Four days ago on 16th December 2016 the Washington Post, the newspaper which has been the most zealous in spreading the story that Russian hacking influenced the outcome of the US Presidential election, published a report that claimed that ODNI and the FBI – which had previously appeared to express doubts – had fallen into line with the claims concerning the hacking being made by the CIA.
This report follows earlier reports that not just the FBI but more critically ODNI, Director of Intelligence James Clapper’s Office, have expressed doubts about the CIA’s claims of Russian hacking.
The Washington Post article that ODNI and the FBI have fallen into line behind the Russian hacking claims stems from a private memorandum circulated to officials of the CIA by CIA Director John Brennan.
The memorandum, which was obviously leaked to the Washington Post by officials of the CIA, reads as follows
Earlier this week, I met separately with (Director) FBI James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election. The three of us also agree that our organisations, along with others, need to focus on completing the thorough review of this issue that has been directed by President Obama and which is being led by the DNI. In recent days, I have had several conversations with members of Congress, providing an update on the status of the review as well as the considerations that need to be taken into account as we proceed. Many — but unfortunately not all — members understand and appreciate the importance and the gravity of the issue, and they are very supportive of the process that is underway.
[The CIA conclusion] was a judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked. (It was) a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose evidentiary standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, declined to accept the CIA’s analysis – a deductive assessment of the available intelligence – for the same reason.
Note in particular the point made by one ODNI official to Reuters
ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent. Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.
(bold italics added)
Reading this last comment, it is easy to see what has happened.
Brennan is misrepresenting ODNI’s and the FBI’s negative point – that they are not arguing that the CIA is wrong – by presenting it as a positive – that they accept (“strong consensus”) that the CIA is right.
Affirming a positive from a negative is of course a well known debating trick, even though it is a logical fallacy. That however is what CIA Director Brennan has done.
I would repeat a point here that I made in my previous article discussing the comments by the three ODNI officials to Reuters: not only were those officials acting on DNI Clapper’s instructions, but it is very likely that DNI Clapper was one of them. Indeed it is quite possible that he was the one who made the point to Reuters about ODNI “not arguing that the CIA is wrong”.
If Clapper used the same words to Brennan, then it becomes even easier to see how Brennan might be misrepresenting Clapper’s words. Of course Brennan would be acting in a grossly insubordinate way. However since both he and Clapper are about to retire, and since Brennan knows he has Obama’s backing, it is doubtful Brennan cares very much about it.