Obama’s “Evidence” Against Russia Falls Flat

By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media

The Democrats have been saying that there’s proof that the Russians hacked into Democratic Party computers for the purpose of obtaining and planting information that would help elect Donald J. Trump as president. But the proof wasn’t provided when President Obama issued an executive order and announced the expulsions of Russians from the U.S., and sanctions against Russian officials.

Still, our media were almost unanimous in saying that President Obama has proved his case and that Trump was out-of-step with what the evidence clearly showed.

For his part, Trump seemed in no hurry to come to any rash conclusions, saying he would meet with “leaders of the intelligence community” next week in order to be “updated on the facts of this situation.”

The facts were certainly in short supply when the media jumped to conclusions about the “evidence” released by the Obama administration.

A big question was timing. Kevin D. Freeman, an expert on economic and financial warfare between nations, has commented that the evidence indicates that the Obama team disregarded the threat of Russian hacking in the past “because they were confident that Secretary Clinton would win.” He called that “stunning.”

According to this line of reasoning, the Obama administration decided to blame the Russians only after Trump won the election, perhaps for the purpose of complicating the foreign relations priorities of the President-elect.

Whatever the motivation, the Obama administration’s “Joint Analysis Report” on alleged “Russian malicious cyber activity” is very weak and vague in key respects.

It would have been nice if reporters had read the pathetically thin report before concluding that there was substance to it, and that Trump was somehow derelict in not accepting what Obama had to offer.

Only four-and-a-half pages of the 13-page report purport to examine alleged Russian hacking activities. The rest of the report gives advice on how to provide security for computer networks.

It looked like the report was padded in order to make it seem more authoritative than it really was.

A separate White House press release went into some more detail, alleging that “the disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks are consistent with the Russian-directed efforts.” But being “consistent with” is not proof.

WikiLeaks released the emails from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The website DCLeaks.com was responsible for the embarrassing disclosures from within the George Soros network of organizations.

The new Obama report, described as “the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” includes a “DISCLAIMER” stating that it is “for informational purposes only,” and that the DHS “does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”

It sounded like the kind of warning that comes with a possibly defective product.

There’s no question that the Russians engage in cyber warfare. But the “facts” in the Obama report seemed unusually vague. It states that “The U.S. Government confirms that two different RIS [Russian civilian and military intelligence Services] actors participated in the intrusion into a U.S. political party,” but doesn’t even mention the Democrats.

The term “confirms” sounds authoritative. But how the “facts” were confirmed and by whom was not explained. The report, however, does include some fancy color diagrams and a list of names under which the Russian hackers supposedly operated.

The report says this alleged Russian campaign, designated as “GRIZZLY STEPPE,” was an activity by Russian civilian and military intelligence services and was “part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and private sector entities.”

If it was ongoing, why did it take so long for Obama to take action?

The report refers to one alleged Russian campaign that had “compromised the same political party,” again without saying it was the Democrats, and “was able to gain access and steal content, likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members.” The fancy term “exfiltration” means the unauthorized transfer of data from a computer. “The U.S. Government assesses that information was leaked to the press and publicly disclosed,” the report states, without saying who in the press was given the information and who or what leaked it.

“This activity by RIS is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens,” the report states. “These cyber operations have included spearphishing campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure entities, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations leading to the theft of information.”

The term “spearphishing” refers to emails that appear to be from individuals or businesses that a person knows, but which are actually from criminal hackers. The recipient is fooled into resetting a password on the account, enabling the hackers to extract credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, and other personal or financial information.

This appears to be what happened in the case of Clinton campaign chairman Podesta.

“Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government,” the White House claimed. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

But Obama’s “evidence” raises questions about the worth and value of the intelligence agencies that apparently provided it.

No wonder Trump wants to wait and see.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.


The Times Struggles with Lessons from 2016 Election Debacle

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Back in August, during the heat of the election, New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg suggested that reporters could abandon their objectivity and engage in “oppositional” journalism, because then-candidate Donald Trump was “an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate.” Now, as Trump’s inauguration approaches, Rutenberg writes that “what” the mainstream media “did right” during the election “has been less appreciated than it deserves.” The column is titled, “Lessons From 2016 for the News Media, as the Ground Shifts.”

“Faced with a precedent-shattering candidate who made false assertions at a rate none had seen before—one considerably higher than that of his opponent—reporters became more assertive in directly calling out falsehoods,” he writes. While Rutenberg is attempting to explain to the media the lessons of 2016, his lessons are not well-founded and are as partisan as those found in his column last summer.

Trump’s “false assertions” have generally been fairly minor and petty—or exaggerated by the media. For example, the linked Washington Post article claims that “anyone could find that the majority of Mexican immigrants are not, in fact, criminals and rapists.” But as James Simpson exposed in a special report for Accuracy in Media, illegal immigrants are committing disproportionately large numbers of crimes, including homicide and rape.

