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US officials accuse Vladimir Putin of ‘personally directing’ election hacks

As if months of unsubstantiated accusations against Russia regarding the DNC and Podesta leaks weren’t enough, US intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the “covert campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.”

NBC News reports:

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.

Putin’s objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,” the official said.

The latest intelligence said to show Putin’s involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.

Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term “high confidence” implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.

The problem with this narrative, however, is the same as before – no evidence or so called “solid information” has ever been demonstrated to the public. And as The Intercept rightly points out:

With two enormous military powers placed in direct conflict over national sovereignty, we need an extraordinary disclosure. The stakes are simply too high to take anyone’s word for it.

There’s a lot of evidence from the attack on the table, mostly detailing how the hack was perpetrated, and possibly the language of the perpetrators. It certainly remains plausible that Russians hacked the DNC, and remains possible that Russia itself ordered it. But the refrain of Russian attribution has been repeated so regularly and so emphatically that it’s become easy to forget that no one has ever truly proven the claim.

There is strong evidence indicating that Democratic email accounts were breached via phishing messages, and that specific malware was spread across DNC computers. There’s even evidence that the attackers are the same group that’s been spotted attacking other targets in the past. But again: No one has actually proven that group is the Russian government (or works for it). This remains the enormous inductive leap that’s not been reckoned with, and Americans deserve better.

With just four days left before the Electoral College votes on December 19, this latest report could be viewed as an attempt to sway at least 37 Republican electors against Donald Trump. This would block his immediate election and send the final decision to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Larry Lessig, a Harvard University constitutional law professor who has been providing legal counsel to Republican presidential electors considering ditching Trump, told Politico on Tuesday that 20 Republican members of the Electoral College are already considering voting against Donald Trump, and that more are expected to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Zero Hedge noted that should such a scenario come to fruition, “the potential fallout, which may include various forms of social conflict”, would deliver Putin, who was just named the world’s most powerful person for the fourth consecutive year, the ultimate win.

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