Recently our President-Elect, while dismissing out of hand assessments by the Intelligence Community that all evidence points to Russian hacking during the presidential campaign with the intent to influence the outcome, said that:
“… I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
Wow! Our soon-to-be-President has some kind of special access to information that is beyond the scope of even our vast array of intelligence agencies? I wonder what that source could be?
Nothing, and no one, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Woolsey said that Trump might be “playing” the media with such statements about knowing things, adding:
“Why not? He’s not interfering with anything. He’s not talking about anything classified. This is a behavioral mode that he has perfected. He has a point, which is that it is entirely possible to have various definitions of hacking.”
I don’t personally agree that he isn’t interfering with anything. He is creating doubt about the capabilities and motivations of our entire intelligence enterprise. And while it may be “possible to have various definitions of hacking,” the Intelligence Community has a specific definition from which they operate. But this certainly is a “behavioral mode that [Trump] has perfected,” and that “mode” is called a complete disregard for factual information.
Mr. Trump also threw out that “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” That isn’t an entirely accurate statement, for a number of reasons. This fails to account for the fact that within the Intelligence Community small groups of specialists focus on specific problem sets in specific regions of the world, so people making assessments about Iraq and WMDs aren’t the same people looking at Russia and Cyber issues. It has also been nearly 15 years since the Iraq assessments to which he refers, so it is unlikely that those analysts are even still around. He also failed to account for changes made to the Intelligence Community since the Iraq invasion, which require agency heads to be directly accountable for assessments and that provided for better information sharing across agencies and platforms.
So today, when the Intelligence Community puts out multiple assessments and joint assessments from nearly every agency, you can be certain that the information is solid and that the analysts have made their cases to their respective directors.
It is also worth noting that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found in 2008 that many of the assertions related to Iraq and WMD were unsubstantiated based on the intelligence assessments, or that the administration overstated the strength of the assessments. In other words, the administration misrepresented what the Intelligence Community had put forward in support of an action to which they were already committed.
In short, Mr. Trump’s comparison is consistent with his “mode” of eschewing factual information when it doesn’t support his preconceptions or biases.
Such behavior is absolutely “unpresidented!”