Liberals were all aflutter last night when news broke indicating that our intelligence agencies “knew” that the Russian government was not only behind the hacking of DNC emails last year, but were actively releasing them in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. Or at least that’s the impression you’d get from the spin being applied to the story. What’s more, the CIA allegedly released this information to Congress prior to the election in a secret meeting, but word of it never made it out to the public. (Washington Post)

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

The person leaking the story to the press certainly believes it’s the “consensus view” anyway. And one of their claims would seem to support that charge if you’re inclined to believe it. The unnamed intelligence sources are claiming that the Russians hacked the RNC also, but sat on the documents. That, however, is in stark contrast to previous statements from the FBI that the Russians had tried, but failed to hack the RNC at large, succeeding only in accessing the private accounts of a few individual Republicans. (New York Times)

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.

Yet again, this information might lead anyone to draw a particular conclusion, but we’re still lacking the smoking gun. The intelligence official putting this story out there went so far as to say that they “do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin ‘directing’ the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.” They describe the people passing the documents to Wikileaks as being “one step removed” from the Russian government. But even if we are to assume that the Russian government was directly involved, there’s one more item missing from these revelations and that’s some shred of evidence saying that the Kremlin wanted Donald Trump to win and that was the motivation for their actions. That may be the conclusion that some in the agency have reached, but if they have anything to back it up they’re not providing it.

There seems to be some unhappiness among Democrats over the fact that this information was given to the Gang of 12 prior to the election but nobody found out about it until now. Clearly they believe that such information might have helped Clinton in the final hours of the race, but now it might be seen as a way undermine Trump’s presidency. John pointed out yesterday that Democrats seem awfully eager to investigate Russian involvement as a way to “delegitimize” the President Elect without saying so directly. That sounds about right and it’s essentially what this story boils down to. It’s a dog whistle for the “Not My President” crowd and it will likely keep being brought up by the media over the next four years.

But rather than focusing on the why so much, we would probably be better served if the keen minds in Congress spent a bit more time pondering the how of the matter. How did hackers steal all of that information from the DNC and have the appropriate steps been taken to make sure that it doesn’t happen again? It seems to me that the answer to that one would solve a lot more problems going forward.