In all candor, the checkered record of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for trustworthiness makes us much less confident that anyone should take it on faith that he is more "trustworthy than the Russians," as you suggested on Dec. 16. You will probably recall that Clapper lied under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, 2013, about NSA dragnet activities; later apologizing for testimony he admitted had been "clearly erroneous." In our Memorandum for you on Dec. 11, 2013, we cited chapter and verse as to why Clapper should have been fired for saying things he knew to be "clearly erroneous."
In that Memorandum, we endorsed the demand by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner that Clapper be removed. "Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it," said Sensenbrenner in an interview with The Hill. "The only way laws are effective is if they're enforced."
Actually, we have had trouble understanding why, almost four years after he deliberately misled the Senate, Clapper remains Director of National Intelligence -- overseeing the entire intelligence community.
Hacks or Leaks?
Not mentioned until now is our conclusion that leaks are the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures in question -- not hacking. Leaks normally leave no electronic trace. William Binney has been emphasizing this for several months and suggesting strongly that the disclosures were from a leaker with physical access to the information -- not a hacker with only remote access.
This, of course, makes it even harder to pin the blame on President Putin, or anyone else. And we suspect that this explains why NSA demurred when asked to join the CIA and FBI in expressing "high confidence" in this key judgment of the report put out under Clapper's auspices on Jan. 6, yielding this curious formulation:
"We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence." (Emphasis, and lack of emphasis, in original)
In addition, former U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray has said publicly he has first-hand information on the provenance of the leaks, and has expressed surprise that no one from the New York Times or the Washington Post has tried to get in touch with him. We would be interested in knowing whether anyone from your administration, including the intelligence community, has made any effort to contact Ambassador Murray.
What to Do
President-elect Trump said a few days ago that his team will have a "full report on hacking within 90 days." Whatever the findings of the Trump team turn out to be, they will no doubt be greeted with due skepticism, since Mr. Trump is in no way a disinterested party.
You, on the other hand, enjoy far more credibility -- AND power -- for the next few days. And we assume you would not wish to hobble your successor with charges that cannot withstand close scrutiny. We suggest you order the chiefs of the NSA, FBI and CIA to the White House and ask them to lay all their cards on the table. They need to show you why you should continue to place credence in what, a month ago, you described as "uniform intelligence assessments" about Russian hacking.
At that point, if the intelligence heads have credible evidence, you have the option of ordering it released -- even at the risk of damage to sources and methods. For what it may be worth, we will not be shocked if it turns out that they can do no better than the evidence-deprived assessments they have served up in recent weeks. In that case, we would urge you, in all fairness, to let the American people in on the dearth of convincing evidence before you leave office.
As you will have gathered by now, we strongly suspect that the evidence your intelligence chiefs have of a joint Russian-hacking-WikiLeaks-publishing operation is no better than the "intelligence" evidence in 2002-2003 -- expressed then with comparable flat-fact "certitude" -- of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Mr. President, there is much talk in your final days in office about your legacy. Will part of that legacy be that you stood by while flames of illegitimacy rose willy-nilly around your successor? Or will you use your power to reveal the information -- or the fact that there are merely unsupported allegations -- that would enable us to deal with them responsibly?