by Gareth Porter, Russia Insider:
For the past three years the new narrative of Russian interference in U.S. elections has bound corporate news media more tightly than ever to the interests of the national security state. And no outlet has pushed that narrative more aggressively – and with more violence to the relevant facts – than The New York Times.
Times reporters have produced a series of stories that loudly proclaim the Russian election meddling narrative but offer no real facts in the body of the story supporting its most sensational claims.
The Times service to the narrative was introduced by its February 2017 story headlined, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.” We now know from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign that the only campaign aide who had contacts with Russian intelligence officials was Carter Page, and those had taken place years before in the context of Page’s reporting them to the CIA. The Horowitz report revealed that FBI officials had hidden that fact from the FISA Court to justify its request for surveillance of Page.
But the Times coverage of the Horowitz report in December 2019 failed to the acknowledge that the calumny about Page’s Russian intelligence contacts it had published without question in 2017 had been an FBI deception.
Two more Times Russiagate stories in 2018 and 2019 featured spectacular claims that proved on closer examination to be grotesque distortions of fact. In September 2018 a 10,000-word story by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti sought to convince readers that the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) had successfully swayed US opinion during the 2016 election with 80,000 Facebook posts that they said had reached 126 million Americans.
But that turned to be an outrageously deceptive claim, because Shane and Mazzetti failed to mention the fact that those 80,000 IRA posts (from early 2015 through 2017), had been engulfed in a vast ocean of more than 33 trillion Facebook posts in people’s news feeds – 413 million times more than the IRA posts.
In December 2019, senior national security correspondent David Sanger wrote a story headlined, “Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds,”and Sanger’s lede said the Senate Intelligence Committee had “concluded” that all 50 states had been targeted. But the Committee report actually reaches no such conclusion. It quoted President Barack Obama’s cyber-security adviser Michael Daniel as recalling that he had “personally” reached that conclusion, but shows the only basis for his conclusion was remarkably lame: the “randomness of the attempts” and his conviction that Russian intelligence was “thorough.”
The Committee reported that some intelligence “developed” in 2018 had “bolstered” the subjective judgment by Daniel. But all but one of the eight paragraphs in the report describing that intelligence were redacted, and the one unredacted paragraph suggests that the redacted paragraphs provided no conclusive evidence that Russian intelligence had scanned any state election websites, much less those of all 50 states. The paragraph said, “However, IP addresses associated with the August 16, 2016 FLASH provided some indicators the activity might be attributableto the Russian government….[emphasis added].”
The Committee report also contained summary statements from six states that the Department of Homeland Security has continued to include among the 21 states it insists were hacked by the Russians in 2016, denying any cyber threat to their systems. Another 13 states reported only that there was “scanning and probing” by inconclusive IP addresses the FBI and DHS had sent them. Sanger did not report any of those troublesome details.
In January 2020 the Times began its coverage of the theme of Russian interference in the 2020 election with a story headlined, “Chaos is the Point: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020.” The story, written by Sanger, Matthew Rosenberg and Nicole Perlroth, sought to heighten the existing US climate of paranoia about a Russian attack in regard to the 2020 elections. Once again, however, nothing in the story supports the sinister tone of the headline.
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