Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Says U.S. News-Media Still as Bad as 2003 & the ‘Saddam’s WMD’ Lies

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by Eric Zuesse, Washington’s Blog:

On July 6th, Jack Matlock, who had been the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow working with Mikheil Gorbachev to end the Cold War in 1987-1991, headlined at washingtonsblog, “The Claim that ‘Russia Interfered with U.S. Elections’ Is Political Nonsense’,” and he wrote that America’s news-media persistently misrepresent the Russiagate evidence, because first the Obama Administration and then now the Trump Administration are jiggering the Government’s intelligence evaluations in order to accuse Russia of having tried to assist Donald Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

He says (and these are just the highlights):

Did the U.S. “Intelligence Community” judge that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election?

Most commentators seem to think so. Every news report I have read of the planned meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin in July refers to “Russian interference” as a fact and asks whether the matter will be discussed. Reports that President Putin denied involvement in the election are scoffed at, usually with a claim that the U.S. “intelligence community” proved Russian interference. In fact, the U.S. “intelligence community” has not done so. The intelligence community as a whole has not been tasked to make a judgment and some key members of that community did not participate in the report that is routinely cited as “proof” of “Russian interference.” …

This report is labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment,” but in fact it is not that. A report of the intelligence community in my day would include the input of all the relevant intelligence agencies and would reveal whether all agreed with the conclusions. …

The report states that it represents the findings of three intelligence agencies: CIA, FBI, and NSA, but even that is misleading in that it implies that there was a consensus of relevant analysts in these three agencies. In fact, the report was prepared by a group of analysts from the three agencies pre-selected by their directors, with the selection process generally overseen by James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Clapper told the Senate in testimony May 8, 2017, that it was prepared by “two dozen or so analysts—hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.” If you can hand-pick the analysts, you can hand-pick the conclusions. The analysts selected would have understood what Director Clapper wanted since he made no secret of his views. Why would they endanger their careers by not delivering?

What should have struck any congressperson or reporter was that the procedure Clapper followed was the same as that used in 2003 to produce the report falsely claiming that Saddam Hussein had retained stocks of weapons of mass destruction. That should be worrisome enough to inspire questions. …

The second thing to remember is that reports of the intelligence agencies reflect the views of the heads of the agencies and are not necessarily a consensus of their analysts’ views. The heads of both the CIA and FBI are political appointments, while the NSA chief is a military officer. …

One striking thing about the press coverage and Congressional discussion of the January report, and of subsequent statements by CIA, FBI, and NSA heads is that questions were never posed regarding the position of the State Department’s INR, or whether the analysts in the agencies cited were in total agreement with the conclusions. …

On the first page of text, the following statement leapt to my attention:

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.” …

Now, how can one judge whether activity “interfered” with an election without assessing its impact? …

As for particulars, the report is full of assertion, innuendo, and description of “capabilities” but largely devoid of any evidence to substantiate its assertions. …

Most people, hearing that it is a “fact” that “Russia” interfered in our election must think that Russian government agents hacked into vote counting machines and switched votes to favor a particular candidate. This, indeed, would be scary, and would justify the most painful sanctions. But this is the one thing that the “intelligence” report of January 6, 2017, states did not happen. Here is what it said: “DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

This is an important statement by an agency that is empowered to assess the impact of foreign activity on the United States. Why was it not consulted regarding other aspects of the study? Or—was it in fact consulted and refused to endorse the findings? Another obvious question any responsible journalist or competent politician should have asked. …

He is saying that this is strikingly like the 2003 ‘Saddam’s WMD’ scam by the Government with the full cooperation of the major news-media, to fool the public into hating Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, like they 15 years ago fooled the public into hating Putin and invading Iraq. Just like at that earlier time, the nation’s press are unified with the Government, to demonize, on dubious if not outright fake grounds, a foreign head-of-state, and create a ‘need’ for more intensive military action and exploded military budgets, to ‘defend’ our country against a ‘threat’ which is only by lies, misdirection and thinly based innuendo.

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