MSNBC'S RACHEL MADDOW devoted the first 21 minutes of her Thursday night program to what she promoted as an "exclusive" scoop. The cable news host said that someone had sent her a "carefully forged" top secret NSA document that used a top secret document The Intercept reported on and published on June 5 as a template. That document -- from the June 5 Intercept report -- was from an unknown NSA official, and purported to describe Russian attempts to hack election officials and suppliers.
Maddow said her report should serve as a "heads up" to other news organizations that someone is attempting to destroy the credibility of those who report on Trump's connections to Russia by purposely giving them false information. She suggested, without stating, that this may have been what caused CNN and other outlets recently to publish reports about Trump and/or Russia that ended up being retracted.
The grave tone of cloak-and-daggers mystery Maddow used to tell her story was predicated on her time-line of events. If it were the case that MSNBC had received the purportedly forged version of this document before the Intercept published its own version, that would indeed be a major story. That would mean that the person who sent the forgery to MSNBC was one of a relatively small group of people who would have had access to this top secret document.
But that's not what happened. By Maddow's own telling, MSNBC received the document two days after the Intercept published it for the entire world to see. That means that literally anyone with internet access could have taken the document from the Intercept's site, altered it, and sent it to Maddow.
Despite the fact that she received the document two days after the Intercept published it, Maddow nonetheless suggested that the document may have been forged before the Intercept's publication -- meaning that the forger had access to the document prior to our publication of it. Her theory, which posits a remarkable scenario, rests exclusively on one claim: that the "creation date" in the metadata of the document precedes the Intercept's publication by slightly more than three hours.