The much ballyhooed unclassified report, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, was published today and it turns out to be an elaborate farce and charade. This product is shameful. It is poorly written and totally lacking in actual evidence.  This document stands as a prime exhibit of the politicization of the intelligence community.

Let’s start with this fun fact. In early October, Jim Clapper claimed there was consensus in the intelligence community. According to USA Today:

On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The USIC is made up of 16 agencies, in addition to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

But today’s report only reflects the consensus of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA (that according to the “Scope and Sourcing” portion of the report):

This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.

What happened to the other 13 members of the so-called Intelligence Community? For example, what about the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research aka INR? They are a key part of the analytical portion of the Intelligence Community and have actual Russian experts. And why was the Defense Intelligence Agency (aka DIA) excluded? One of the supposed bad Russian actors in this hacking fiasco is the GRU, the Russian military version of the CIA. That is a prime target that DIA analysts follow. They are the experts. But they apparently were not given the chance to concur (or maybe they declined to do so out of embarrassment over the amateur quality of the work).
I would encourage you to go back and read the unclassified version of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs. Then take a look at the recently declassified version of the NIE. To obtain a judgement representing the Intelligence Community one agency is designated to write the “Estimate” or “Assessment” and then circulate that document to the other agencies for their comments and concurrence. But there is no obligation to agree. In fact, the other agencies can disagree. The following is an example of a disputed “Judgment” from the 2002 NIE on Iraq:

We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. (See INR alternative view at the end of these Key Judgments.)

Now take a look at one of the “Judgments” from today’s disgraceful report:
  • We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

Ignore the terrible writing for a moment and focus instead on the curious last sentence. Why did the CIA and FBI have “HIGH” confidence while NSA is only at “MODERATE?” The answer is simple–there is no concrete evidence backing this up. It is nothing more than subjective judgment.

When I was an analyst I had to be very clear in ensuring my reader (i.e., the President) would know what was a fact based on sources and what was a judgment or opinion. If you read through the entirety of this DNI Assessment you will not find one shred of actual evidence tying showing that Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” There is no evidence. That is why the entire report repeats the phrase, “WE ASSESS.” That is intel speak for opinion.

Go back and look at the 2002 unclass paper on Iraq’s WMD Programs. At least that paper, though subsequently proven wrong, had a lot of facts. Just goes to show that even with supposedly hard evidence that the Intel Community can (and did) get it wrong.

Most of the assessments are laughable. Consider the following claim regarding Russia’s intent:

Russia’s goals 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.

And how was Russia going to undermine “Public Faith” in our democratic process? By stealing emails that exposed the true behind the scenes political scheming and machinations by the DNC and Hillary’s campaign. Nothing destroys ones faith in our “democratic” process more quickly than learning that Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to rig the primaries against Bernie Sanders. In other words, those crafty Rooskies were going to flood America with truth.

Oh yeah, they also wanted to “denigrate Secretary Clinton.” I am still trying to figure out how Vladimir Putin and his intel goons managed to get Hillary to install a private server and pass top secret information over her private email system. I would really like to know how Putin got CNN to put up the following story about Hillary’s emails:

News broke in March that Clinton used personal email addresses connected to a privately-owned server, rather than a government email, during her four years as President Barack Obama’s first-term secretary of state.
Some previous secretaries of state — including Colin Powell — have also used private email accounts, but Clinton’s approach was particularly controversial because it’s out of step with typical government practice now and gave Clinton a major measure of control over what remains private and what’s public.
Clinton’s lawyers turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department, and the department has since processed those — releasing some, under a judge’s orders, at the end of each month.
But she didn’t hand in the server itself until last month, after five months of intense scrutiny over whether she flouted transparency laws or put government secrets at risk.
Let me suggest an alternative hypothesis–Hillary did not need any outsider to lead the charge in denigrating her. She was doing enough damage to herself on her own.
Just when you think this DNI product had probed the depths of the ridiculous, it takes us into a new dimension of the absurd–an English language Russian TV channel helped swing the election for Trump:
The Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks. RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT, according to Russian and Western media. Russian media subsequently announced that RT had become “the only Russian media company” to partner with WikiLeaks and had received access to “new leaks of secret information.” RT routinely gives Assange sympathetic coverage and provides him a platform to denounce the United States.

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.

This is ROFL territory folks. Please explain to me how a TV station that 99% of Americans know nothing about and hardly appears on anyone’s cable (unless you have Direct TV) became such a powerful platform that public opinion was turned against Hillary? Full disclosure–I appear from time-to-time on RT and am asked for my opinion on things like Syria and U.S. policy. Unlike the time I was a Fox News analyst, RT producers have never told me what to say or ruled any topic out of bounds.

The actual truth, with respect to the media coverage of Hillary, is that she was given a pass compared to the verbal lashings meted out on Trump by the various media outlets. The Media Research Center has actual data comparing the treatment of Hillary with that of Trump:

The results show neither candidate was celebrated by the media (as Obama was in 2008), but network reporters went out of their way to hammer Trump day after day, while Clinton was largely out of their line of fire.

Our analysts found 184 opinionated statements about Hillary Clinton, split between 39 positive statements (21%) vs. 145 negative (79%). Those same broadcasts included more than three times as many opinionated statements about Trump, 91 percent of which (623) were negative vs. just nine percent positive (63).

Even when they were critical of Hillary Clinton — for concealing her pneumonia, for example, or mischaracterizing the FBI investigation of her e-mail server — network reporters always maintained a respectful tone in their coverage.

As for those “horse race” assessments that we excluded from our “good press/bad press” measure, those were decidedly anti-Trump as well. Out of 569 such statements about the health or prospects of Trump’s campaign, 85% (486) were negative, vs. 15% (83) that were positive. For Clinton, the spin was reversed: out of 432 assessments of her status in the race, 62% (268) were positive, vs. just 38% (164) that were negative.

Thus, judging by their own coverage, network reporters have consistently painted Clinton as the most likely to win, but they have inexplicably spent most of their time trying to dismantle the underdog in the race while giving the frontrunner much lighter scrutiny.

Overall, the networks spent about 40 percent more airtime covering Trump (785 minutes) than they did on Clinton (478 minutes). Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received just over nine minutes of coverage, while Green candidate Jill Stein and independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin each received less than one minute of airtime.

As noted above, more than half of Trump’s coverage (440 minutes, or 56%) focused on the various controversies surrounding his candidacy, while only about 38 percent of Clinton’s airtime was spent on her controversies (185 minutes).

It was not anything that Russia allegedly did or did not do that beat Hillary. It was Hillary that beat Hillary. The sudden obsession with Democrats and most pundits in blaming a Russian information operation for Trump’s victory and Hillary’s demise is not rooted in actual facts. The DNI report, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, is nothing more than a travesty. An poorly designed and executed attempt by Clapper and the CIA’s John Brennan to try to delegitimize the Presidency of Donald Trump. I would call it an attempted Intel Community Coup. Cleaning up this nonsense must be a first priority for Trump after taking the oath of office.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.