators are pushing for a more aggressive response. Reed told reporters late Friday after the WaPo story was published:
I think the more facts (get) disclosed, the better off we’ll all be. Not just now, (but) this capacity exists, and it has been exercised in this election. If we don’t recognize it and take steps, all of our elections will be subject to intrusion, and that’s contrary to the whole fundamental principle of free, fair, democratic elections.