Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Great Russian Hacking Hoax

How much new information have we learned since the Intelligence Community Assessment regarding Russian "interference" in the 2016 elections was published at the beginning of January?

None.

How much new detail on President Donald Trump's "improper contacts" with Russia during the election and since have we received?

None.

In the ten months since revelation of the DNC email leaks (or "hacks", depending on whom you believe), how much actual evidence has been developed either about Russia's involvement in that event, Donald Trump's supposed collusion with Russia surrounding that event, or any other form of "collusion" between Donald Trump or his associates and Russia?

None.

The great lie permeating the Fake News Media is that there is any evidence of any actionable improper conduct by Russia in the 2016 election. There is none--none whatsoever.

The entire "Russia Hacking" narrative is in fact the Great Russian Hacking Hoax.

First, read once more the ICA from January: when one strips away the formal verbiage and government doublespeak, the ICA is still nothing more than opinion. It is no more than that. It has no empirical data, it cites neither witnesses nor provides forensic detail of the presumed DNC server hack. It provides no external citation of any report, document, or statement by any Russian official. Far from being a damning indictment of Russian malfeasance, it is merely unsupported assertions by Intelligence Community officials that Russia is the ultimate bad actor behind everything that went "wrong" with the 2016 elections. It is their opinion, and only their opnion, that we should blame Russia for everything.

Opinions are not evidence. Opinions are not facts. Unless they are at the conclusion of a valid chain of logical reasoning based on facts and objective evidence, opinions cannot be taken as any form of conclusion at all.

As of this date, the Intelligence Community Assessment is the sum total of "evidence" of "Russian Hacking".

This is fundamentally confirmed by leaders of that very same Intelligence Community. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on national television in March that there was "no evidence" of any collusion between Donald Trump's election campaign and Russia. Former Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell said substantially the same thing
"On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all.... There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it."
Senator Dianne Feinstein bluntly conceded to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that, following a classified CIA briefing, there was no evidence of any collusion between Trump and Russia. 

Take a moment to view the links I have provided. They are links to televised statements made by specific individuals, attesting to their knowledge--or, more precisely, their lack of knowledge--of any substantive facts indicating Trump colluded with the Russian government to win the election. Moreover, these statements are made not by Trump allies, but by Trump adversaries. Senator Feinstein is certainly no friend of Donald Trump, and Mike Morrell has been a Trump critic since the beginning of Trump's election campaign. Whatever bias they might have in this matter tilts away from Trump, not towards him.

These statements are facts. These facts advance but one hypothesis, lead to but one conclusion: there is no evidence that Donald Trump "colluded" with Russia during the election. Logic admits of no other conclusion.

Did Russia "interfere" with the election on its own, without Donald Trump?  Certainly that is possible as an hypothetical. However, what data can be summoned to support that contention?  None.

Even the ICA acknowledges that no Russian malfeasance interfered with voting systems or resulted in any fraudulent or spoiled ballots. No Russian actor stuffed ballot boxes on behalf of either President Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Did the Russian government "hack" the DNC server? Again, as an hypothetical that is possible, but what evidence is there for that assertion? There is but one item submitted in that regard: a forensic analysis by cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike in the aftermath of the DNC email leaks. However, Crowdstrike's analysis is subject to challenge. In an unrelated forensic report, Crowdstrike attributed the same Russian hacking group, known only as "Fancy Bear", to a cyberattack that resulted in devastating losses of Ukranian field artillery in that country's ongoing civil war--losses that the Ukranian government as well as others say never even happened. Simply put, Crowdstrike's assessment of "Fancy Bear" hacking activities is provably wrong in at least one instance completely separate from anything related to the 2016 election cycle. The FBI never conducted its own forensic examination of the DNC systems, because the DNC declined to grant them access. Thus FBI assessments of the hack are little more than restatements of the Crowdstrike analysis, and if Crowdstrike is wrong, the FBI is also wrong. With no independent forensic examination, either by the FBI or another cybersecurity firm, the Crowdstrike report stands uncorroborated--and thus is not conclusive proof of anything.

Again, review the links. The Crowdstrike analysis exists, and makes the statements that it makes. The agencies and officials refuting Crowdstrike's analysis regarding Ukrainian field artillery made the statements they made. The refusal of the DNC to allow the FBI to conduct an independent forensic investigation is a matter of public record.

Again, these statements are facts. Again, these facts advance but one hypothesis, lead to but one conclusion: there is no evidence that Russian hacking to influence the election even occurred. Again, logic admits of no other conclusion.

I shall be clear on one point: Absence of proof is not proof of absence, and lack of evidence of guilt is never proof of innocence. We cannot say--and I do not say--that Russia categorically did not hack the DNC server, nor do I say that Russia categorically did not engage in activities to influence the election. We can say, we should say, and I do say, that there is absolutely no evidence to support the contention that Russia did either of these things, with or without the aid or cooperation of President Trump.

Without evidence, how to properly apprehend the hysteria in the Fake News Media regarding Trump and Russia? Call it what it provably is: The Great Russian Hacking Hoax.