We should all be concerned about the disturbing presence of “fake intelligence”
Something quite extraordinary has just taken place.
Shortly after the November election concluded, the U.S. intelligence community obtained an unverified 35-page intelligence report compiled by a British ex-intelligence officer.
The report claims that Russian operatives possess compromising personal and financial information about Trump, including allegations that Russia is blackmailing Trump for perverted acts he is said to perform in a Russian hotel.
What’s most concerning are the allegations that, over the past five years, Trump has been supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin for the purpose of sowing discord and disunity from within the United States. If true, it would mean that the incoming President is guilty of treason.
That’s a big “if” – serious concerns have been raised regarding the authenticity of this report.
The problem here is that it appears that the U.S. intelligence community blindly accepted the veracity of this foreign intelligence report prior to briefing top government officials on the allegations.
Despite the fact that the FBI is still in the process of verifying the credibility and accuracy of the report, top U.S. intelligence officials made the unprecedented decision to brief President-elect Trump, President Obama, and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the allegations.
Since the report was leaked to the public by BuzzFeed late Tuesday night, many have questioned whether or not this report is bogus, “fake intelligence”.
This article will provide a full rundown on the chain of events that lead to the release of this report, and the dangerous implications of the highest levels of government being briefed with “fake intelligence.”
Origins of the Report
CNN reported Tuesday night that a former British MI6 agent was commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans during the primaries to conduct opposition research against Trump. The former agent was later funded by Democrats after Trump wrapped up the nomination.
Soon after the former intelligence officer began researching Trump’s international business ties, he reportedly came across questionable information about Trump’s business ties in Russia.
The former MI6 agent documented his findings in a series of memos dating from June to December 2016, and delivered them to an FBI official based in Rome.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday afternoon that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, director of Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd. based of of London, is said to have prepared the memos.
The 35-page series of memos eventually made its way to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who “upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy” personally delivered the information to FBI Director James Comey.
After receiving the memos, and prior to vetting the claims, U.S. intelligence officials last week presented the findings to top government officials as a part of the report on Russian disinformation efforts during the Presidential election.
How the Media obtained the report
As it turns out, these memos have been in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media since before the November election.
Julia Loffe, a writer for the Huffington Post, announced on twitter that she was approached with this story, but had to turn it down “because it was impossible to verify.”
Okay, fellow journalists, raise your hand if you too were approached with this story. (I was.)
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) January 10, 2017
Ken Vogel from Politico also failed to corroborate the story.
To be clear: we couldn't corroborate the story, which is why we didn't publish anything. Not because this particular part seemed doubts. https://t.co/sEpgY2deXb
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) January 10, 2017
None of the media outlets who obtained the memos were successful in verifying any of the allegations. Mother Jones announced the existence of the memos in late October, but instead pointed to the FBI asking if they have investigated the material.
The memos laid dormant until CNN reported Tuesday night on the existence of the memos and the delivery of briefings to top government officials.
CNN did not discuss the details of the report, “as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”
Shortly after CNN broke the news of the existence of the report, BuzzFeed published the full 35-page document “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”
Nobody has been successful in verifying the accusations
Despite circulating among the media and government for months, nobody has been able to corroborate any of the claims made in these memos.
The FBI is still “investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations.”
CNN “has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”
The New York Times “has not been able to confirm the claims,” and labeled the memos an “unsubstantiated report.”
Adam Goldman of the Times blasted CNN and BuzzFeed for giving this story airtime in the first place.
— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) January 11, 2017
Politico “couldn’t corroborate the story.”
The Huffington Post found the allegations “impossible to verify.”
The Guardian called the report “unverified and potentially unverifiable.”
“Rare that a story stinks from every possible angle: the source, the content, the consequence, the messenger, the target,” wrote Chief digital officer of Condé Nast International, Wolfgang Blau.
Rare that a story stinks from every possible angle: the source, the content, the consequence, the messenger, the target.
— Wolfgang Blau (@wblau) January 10, 2017
Russia denied the claims. “The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump,” said Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Donald Trump said the report was a “witch hunt.”
FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith even admitted that after “chasing specific claims in this document for weeks,” there is “serious reason to doubt the allegations.”
Why was this report delivered to the highest levels of government?
This article won’t spend any time condemning BuzzFeed and CNN for chasing this report – there are plenty of other outlets covering that angle.
Rather, we are left incredibly concerned that the highest levels of government were briefed on these unsubstantiated claims in the first place.
Despite all the fear mongering over foreign “fake news” influencing the American electorate, the intelligence community appears to have no reservations on relying on unverified, anonymous foreign intelligence.
This report did not originate from an American intelligence source – rather, it came from an ex-British MI6 officer.
There are 7 unnamed sources referenced in the memos – “Source A” through “Source G”:
- A senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure
- A former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin
- A senior Russian financial official
- A close associate of Trump who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow
- An ethnic Russian close associate of Trump
- A female staffer at the Moscow Ritz Carlton
- A senior Kremlin official
This inactive British intelligence officer drafted a series of intelligence memos based off the testimony of 7 anonymous Russian sources, many allegedly active within the Kremlin.
But instead of cross-referencing the claims, senior U.S. intelligence officials packaged the allegations into a two-page synopsis and delivered them to President-elect Trump, President Obama, and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
The briefings included allegations that Donald Trump is essentially a “Manchurian Candidate” for Vladimir Putin. It does not get more serious than that.
Never-mind that the U.S. intelligence community is on record claiming that the Kremlin was engaged in a “disinformation” campaign during the presidential election.
No – instead, they blindly accepted the reports of a former British intelligence agent who claims he collected testimony from 7 unidentified Russian officials, and presented it to senior government officials as fact.
Intelligence officials reportedly wanted to “make a point”
CNN reported that intelligence officials took the “extraordinary” step of including these unconfirmed claims for two reasons.
- To make Trump aware of the incredibly damning allegations circulating in D.C. circles involving him
- To “demonstrate” to Trump that Russia had compiled information harmful to both parties, but decided to only release information relating to Hillary Clinton.
Using unconfirmed intelligence to “demonstrate” a point is an incredibly political thing to do for a community that prides itself on being “apolitical”.
Some are doubting whether the anonymous sources were russian at all
A user on 4chan claimed Tuesday night that he fabricated one of the most alarming stories in the report and mailed it to an anti-Trump strategist, who then provided it to the CIA. This user claims his story was part of the dossier published by BuzzFeed.
While this rumor holds no credibility on it’s own, the fact that it was allowed to gain steam and go unchallenged by intelligence officials for over a day now is concerning, to say the least.
What if Obama took action as a result of this report?
Just a few weeks ago, Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for allegations that Russia meddled in our election.
What if the President took this report seriously?
How can our government make good decisions if they’re being delivered “fake intelligence”?
Why is the American intelligence community briefing our leaders on foreign-sourced intelligence without corroborating the claims themselves?
What if action was taken against Trump, just 10 days before he would have assumed office?
Wars have been started over “fake intelligence.”
The intelligence community sold Americans on “fake intelligence” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. America was embroiled in a decade-long engagement as a result.
The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident is considered by many to be “fake intelligence” that pushed America into entering in the Vietnam war. 58,315 Americans lost their lives during the conflict.
But what’s most concerning is that the agencies that delivered this “fake intelligence” to senior government officials are the same agencies that have been tasked with combating “fake news.”
When the intelligence community delivers “fake intelligence” to senior government officials, how can American citizens trust them to accurately determine what is “fake news” and what isn’t?