The Myth That 17 Intelligence Agencies Were Involved In Russian Interference Analysis Will Not Die

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jul 07, 2017 12:45 PM
The Myth That 17 Intelligence Agencies Were Involved In Russian Interference Analysis Will Not Die

It’s the myth that will not die: all 17 intelligence agencies worked on a comprehensive report on Russian activities during the 2016 election. Cortney wrote about The New York Times issuing a correction to that regard. Earlier this year, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a report saying that FBI, CIA, and NSA have high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an interference campaign. Keep in mind, that’s just three. Still, NBC reporter Katy Tur decided to get snarky, tweeting erroneously that 17 intelligence agencies signed off on the report and cc’ing the POTUS account. It’s since been deleted.

So, like in The Terminator movies, let’s go back in time and watch then-DNI Director James Clapper say that not all 17 agencies were involved from his testimony to Congress on May 8 (via WaPo):

JAMES CLAPPER: Additionally, I'll briefly address four related topics that have emerged since the ICA was produced. Because of both classification and some executive privilege strictures (ph) requested by the White House, there are limits to what I can discuss. And of course my direct official knowledge of any of this stopped on 20 January when my term of office was happily over.

As you know, the I.C. was a coordinated product from three agencies; CIA, NSA, and the FBI not all 17 components of the intelligence community. Those three under the aegis of my former office. Following an extensive intelligence reporting about many Russian efforts to collect on and influence the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama asked us to do this in early December and have it completed before the end of his term.

The two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies. They were given complete, unfettered mutual access to all sensitive raw intelligence data, and importantly, complete independence to reach their findings. They found that the Russian government pursued a multifaceted influence campaign in the run-up to the election, including aggressive use of cyber capabilities.

The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets.  

Here’s him pushing back again on the 17 agencies claim while taking questions from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN):

SEN. AL FRANKEN I want to thank both you and the ranking member for -- for this hearing and these hearings. And I want to thank General Clapper and -- and Attorney General Yates for -- for appearing today. We have -- the intelligence communities have concluded all 17 of them that Russia interfered with this election. And we all know how that's right.

JAMES CLAPPER: Senator, as I pointed out in my statement Senator Franken, it was there were only three agencies that directly involved in this assessment plus my office...

FRANKEN: But all 17 signed on to that?

CLAPPER: Well, we didn't go through that -- that process, this was a special situation because of the time limits and my -- what I knew to be to who could really contribute to this and the sensitivity of the situation, we decided it was a constant judgment (ph) to restrict it to those three. I'm not aware of anyone who dissented or -- or disagreed when it came out.

This is the myth that won’t die—and liberals will probably peddle it to bring comfort over their stinging loss in 2016. It should also be noted that former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and acting DHS Cyber Division Director Samuel Liles both said that no vote tallies were altered during the 2016 election. Liles noted that while 21 states were targeted, it did not involve systems that tabulated votes. That would be a legitimate election hack, but that’s not what happened. Russia ran an interference campaign, mostly grounded in propaganda peddled by state-run news outlets and a deluge of social media trolls. The fake news stories also played no pivotal role in the election. There’s also zero evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and Trump campaign officials. President Obama is catching some flack for not doing enough to inform the public about the Russian meddling, which he knew about since August of 2016, with some saying that he choked.

Addendum: Clapper reminded CNN it was only three or four agencies who worked on the assessment.