NYT Finally Retracts Russia-gate Canard

By Robert Parry, the investigative reporter who many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. Originally published at Parry’s Consortium News (republished with permission).

The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards – that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails – is false.

On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

Politicized Intelligence

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this selective approach has worked, such as the phony determination of the Reagan administration pinning the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed State Department and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Since Clapper’s and Brennan’s testimony in May, the Times and other mainstream news outlets have avoided a direct contradiction of their earlier acceptance of the 17-intelligence-agencies canard by simply referring to a judgment by “the intelligence community.”

That finessing of their earlier errors has allowed Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats to continue referencing this fictional consensus without challenge, at least in the mainstream media.

For instance, on May 31 at a technology conference in California, Clinton referred to the Jan. 6 report, asserting that “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.”

The failure of the major news organizations to clarify this point about the 17 agencies may have contributed to Haberman’s mistake on June 25 as she simply repeated the groupthink that nearly all the Important People in Washington just knew to be true.

But the Times’ belated correction also underscores the growing sense that the U.S. mainstream media has joined in a political vendetta against Trump and has cast aside professional standards to the point of repeating false claims designed to denigrate him.

That, in turn, plays into Trump’s Twitter complaints that he and his administration are the targets of a “witch hunt” led by the “fake news” media, a grievance that appears to be energizing his supporters and could discredit whatever ongoing investigations eventually conclude.

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  • Robert McMaster

    The NYT is America’s Der Angriff. It is not a news reporting journalistic enterprise. It is a partisan political progaganda arm of the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party, neo-con Washington and Wall Street. It’s purpose is destroy by any means any parties deemed to obstruct these powers. The gloves are off, the chips are down.

    NYT, WaPo, CNN et all are malicious wreckers, smear-mongers and liars but it is their monopoly power – via big bucks – that make them dangerous. They deserve to be closed down and from the highest to the lowest level all concerned should be prosecuted, jailed with their property and assets expropriated.

    It’s that or civil war. Things have gone that far.

    • andrew1212

      NYT, CBS, WaPo, (et al.) should have their business licenses REVOKED immediately–as they no longer protect the public interest and have fully abrogated the right to a free press. They are all top-down institutions which have been complicit with Wall Street and WAR, INC. USA for decades.

      The MSM sells us war after war based on lies–from Vietnam to present day atrocities in Iraq , Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria. In addition, the health of the public along with the environment in which we live has been irredeemably harmed. Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Koch brothers coal ash sites, Hanford nuclear waste site in Washington, etc. etc. etc.

      At what point do We the People realize that SHUTTING DOWN THE MSM is a national security issue?

    • Macon Richardson

      Mr. McMaster asserts that NYT, WaPo and CNN deserve to be closed down. Actually, they deserve worse than that. However, let me suggest that Mr. McMaster really asserts that the Constitution of the United States be closed down, for it is under the direct protection of that Constitution that these lying entities continue to thrive.

      Face it! News organizations have never been in the news business, except incidentally. From the very first stone tablet broadsheet, the news was someone’s propaganda. It’s never been different.

      Of course, there have been news organizations that valued objectivity and truth (or what their writers, editors and publishers viewed as truth). Others not so much. The egregious lies and innuendo from NYT, WaPo and CNN fall squarely in the “not so much” category.

      Were they ever any different or did we just happen to agree with the brand of lies they used to tell us and don’t agree with the present ones? Personally, I don’t think they’re any different except that today they don’t bother to cobble together the same impressive yet fraudulent “documentation” they used to do.

      But the First Amendment thingee, it’s pretty absolute. Looks like the founding dissenters to the original Constitution wanted freedom of the press so much they wouldn’t sign the document without that and a bunch of other guarantees of freedom. So here’s what I figure: Rather than have one propaganda voice alone–the government’s voice, rather than have one liar telling lies under threat of arms, the founding dissenters decided to let a thousand lie resound. First Amendment = Everybody gets to lie his head off.

      What the devil good are a thousand lies? Well, two things are good about them. 1) Somebody might just be telling the truth and a discerning listener (not a drone or zombie) might hear it and act upon it; and 2) In the conflicting voices of a thousand lies, one might discern a gestalt of truth. That is, in the midst of a thousand lies, one may find truth in the silent spaces, in the things no one is speaking of.

      Of course, all this depends on an informed citizenry and. . .never mind! We don’t have an informed citizenry and you don’t get an informed citizenry without having a truly educated citizenry who understands history. One doesn’t understand history without reading deeply into it and who has time for that any more because everybody is to busy posting pictures of their cat on Facebook and “liking” everybody else’s cat pictures, too.

      Everybody also wants a sound bite, not an analysis. Okay, for those who have suffered through this analysis, here’s the sound bite: THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION GIVES EVERYONE THE RIGHT TO LIE ALL THEY WANT TO EXCEPT FOR SAYING FIGHTING WORDS, WORDS THAT CAUSE DANGEROUS MASS PANIC AND SLANDER.

      Details at eleven.

      • Robert McMaster

        What ‘Constitution’ is that? Why does anyone care? The matter is just what is right to be doing at this time. And the monopoly media are effecting a coup against the public interest. Hammer them into the dust.

  • Caldera

    Once this stuff infests social media, their propaganda smear job is already done, it’s impossible to root it out. People will still be quoting the ’17 agencies’ rubbish and believing it.

  • Shoes4Industry

    The IC has yet to produce one shred, one iota, one morsel of concrete, irrefutable evidence that Russia had even the slightest hand in seriously directly causing Trump to win the election. None, Nada, Zip.

  • Kevin Smith

    The Democrats have handed Putin a trump card on a silver platter. Whether or not the accusation of Russian interference is true, all Putin would need to do to bring down the current administration would be to admit to having rigged the election. Whether this was true or not would not make a difference. Therefore, by threatening to do so, Putin can put irresistible pressure on the Trump administration.

    Now the Democraic Party must live with the consequences of its actions.