President Obama’s punishment of Russia for allegedly hacking the emails of Democratic Party operatives to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election ignores at least two important facts.
For one, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose hacktivist organization released the thousands of emails that shed damaging light on Hillary Clinton and her allies, denied the Russians were the source.
In addition, the Obama administration has developed a reputation for manipulating intelligence for political purposes.
The administration announced Thursday that through an executive order, Obama sanctioned two of Russia’s intelligence services, the GRU and FSB, and declared 35 Russian intelligence operatives “persona non grata” in the U.S. Also, the U.S. is shutting down Russian compounds in Maryland and New York.
Earlier this month, in a speech to donors in New York City, Hillary Clinton blamed her defeat on Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming “a personal beef” with her prompted him to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
“Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me,” Clinton said. ”He is determined not only to score a point against me but also undermine our democracy.”
Clinton claimed that Russia had hacked both the Democratic National Committee and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, and released the emails to WikiLeaks in a plot to boost Trump.
Clinton called for Congress to set up a commission similar to the commission set up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
But Clinton did not specify Putin’s “personal beef,” nor did she offer any proof Assange and WikiLeaks had obtained the hacked emails from Russia.
Podesta, meanwhile, on Dec. 18, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” the presidential election had been “distorted” by the Russian intervention.
Asked if it was a “free and fair” election, Podesta railed against Putin, insisting “the Russians clearly intervened in the election.”
‘No proof whatsoever’
Assange, however, in a July 25 interview with NBC News, said there was “no proof whatsoever” that WikiLeaks obtained nearly 20,000 hacked Democratic National Committee emails from Russian intelligence.
Assange said DNC servers have been riddled with security holes for years and that many sets of documents from multiple sources are now in public hands.
In December, Assange made clear to Sean Hannity in a radio interview that Russia did not provide WikiLeaks the Podesta emails or the DNC emails.
Assange insisted the source of the email leaks “was not a state party.”
“We’re unhappy that we felt that we needed to even say that it wasn’t a state party. Normally, we say nothing at all,” Assange told Hannity.
“We have no conflict of interests. We have an excellent reputation, a strong interest in protecting our sources, and so we never say anything about them, never ruling anyone in or anyone out. Sometimes we do it, but we don’t like to do it. We have another interest here that is maximizing the impact of our publications,” he said.
“So in order to protect a distraction attack against our publications, we’ve had to come out and say, ‘No, it’s not a state party. Stop trying to distract in that way and pay attention to the content of the publication,’” said Assange.
While Assange refused to comment on Hannity’s suggestion the emails came from a disgruntled source within the DNC, possibly even within Podesta’s office, the WikiLeaks chief did not deny it.
In contrast, he had vociferously denied the source was Russia.
In a discussion with Hannity on his Fox News television show after hearing the Assange radio interview, Eric Bolling, co-host of the Fox News roundtable “The Five,” noted Clinton, according to reports, first blamed her top campaign officials and then pursued recounts.
“Then it became the Russians’ fault, that the Russians affected the election. It’s none of the above,” Bolling said. “They had a flawed candidate – the worst candidate, not necessarily the worst human being, but the worst candidate that ran for president in my lifetime. The Russians didn’t make her come up and say ‘Deplorables,’ and it wasn’t Donald Trump who made Obamacare premiums skyrocket – double in some cases the week of the election.”
In the initial phases of advancing the story that the Russians were responsible for the WikiLeaks emails, Democrats traced it back to intelligence supposedly developed by the CIA.
But the Obama administration has a reputation for manipulating intelligence for political purposes. In August, a congressional task force confirmed allegations that senior U.S. Central Command leaders manipulated intelligence assessments in 2014 and 2015 to make it appear that Obama was winning the war against ISIS.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a member of the House intelligence community, has charged CIA Director John Brennan was orchestrating a “hit job” against President-elect Donald Trump by going around the intelligence community and leaking information to the press suggesting Russia was behind the hack of Podesta.
“And that’s what infuriates me about this is that we have John Brennan, supposedly John Brennan, leaking to the Washington Post, to a biased newspaper like the New York Times, findings and conclusions that he’s not telling the intelligence community,” King said during a Dec. 18 appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“It seems like to me there should be an investigation with what the Russians did, but also an investigation of John Brennan and the hit job he seems to be orchestrating against the president-elect.”
The New York Times reported the CIA’s conclusion the Russians were involved apparently was based on circumstantial evidence and “does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election,” citing several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing.
In any case, the CIA has only alleged the Russians may have hacked the DNC emails that revealed the DNC rigged the primary election in favor of Hillary Clinton and possibly Podesta’s emails. There is no evidence Russian hackers intervened in the vote tabulation.