US President Obama in what was supposed to be his final press conference as President (it turns out he may be giving another one tomorrow morning) made a very interesting comment about the role of Wikileaks in the publication of the DNC and Podesta emails, which appears to cast doubt on the whole story of Russian interference in the US election.
It has been a central claim in the whole Clinton leaks story that after hacking the DNC’s and Podesta’s computers Russian intelligence passed on their stolen emails to Wikileaks as part of a ‘dirty tricks’ Russian operation to swing the US Presidential election to Donald Trump. Supposedly this operation was ordered by no less a person than Russian President Putin himself.
The US intelligence community in the two reports which it has published has failed to say how Russian intelligence passed on the stolen DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks, and has not provided any evidence it actually did so. Our old friends “the anonymous officials” are reported to have told the US news media ‘off the record’ that the US intelligence community has identified the Russian officials responsible for ‘directing’ the stolen emails to Wikileaks. However this is not the same as saying that the US intelligence community actually knows how it was done.
This is crucial because it is the publication of the emails, not the hacking of the DNC’s and Podesta’s computers, which is the heart of the scandal.
Hacking the DNC’s and Podesta’s computers is electronic espionage carried out from afar which is something all the Great Powers – including of course the US – routinely do. It was the making of the emails public which is the grounds for saying that Russia interfered in the election.
Wikileaks themselves, Julian Assange, and former British ambassador Craig Murray, all insist that Wikileaks did not obtain the emails from Russia. Craig Murray says he has direct personal information as to how Wikileaks obtained the emails, and that it was not from Russia. He has said they came from an American source.
This is what Obama had to say on this subject in his press conference
I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.
This comment has been taken by some to be an admission that the US intelligence community does not know how the Russians transmitted the stolen emails to Wikileaks. Moreover the fact Obama speaks of “the DNC e-mails that were leaked” is being treated as an admission that Wikileaks obtained the emails through an insider leak, not a hack. If true that would demolish the whole Russian theory.
I don’t go quite that far. Obama’s words are far from clear, a fact which incidentally is characteristic of his interviews and press conferences, which are extraordinarily verbose and difficult to follow. However on the face of it, all Obama is admitting to is that the US intelligence community does not know whether or not Wikileaks was aware that it was being used by Russia. As for his use of the word “leaked”, that looks to me like no more than a slip.
Having said that, if the US intelligence community does not know whether or not Wikileaks was aware that it was being used by Russia, then that implies that the US intelligence community does not know whether or not Wikileaks was aware that the ultimate source of the stolen emails was Russian intelligence. If so then that in turn implies that the US intelligence community does not know how Russian intelligence supplied the stolen emails to Wikileaks, which in turn implies that the US intelligence community doesn’t actually know how Wikileaks obtained the emails.
Obviously this is a chain of inference, but in light of Obama’s words it is a reasonable one.
Recently a group of US intelligence veterans has publicly called on Obama to order US intelligence to publish its evidence that it was Russian intelligence that was ultimately behind the publication of the stolen DNC and Podesta emails. This same group of intelligence veterans has repeatedly questioned the theory that Russian intelligence was involved, arguing that the publicly known facts are more consistent with the emails having been leaked by an insider rather than published as the result of a Russian hack.
In their letter the intelligence veterans make these points
We urge you to authorize public release of any tangible evidence that takes us beyond the unsubstantiated, “we-assess” judgments by the intelligence agencies. Otherwise, we – as well as other skeptical Americans – will be left with the corrosive suspicion that the intense campaign of accusations is part of a wider attempt to discredit the Russians and those – like Mr. Trump – who wish to deal constructively with them……
……we will not be shocked if it turns out that they can do no better than the evidence-deprived assessments they have served up in recent weeks. In that case, we would urge you, in all fairness, to let the American people in on the dearth of convincing evidence before you leave office.
As you will have gathered by now, we strongly suspect that the evidence your intelligence chiefs have of a joint Russian-hacking-WikiLeaks-publishing operation is no better than the “intelligence” evidence in 2002-2003 – expressed then with comparable flat-fact “certitude” – of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
(bold italics added)
Obama’s comment at his press conference – with its strong implication that the US intelligence community does not in fact know how Wikileaks obtained the DNC and Podesta emails, and that the whole hysterical campaign about Russian interference in the election is based on nothing more than a chain of inferences – shows the wisdom of the doubts the US intelligence veterans express in their letter.
This is especially so given that in the light of what Julian Assange and Craig Murray have repeatedly said about the provenance of the emails, the inferences upon which the US intelligence community has made its assessment – which has formed the basis for the whole hysterical campaign – are almost certainly false.