Russian meddling is plausible, and even likely, but where's the smoking gun?by Rupert Stone / January 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
So, it’s official. Russia helped Donald Trump win the American presidential election by hacking into Democratic Party computers, stealing emails and feeding them to media outlets such as Wikileaks, according to a report released last Friday by the US intelligence community. What is more, this was all directed by Vladimir Putin himself.
“We assess with high confidence,” the report states, “that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
Previous reports had reached similar conclusions, and this new document surely buries any doubts about Russia’s involvement.
Or does it? The report is short—a mere 25 pages. And it is remarkably light on detail. Soon after the document came out, a horde of journalists took to Twitter in protest. Newsnight’s Ian Katz, for example, said it was “very low on evidence.” Politico reporter Eric Geller called the report “very thin,” while, for NBC’s Bill Neely, it contained “no open proof.”
Even staunch critics of the Putin regime expressed their doubts. Julia Ioffe of the Atlantic tweeted, “It’s hard to tell if the thinness of the #hacking report is because the proof is qualified, or because the proof doesn’t exist.” For Michael Weiss of the Daily Beast, it was “underwhelming.” And, for Stephen Hayes of Fox and the Weekly Standard, “little more than a collection of assertions.”
Worse, this is now the second dud official report about hacking in under a month. In December the FBI and Department of Homeland Security produced another much-derided document giving a long list of suspicious IP addresses supposedly associated with Russian hacking. But experts studied the addresses, and found that many of them are not specifically tied to Russia, while almost half might not be related to hackers at all. The report even led to a false alarm that Russian hackers hit Vermont’s power grid.
True, CrowdStrike and other cyber security firms have analysed the data and reached similar conclusions as the US government. They based their findings on the fact…