Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the CIA
The alleged Russian hacking scandal is the (fake) news story that just won’t die. And despite recent assertions to the contrary, the public has yet to be offered any compelling evidence to back the claims up.
The claims that Russia undermined the “integrity” of the U.S. presidential election remain just as flimsy as when I first reported on this fiasco last month.
As Counterpunch contributor, Paul Street writes in a Dec. 23, 2016 piece:
The Russian hacking charge seems designed in part to help the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and the neoliberal Democratic Party elite more broadly avoid responsibility for blowing the election. … The “Moscow Stole It” narrative is a fancy version of “My Dog Ate My Homework” for a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that abandoned the working class and the causes of peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability a long time ago.
Nonetheless, the United States’ three top intelligence agencies—the FBI, CIA, and NSA—asserted on Jan. 5, in its strongest language to date, that they have “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the DNC email hacks, with the explicit intent of undermining “public faith in the US democratic process.”
The agencies’ report reads, in part:
We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
But, again, this statement offers no tangible, concrete evidence or explanation as to why its authors have arrived at this conclusion.
As The Intercept’s Sam Biddle writes, the report “does not move the evidentiary ball forward even an inch.” Biddle goes on to call the report, “all confidence, no justification.”
“That confidence and consensus has meaning on its own—and certainly the claims are serious,” he writes, “but it is no substitute for some public understanding of what caused that confidence.”
Furthermore, it is worth examining the intelligence officials who are making these assertions, all of whom have a long, shameful history of deceiving and misleading the American public.
James Clapper, director of national intelligence, blatantly lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning the NSA’s mass surveillance program, in 2013.
When asked point blank, by Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden whether the National Security Agency knowingly collected “any type of data … on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” Clapper responded, “No sir, not wittingly.”
NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden’s subsequent revelations of the agency’s vast data-collection program one month after the hearing, however, cast doubt on Clapper’s assertion.
Clapper, as if channeling his inner-George Orwell, later told NBC News that he gave the “least untruthful answer possible,” to Sen. Wyden’s question. He also called the question itself “unfair,” likening it to being asked a “‘when are you going to stop beating your wife?’-type of question.”
President Barack Obama has ignored bipartisan calls to replace Clapper as head of the NSA.
The CIA, meanwhile, has an even worse track record when it comes to transparency.
Let us set aside, for the moment, the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency, established by Harry Truman in 1947, has no democratic or congressional oversight, whatsoever. American citizens cannot vote for its members. It is directly accountable only to the president.
Since its inception, the CIA has initiated violent coups throughout the world, including in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Haiti (1959, 1971, 1986 & 1990), Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973), to name just a handful. (But heaven forbid another country try to meddle with our “free” and “democratic” elections!)
The agency used lies and fabricated intelligence to launch the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The CIA, along with the FBI, has spied on and frequently infiltrated nonviolent anti-war groups, civil rights activists, the Black Panther Party and other “subversive” organizations. It kept extensive files on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Howard Zinn. The FBI even went so far as to pressure King into committing suicide through blackmail.
Yet, despite the deep-state’s protracted role in launching illegal wars, spying on American citizens, promoting imperialism, advancing global capitalism, and undermining democracy and human rights throughout the globe, we are supposed to take its agencies at their word that Russia illegally influenced our presidential election…? Readers will have to excuse me if I remain more than a little skeptical.
Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority, here. (Well, I and President-elect Donald Trump, a strange and highly uncomfortable irony which is not lost on me, thank you very much.)
A solid majority of liberals not only accept the Russia-helped-Trump-win narrative, but now view the CIA more favorably than conservatives. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, liberals and conservatives have basically switched positions regarding the government agency, which the left traditionally has looked upon with great suspicion.
“[F]or the first time since the survey asked about the CIA in 2002,” NBC News contributor, Carrie Dann writes, “Democrats now have a more positive view of the nation’s foreign intelligence agency than Republicans do.”
Additionally, the CIA is “much more” popular than Congress or “either political party,” according to Dann.
While the partisan reason for the left’s sudden admiration for the CIA is somewhat understandable, it is nonetheless quite disconcerting.
First, again, there is the lack of evidence. The intelligence community has mislead the U.S. public before, and I do not think I need to remind readers how that turned out.
But beyond the dubious assertions behind Russia-gate, Dann’s description of the U.S. intelligence agencies as “apolitical” is also deeply problematic.
The fact that the CIA does not explicitly favor either of the nation’s two capitalist political parties hardly makes it an “apolitical” organization. Indeed, the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA absolutely adhere to a political philosophy: Capitalism. As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto, the modern state is “nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
As such, the CIA and other institutions of the so-called “deep state” exist to further the aims of capitalism, imperialism, and the economic elite. To call them “apolitical” is a bit like claiming the presidential inauguration is not a “political” event as Maine Green Party steering committee member, Ben Meiklejohn childishly insists.
In other words, we should take the intelligence community’s dubious claims about Russian hacking with extreme skepticism. And this is to say nothing of the abject hypocrisy of the U.S.–which has done more to undermine, subvert, sabotage or violently overturn the results of democratic elections throughout the world when citizens vote the “wrong way”–complaining at the highly remote possibility that another nation may have covertly meddled with its election.
Do not misunderstand: If Putin did in fact play a role in swaying the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor it would (noted hypocrisy aside) constitute a serious violation of international law and warrant some sort of response.
But, as The Intercept‘s Biddle points out in a separate article, the potential U.S. response could include military retaliation–“digital or otherwise.” That is a considerably heavy cost for the country to bear over allegations which, as of this writing, still cannot be backed up with substantive evidence.
“If you care about the country enough to be angry at the prospect of election-meddling,” writes Biddle, “you should be terrified of the prospect of military tensions with Russia based on hidden evidence.”
Rather than desperately flailing around looking for scapegoats to pin their stunning electoral loss on, the Democratic Party would do well to engage in some serious critical reflection on its utter detachment from working-class voters.
Alas, the party seems more interested in spreading the very fake news it smugly derides than in taking tangible steps to prevent its relegation to the dustbin of history.
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