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General News    H1'ed 1/6/17

More Clapp-trap: Senate Hearing on Russian Election Mischief Again Fails to Prove Anything

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By Dave Lindorff

Intel chief James Clapper: would you trust this man to house-sit, or fix your computer?
Intel chief James Clapper: would you trust this man to house-sit, or fix your computer?
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The Russian hacking hysteria in the US media, and among parts of the public -- especially liberal Democrats -- is becoming increasingly embarrassing.

Over and over we have been told that the government, whether in the form of the departing President Obama or unidentified "intelligence sources" cited in news reports, or statements by private security contractors with their vested interest in trying to show how vulnerable America's (and the Democratic Party's!) servers are, that they have solid evidence that the Russians hacked DNC emails and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's emails, only for it to turn out to be more of the same innuendos, circumstantial "evidence," suspicions, and inevitably ridiculous and embarrassing errors (like the Washington Post's breathless and false story that the Russians had hacked the Vermont power grid and could shut off the heat during a cold snap).

The latest example is yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, which featured the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who is the boss of the CIA, the NSA and the rest of the whole vast US intelligence apparatus. Clapper told the committee that he stands "more resolutely" than ever behind the CIA's initial assessment of Oct. 7 that Russian leaders at the "senior-most levels" had orchestrated a campaign of interference in the presidential election.

Clapper testified ominously about a vast campaign of interference which he claimed involved everything from hacking the DNC to spreading disinformation and what he called "fake news." He said, "Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry...they would exploit." Why, he said in outrage, their state-owned English-language television station RT-TV (available in about 15% of American home cable packages) even "disparaged our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights."

Gee, how evil can an empire be? (And worse yet, Clapper disclosed that the NSA had recorded Russian officials cheering and laughing when they realized Trump had defeated Clinton! My god! We should retalliate!)

Seriously, if an American citizen is ignorant enough not to at least be skeptical about a report about American politics that is being aired by a news organization called Russia TV, we're in serious trouble. But I guess that's another issue for another day. And as for that annoying glee heard in the Kremlin election night, can't we assume there was the same glee in the White House when Boris Yeltsin narrowly defeated Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov in a run-off to win a second term as Russian president? So gloating counts as election interference now?

Meanwhile, is it really that unreasonable that a Russian news organization (or a Chinese news organization, or even a German one for that matter) might air a report about American hypocrisy on human rights, when ours is a country, after all, that routinely criticizes other countries for such violations while at the same time is itself still holding people without charge in a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba 14 years after they were captured and rendered to that hell-hole, that boasts the largest prison population in the world, both in absolute numbers and as a percent of population, that as a matter of policy holds some 25,000 of its 2 million incarcerated prisoners in long-term solitary confinement which global norms and the psychological profession insist is cruel and unusual punishment, that still has over 2250 people serving life sentences for crimes they committed as minors, and that still produces and uses antipersonnel weapons that most of the rest of the world has banned? All of these things are viewed as human rights atrocities by most of the civilized world, including the democracies of Europe -- our closest allies.

Amid all that verbiage, which had nothing at all to do with Russian evil-doing, Clapper never did offer any of the promised proof that Russia had "hacked the US election." Indeed, under questioning from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Clapper conceded that "imprecise language" had been used in claiming that the Russians had "hacked the election," as there is no evidence that Russia had hacked voting machines. The claim is that Russia hacked the DNC's and Podesta's emails and provided them to Wikileaks, which released the damaging information that the DNC had sabotaged the Democratic primary to help Clinton defeat her opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and also copies of her embarrassing secret and highly compensated speeches to Wall Street banks.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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