Cynical uses of the hacking allegations

January 11, 2017

Adam Marletta asks what's really behind the insistence from liberals and the media that Russia was behind the leaking of Democratic Party e-mails.

COUNT ME among those skeptical of the claims that Russia covertly influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to throw it to Donald Trump. These allegations have been reported by the news media for weeks now, despite the lack of any concrete evidence, only leaks from anonymous sources.

The specific allegations from the CIA accuse Russia of leaking hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) back in July. These e-mails--which revealed damning correspondences between key Democratic Party operatives, including then-DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, deriding Bernie Sanders' insurgent primary campaign against Hillary Clinton--were subsequently published by WikiLeaks.

The e-mails highlighted the secretive, underhanded, behind-the-scenes dealings between DNC officials and the Clinton campaign, and fueled the public perception that the Democratic primary contest had been rigged against Sanders from the start. The scandal eventually led to Wasserman Schultz's resignation as DNC chairperson.

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Keep in mind that these CIA allegations, originally reported in the Washington Post on December 9, are coming from the same secretive government agency which falsely claimed Iraq possessed "weapons of mass destruction," as a major justification for launching the illegal and unwarranted Iraq War in 2003.

Readers do not need me to remind them how well that turned out...

WRITING AT the Intercept, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald attests to the CIA's overall lack of credibility and extensive history of spreading false propaganda to shape both foreign and domestic policy. "To begin with," Greenwald writes, "CIA officials are professional, systematic liars; they lie constantly, by design, and with great skill, and have for many decades, as have intelligence officials in other agencies."

He added: "Even in those cases when they [CIA officials] are not deliberately lying, they are often gravely mistaken. Intelligence is not a science, and attributing hacks to specific sources is a particularly difficult task, almost impossible to carry out with precision and certainty."

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But the major problem with the CIA's allegations is the complete lack of substantive evidence provided. All of the CIA's claims come from anonymous sources, classified accounts and secret assessments.

Indeed, buried within the Washington Post's story is an acknowledgement that there are "minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency's assessment." This prompts Greenwald to ask, "How 'minor' are they?":

This is why it's such a shoddy and unreliable practice to conduct critical debates through conflicting anonymous leaks. Newspapers like the Post have the obvious incentive to hype the flashy, flamboyant claims while downplaying and burying the caveats and conflicting evidence. None of these questions can be asked, let alone answered, because the people who are making these claims are hidden and the evidence is concealed.

Given the complete lack of tangible evidence in this "scandal," the accusations of Russian hacking come off as yet another desperate, pathetic attempt by the Democratic Party to blame anyone and everyone for its electoral loss--anyone, that is, except know, the party itself. The Democrats are basically flailing around searching for anyone--anyone!--to use as a scapegoat for their epic failure. This is what the Democrats do after every major loss.

After George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, the Democrats viciously smeared Ralph Nader as a "spoiler," who "cost Al Gore the election," as if Gore was simply entitled to win it. Nearly two decades later, that baseless smear on Nader--who has done more to combat corporate power and protect American citizens than anyone in the Democratic Party--still remains.

The Democrats' refusal to look in the mirror and understand why they lost the 2016 presidential election--a race that should have been eminently winnable--should speak volumes to leftists who continue to invest precious time, energy and resources into "reclaiming" or "taking over" the Democratic Party.

The sad truth is that the misleadingly named "Democratic" Party will never be a vehicle for working-class people. The sooner the left can understand this and focus on the imperative work of building our own political party, the better.

None of this is to dismiss the possibility that Russia influenced the election entirely. It is certainly possible and, if true, would represent a significant breach of international law.

But as Sam Biddle, another Intercept contributor, points out, the potential U.S. response to Russia could include military retaliation--"digital or otherwise." That is a considerably heavy cost for the country to bear over such dubious allegations. The last thing America needs right now is another major war--with serious international repercussions--based on fabricated intelligence.

"If you care about the country enough to be angry at the prospect of election-meddling," Biddle writes, "you should be terrified of the prospect of military tensions with Russia based on hidden evidence."

FINALLY, IT is worth noting the two-fold irony of this entire fiasco.

For starters, this sudden concern over the "integrity" of U.S. elections is laughable. The unfortunate truth is elections in this country are already suspect. Between onerous voter identification laws (which amount to a modern day form of Jim Crow), gerrymandered redistricting, unreliable voting machines, absurd voter-registration deadlines, the disenfranchisement of prisoners, the Supreme Court's gutting of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, selective media coverage of candidates and voter intimidation by Trump-supporting, self-appointed "poll watchers," U.S. "democracy" is profoundly lacking on even the most elementary levels.

And this is to say nothing of the antiquated Electoral College, which was designed to arbitrarily inflate the influence of slave-holding states. As a result, Clinton received 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, yet still lost the election.

Is this really the best the self-proclaimed "world's greatest democracy" can do?

The second major irony is the utter hypocrisy of the U.S. government whining about the mere possibility of another nation tampering with its "free" and "open" elections, despite its own long, sordid history of interfering with the affairs of dozens of countries throughout the world. Indeed, in Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Chile, Afghanistan, Panama, El Salvador and Libya, the U.S. has done more than any other country to support regime changes, government overthrows or bloody coups in nations whose citizens voted the "wrong way."

This double-standard approach to international law and basic morality is what Noam Chomsky, in his book Failed States, calls the reigning "single standard," which views international law and treatises as "private contractual rules" that the U.S. is "free to apply or disregard as it sees fit."

These rules, he writes, are "sternly enforced to ensure a safer world for investors, but quaint and obsolete when they constrain Washington's resort to aggression and other crimes."

Do not misunderstand: The allegations of Russian hacking are indeed quite serious and absolutely warrant further investigation. But we must not rush to judgment in the absence of concrete, substantive evidence.

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