Last week, Associated Press and The New York Times rushed to post corrections to their widely reported and heavily emphasized upon claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Russians in the 2016 presidential elections to help Donald Trump get into power.
Instead, what the news outlets failed to report, or rather realize, was that the information was published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all 17 US intelligence agencies; but it was only collected by the CIA, FBI, NSA and not all 17 of them.
On June 30, the Associated Press posted a “clarification” about four different reports published earlier, all of which stated that all 17 agencies had come to a conclusion that Russians had played a role in helping Donald Trump become the president. With the “clarification,” AP acknowledged that all the agencies were not involved in the assessment. AP’s statement read:
“In stories published April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29, The Associated Press reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump. That assessment was based on information collected by three agencies – the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency – and published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all U.S. intelligence agencies. Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment.”
The New York Times is reported to have published a similar statement at the end of the article titled “Trump’s Deflections and Denials on Russia Frustrate Even His Allies” on June 29.
A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.
The information about all US intelligence agencies being involved in the assessment of Russian interference in US election has been used constantly by the media and politicians to criticize President Trump and Republicans, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence demystified the notion when he gave his testimony on Capitol Hill on May 08.
“The [intelligence community assessment] was a coordinated product from three agencies: CIA, NSA and the FBI, not all 17 components of the intelligence community. Those three, under the aegis of my former office,” Clapper said. “Following extensive intelligence reporting about many Russian efforts to collect on and influence the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama asked us to do this in early December and have it completed before the end of his term.
“The two-dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies. They were given complete, unfettered, mutual access to all sensitive, raw intelligence data, and importantly, complete independence to reach their findings. They found that the Russian government pursued a multifaceted influence campaign in the run-up to the election, including aggressive use of cyber capabilities.
“The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee, and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets.”
During the hearing, Clapper responded to Senator Al Franken’s (D – Minn) claim that “all 17” agencies of the US intelligence committee had agreed that Russia meddled with the elections.
Franken said, “The intelligence communities have concluded, all 17 of them that Russia interfered with this election. And we all know how that’s right.”
To this, Clapper replied, “Senator, as I pointed out in my statement, Senator Franken, it was—there were only three agencies that [were] directly involved in this assessment, plus my office.”
Trying to prove himself right somehow, the senator emphasized on the number of agencies that acknowledged Russian interference, he asked Clapper, “But all 17 signed onto that?”
Clapper then clarified once again, “Well, we didn’t go through that process. This was a special situation because of the time limits and my—what I knew to be who could really contribute to this and the sensitivity of the information, we decided—it was a conscious judgment—to restrict it to those three. I’m not aware of anyone who dissented, or disagreed when it came out.”