So the Ecuadoran embassy in London last week blocked Julian Assange’s internet access after his organization, Wikileaks, published hacked emails from the Democratic National Convention. This was obviously done under political pressure, as the US government has accused the Russian government of being responsible for the hack.
When Wikileaks asserted that Ecuador cut off Assange’s internet access under pressure from the US State Department, the Times was quick to point out that the State Department denied this and that Wikileaks didn’t present any evidence to support its claim.
Of course, the US has not presented any evidence to support its claim that Russia was responsible for the DNC email hack, either, but that hasn’t stopped the New York Times from reporting as fact that Russia was responsible.
— Jeremy R. Hammond (@jeremyrhammond) October 20, 2016
Then during the presidential debate on October 19, Hillary Clinton claimed,
We have 17 — 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election…. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly, from Putin himself, in an effort, as 17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election.
Did all 17 of the US’s intelligence agencies independently assess that the Russian government was responsible for the DNC hack? Not as far as has been made public, no. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement saying,
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 DNI is the head of the US intelligence community (a position that was formerly part of the job description of the Director of Central Intelligence, or DCI, the head of the CIA), which includes 17 agencies. But when the DNI says in a statement that the intelligence community is confident that Russia was responsible, it doesn’t mean that all 17 agencies independently came to this conclusion. As Politifact, which declared Clinton’s statement to be “true”, pointed out,
The 17 separate agencies did not independently declare Russia the perpetrator behind the hacks.
So on that basis alone, Clinton’s statement was at best misleading. But look again at what Clinton claimed: that all 17 US intelligence agencies had “confirmed” that not only “the highest levels” of the Russian government were responsible, but “Putin himself”!
How can Politifact possibly declare Clinton’s claim to be “true”, given the actual facts?
Returning to the joint DHS-DNI statement, it continued,
The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.
So did all 17 US intelligence agencies “confirm” that Russia was responsible?
Not at all.
Did even one US intelligence agency “confirm” this?
The head of the US intelligence community has asserted that the hacking was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts”.
It’s pure speculation. The US government has presented no evidence to support its claim that Russia was responsible.
This hasn’t stopped the Times from reporting as fact that Russia did it, of course. After emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, were also leaked, the Times reported,
To date, no government officials have offered evidence that the same Russian hackers behind the D.N.C. cyberattacks were also behind the hack of Mr. Podesta’s emails….
So the Times clearly distinguishes (in an article dated October 20) between the DNC hack and the Podesta hack. Yet here’s the Times editorial board the very next day:
The consensus by United States intelligence agencies is that the WikiLeaks dump of emails from the account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, was the result of a hack by Russia in an effort to influence the presidential election.
That’s a lie.
To review, far from there being a “consensus” among US intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible for the hacking of Podesta’s emails, by the Times‘ own account, “no government officials have offered evidence” to support this assertion. As Politico notes:
While the intelligence community said that leaks earlier this year from WikiLeaks were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” it has not directly tied the recent WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s personal emails to Russia.
Furthermore, while the Director of National Intelligence has claimed to speak on behalf of the intelligence community in concluding that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack, this does not mean all 17 agencies have independently arrived at this conclusion or that there is no dissent from this conclusion.
Additionally, to date, despite this assertion that the US intelligence community has concluded Russia was responsible, no evidence has been presented to support this claim.
And that’s why you can’t believe anything you read in the New York Times about how Russia is trying to interfere in the US election.