In contrast to Trump, Hillary Clinton’s lies are an attempt to cover for malfeasance, scandal, and corrupt conflicts of interest. She is the only U.S. secretary of state to have used a private, unsecure email server to conduct classified business for the Department of State. Yet she lied, repeatedly, about sending or receiving classified information through that server. She even lied about FBI Director James Comey’s email investigation in an interview she had with Fox News’ Chris Wallace—despite the fact that Comey’s comments were public and critical of her actions. And she lied when she suggested that what she did was no different than what Colin Powell did when he was secretary of state for George W. Bush.

In addition, Hillary Clinton’s connections to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state reveal that she used her influence to benefit donors to the foundation time and again, raising the issue of pay-for-play, which her campaign vigorously denied. The Associated Press reported that “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money—either personally or through companies or groups—to the Clinton Foundation.”

We have cited numerous examples of Hillary mixing her State Department business with donors and benefactors of both the Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons personally. Those include the Uranium One deal and the Skolkovo deal, both of which also benefitted Russia’s strategic interests. In arguing what the media did right, Rutenberg linked to a single New York Times article about the Uranium One deal, written a year and a half before the election, to show that the media had “dug into the interests of the Clinton Foundation’s foreign donors.” They didn’t dig very deep.

In addition, we have documented Hillary’s many lies about Benghazi, including who she blamed for the terrorist attack on the Special Mission Compound and CIA Annex that killed four Americans; what she told the family members when their loved ones’ bodies arrived back in the U.S.; what she knew about the flow of arms to al-Qaeda related groups in Libya, and whether or not she was aware of any of the hundreds of requests for additional security.

Trump must work to eliminate even the appearance of conflicts of interest. His supporters knew that they were voting for a businessman with vast holdings and interests worldwide, as Trump pointed out during his brief press availability with Don King on December 28, but it is nonetheless incumbent upon him to find a way to avoid profiting from decisions made by anyone in the U.S. government.

While The Washington Post’s analysis may have over-estimated the nature and quantity of Trump’s lies, the nefarious quality of Mrs. Clinton’s attempts at defensive cover-ups outweigh the caliber of any lies or inaccuracies from Trump.

In his lessons, Rutenberg continues to cite the “anger” of voters as a factor in Trump’s win. He writes that the mainstream media “generally failed to appreciate the power of the anger that ultimately decided the presidency.” In addition, he writes, the media were “overly hooked on polling that indicated a Hillary Clinton glide path, overly reliant on longtime sources…and too disconnected from too many workaday Americans.”

However, rather than ignore the alleged power of anger in this election, the media routinely sensationalized and emphasized the hate that Trump was supposedly fostering at every possible occasion. In fact, Politico reported the day before the election that “Trump stokes voter anger in final stretch,” describing Clinton in turn as giving “sunny platitudes.” A Daily Beast column stated that “Trump Will Go Away, but the Anger He’s Stirred Up Is Just Getting Started.” These are just a couple of the articles penned by a mainstream media obsessed with ensuring that Trump didn’t win.

“It’s our right and need to know about civic matters, fully, fairly and accurately, that is the public virtue in journalism and the sine qua non of democracy,” writes Patrick Maines, president of The Media Institute, for The Hill. “Although virtually all of the MSM violated this boundary in their frantic support of Clinton, some were worse than others.”

“But the very worst of the MSM in this regard were not the TV networks, broadcast or cable, but the two newspapers that dominate the news business, the New York Times and the Washington Post,” Maines asserts.

Rutenberg writes that the mainstream media “repeatedly underestimated Donald Trump, not to mention Bernie Sanders.” In reality, the mainstream media actively worked to stop both of these candidates. For example, a WikiLeaks email suggests that Donna Brazile, interim chair of the Democrat National Committee, leaked a CNN town hall question to Hillary Clinton and a question asked during the primary. “At the time of the debate and town hall, Brazile was a CNN contributor and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee,” reports Business Insider.

But the media complicity doesn’t end there. We have reported extensively on the corruption of the Democrat-Media Complex and how it assiduously worked to undermine Donald Trump and elevate presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Of course, where one stands on press bias so often depends on where one sits politically,” writes Rutenberg. “Talk with a Clinton aide and you’ll inevitably hear that unfair news coverage was a big reason for her loss.”

The media’s double standard against Trump in this election became obvious to anyone who was paying attention. No amount of equivocation could have disguised how these powerful media manipulators worked hand-in-glove with Democrats in an attempt to swing this election.

Here are some lessons the media should learn. Report the news objectively, become less reliant on polls, confine your opinions and support for your candidates to the editorial and op-ed pages. Then the voters will decide on their own who to vote for, and the news media might gain some badly needed respect.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.