One January 6th, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that claimed with “high confidence” that Russia hacked the U.S. elections. The problem? Not only was absolutely no evidence given, but the vast majority of the report was spent attacking Russian news network RT for influencing the U.S. election.
The report labels a legitimate news outlet as a propaganda piece, for merely being funded by the Russian government and being critical of U.S. policies and Secretary Clinton, while favoring Donald Trump.
Of course, these actions came from the highest levels of the Russian government. Clearly from Putin himself. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at their exact claims:
“We assess with high confidence 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.”
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”
Those are pretty bold claims. Their evidence of Russian motives?
“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”
Pretty sure this claim was straight out of the mouth of Hillary Clinton, and I’m certain that the intelligence community could do better than this. Why not look at the obvious legitimate motives for wanting Trump? Is it honestly shocking that Russia would prefer a candidate that wants to work with them, as Trump has stated he would? And is it a crime to be against a candidate that bragged about being “tough on Putin” and establishing a no-fly zone in Syria? If Clinton did establish the latter, it would have effectively meant war with Russia and potentially thousands of lives lost on both sides.
Is it wrong for Russia to have its own, legitimate interests? But having a preference for a candidate doesn’t mean that they actually hacked the election. The report even states that:
“Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”
…So, in other words, they didn’t hack the voting machines. So what did the Russians do wrong? To start, the report claims:
“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”
Let’s just go along with what the report claims: That the Russian government hacked the DNC to discredit American democracy. Does that not take away the fact that the DNC and Hillary Clinton were amongst the most corrupt individuals in American history?
The Russian government didn’t discredit American democracy. That was the work of Hillary Clinton and the DNC. But this “evidence” of Russian wrongdoing is but a small section of the report. The real target that took up over half the report was Russian news outlet RT.
And perhaps that’s the most worrying thing about this whole report. It’s not the actions of RT that worries me, but the statements and false claims made in the report. To quote from the report itself:
“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”
“Starting in March 2016, Russian Government linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences. RT and Sputnik another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”
First, how does RT being state-run make it a “propaganda machine”? What does that make PBS and the BBC? Both are funded by the American and British governments, and yet they have never been accused of being either American or British propaganda.
But the worrying part is the mere fact that having an alternative opinion all of a sudden makes RT propaganda. First, there was certainly biased media coverage in favor of Clinton from mainstream media. Need I quote from the DNC leaks themselves that CNN host Donna Brazile gave Hillary Clinton some of the presidential debate questions? I think I speak for any American with a bit of common sense that those debates were heavily biased in favor of Clinton.
Second, what is wrong with a media outlet having a favorable view of Donald Trump? Is Russian media any less entitled to the freedom of speech that our constitution guarantees? Does that make American news outlets such as The Washington Times Russian propaganda as well? There is absolutely no coherent logic in making that claim.
It’s especially concerning that the report took issue with RT in the following statement:
“RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.”
You mean just like the Founding Fathers of the United States asked the American people to do, in order to better our nation? Should we not expose and address legitimate issues concerning our nation and our civil liberties? If Thomas Jefferson saw this report taking issue with such programming, he would be rolling over in his grave.
But the so-called evidence that the report gives is either false or a non-issue. In fact, it’s worrying to me that the report takes issue with RT’s reporting and take on current problems our nation faces. To start:
“RT introduced two new shows — “Breaking the Set” on 4 September and “Truthseeker” on 2 November — both overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.”
Does it mean the shows that were ended over two years ago? It would have been impossible for those shows to have had any commentary on the 2016 presidential election. Let’s look at their next claim.
“From August to November 2012, RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”
“In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.””
And how is any of this wrong or threatening American democracy? To the contrary, doesn’t it enhance it? Is it not true that millions of Americans are and were disenfranchised with both Republicans and Democrats? And how is supporting a third party candidates point of view or advertising their debates undermining or “hacking” our election? Is this not legitimate reporting? Next one:
“RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).”
Have any of these reports been disproven? Rand Paul, a U.S. senator, has actively fought against American intelligence agencies conducting surveillance without a warrant. Furthermore, RT has given balanced views on police, showing countless examples of exemplary police officers and the bad. Just look here and here as well. It seems the ODNI report is a bit biased by not showing the whole story. Next one:
“RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).”
Are these not legitimate issues to report on? What’s the problem here? There is a problem with Wall Street greed, our debt stands at over $20 trillion, and is there any problem with making logical comparisons to previous historical nations? Should we not study history and learn from our mistakes? Let’s not forget, the Russians themselves often called themselves the Third Rome. I wouldn’t take that as an insult. Next one:
“RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability (5 October).”
Except there has been serious environmental and health issues involved with fracking. Reporting on this issue should be taken as an opportunity to improve the situation, not complain that reporting on legitimate issues is “Russian propaganda.” I think this report is proving more and more that the Russians are right. Next one:
“RT is a leading media voice opposing Western intervention in the Syrian conflict and blaming the West for waging “information wars” against the Syrian Government (RT, 10 October-9 November).”
Except RT did an excellent job with investigative reporting regarding Western media claims on the Syrian conflict, exposing them for not providing sufficient evidence. RT was right to make these claims. Secondly, is it wrong to question our support for “rebels” in Syria, who are often times fighting for Al-Qaeda and ISIS? Should we not hold our government accountable to make good decisions, and not waste American lives and taxpayer money?
One of the last claims that the report makes is simply dumbfounding:
“RT aggressively advertises its social media accounts and has a significant and fast-growing social media footprint. In line with its efforts to present itself as anti-mainstream and to provide viewers alternative news content, RT is making its social media operations a top priority, both to avoid broadcast TV regulations and to expand its overall audience.”
You mean like every single other news outlet, company, non-profit, and organization on the planet? Is using social media and wanting to expand your audience a crime? Does that mean that music artists spending advertising dollars on social media presence are secretly Russian spies? Give me a break.
Absolutely nothing in the ODNI report gives any evidence that the Russians did anything illegal or wrong, let alone hacking a presidential election.
But let’s just pretend that the ODNI report is making legitimate claims that the Russians are guilty of wrongdoing. Let’s just pretend that the DNC hack was Vladimir Putin’s fault, and that Russian media bias was designed to favor Trump and discredit Clinton. How does any of this make a difference?
Ultimately, it was the American people that saw Hillary Clinton and the DNC for what they truly are: corrupted, lying criminals. And it was the American people that saw wrongdoing in American policy under the Obama administration, to include our support of Syrian rebels. And finally, it was the American people that went to the voting machines and decided for themselves who they wanted as President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.
Why? Because propaganda or not, it was the American people that were tired of our corrupt government and Hillary Clinton ruining our country. And we decided to take a stand, with or without the support of the Russians.
If there was any hack of the American election, it wasn’t the fault of the Russians. Hillary Clinton and the DNC managed to fail the American people themselves.