In his never ending crusade to rid America of moderate liberals and anyone who doesn't believe Ed Snowden is the second coming of Jesus Christ, Glenn Greenwald has been doing the media rounds desperately attempting to prove that Obama and the Democrats have been lying about the Russian DNC hacks.
Greenwald has published story after story undermining what he views as an "smear" job by the DNC and the mainstream liberal media, and has even appeared on Fox News to cast doubt on the veracity of the Obama administration's claims. Of course Greenwald is framing this as him "just asking questions" while the corrupt, slavish media blindly tows the official line from the government. Wrote Greenwald in early December:
Democrats — still eager to make sense of their election loss and to find causes for it other than themselves — immediately declared these anonymous claims about what the CIA believes to be true, and, with a somewhat sweet, religious-type faith, treated these anonymous assertions as proof of what they wanted to believe all along: that Vladimir Putin was rooting for Donald Trump to win and Hillary Clinton to lose and used nefarious means to ensure that outcome. That Democrats are now venerating unverified, anonymous CIA leaks as sacred is par for the course for them this year, but it’s also a good indication of how confused and lost U.S. political culture has become in the wake of Trump’s victory.
Greenwald has targeted the Washington Post in particular for its reporting on the issue, claiming the paper has deliberately misled the public by printing unsubstantiated stories asserting the Russian hacks as fact (more on this later).
While Greenwald's criticism isn't completely without merit, his reporting on the issue is (as anyone familiar with his journalism will tell you) misleading, inaccurate, and predictably biased. Greenwald would have his readers believe that the intelligence gathered on the Russian hacks is inconclusive, and that we shouldn't trust the CIA because it is full of liars. "CIA officials are professional, systematic liars," writes Greenwald. "They lie constantly, by design, and with great skill, and have for many decades, as have intelligence officials in other agencies.
Furthermore, the intelligence on the hacks can't be fully trusted because "Intelligence is not a science, and attributing hacks to specific sources is a particularly difficult task, almost impossible to carry out with precision and certainty."
Greenwald then concludes:
Nobody should need an explainer about why it’s dangerous in the extreme to accept such inflammatory accusations on faith or, worse, based on the anonymous assurances of intelligence officials, in lieu of seeing the actual evidence.
This seems reasonable enough -- the CIA isn't exactly a bastion of transparency, and intelligence is most certainly not a science. However, Greenwald conveniently neglects to mention that a significant amount of the evidence for Russian hacking is actually publicly available, and private companies have also verified that the DNC hacks were almost certainly orchestrated by the Kremlin and ordered directly by Vladimir Putin. Writes Jonathan Chait in NY Mag:
Experts from 19 intelligence agencies, as well as those from the private sector, have endorsed this finding, and evidence of Russian involvement has been laid out publicly in excruciating detail, both by the government and the news media. It’s true that intelligence agencies have not published evidence for their findings that Russia conducted the hack in order to elect Trump, for fear of exposing their sources and methods. But Russia’s motive is the least mysterious aspect of the entire episode. The Kremlin has literally spent months broadcasting its preference for Trump, both on its outward-facing and inward-facing propaganda outlets. Given Putin’s well-documented habit of intervening in foreign elections to benefit nationalistic parties and to harm parties favoring hawkish policies against Russia, it would be extremely strange if his interference in the election were not intended to help Trump.
Time Magazine also reported that:
CrowdStrike, was called in by the Democratic National Committee to analyze the hack against their computer system last April. With the DNC’s permission, CrowdStrike then posted details of what it had found. Attribution of hackers, whether by intelligence services or private firms, is a particular discipline. Much of it relies on signature methods used by the hackers, specific pieces of code, and distinguishing behavior.
CrowdStrike’s co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, uncovered evidence that two groups of Russian hackers he had named Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, had been behind the DNC hack. Cozy Bear used a tool called SeaDaddy that allowed it to stealthily exfiltrate information from a victim’s computer. The tool was almost identical to another exfiltration tool previously identified by Symantec as belonging to the group of Russian hackers known to have operated at the behest of Russia’s FSB, a main successor agency to the KGB.
Time also reported that:
Subsequent analyses by other private firms found other evidence that Russia was behind the hack. And as the attacks broadened over the course of the 2016 campaign to include the DCCC and the email of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, private firms found evidence linking the new hacks back to the DNC hack.
The private firms admit their open source evidence is not conclusive, but say in the world of cyber-attribution, this is close to as good as it gets.
To ignore all of this evidence and insinuate that the CIA, the DNC, the Obama administration and liberal media outlets are all making it up to discredit Trump's election victory and find a convenient scape goat in Vladimir Putin isn't just dishonest, it is tantamount to serious journalistic malpractice. Exactly what evidence does Greenwald have that Obama and the CIA are lying about their findings? Using the organization's history of dishonesty is fair game, but just as Greenwald's current argument can't be dismissed solely on his own history of shoddy reporting, he needs to provide some real evidence that the multi-agency findings are politically motivated and false. Thus far, Greenwald hasn't offered anything remotely convincing. Instead, he has lobbed grenades at institutions like the Washington Post for what would be regarded by anyone familiar with actual journalism as standard reporting.
The Post did initially inaccurately state that that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid in Vermont, but contrary to Greenwald's assertion that it was "Russia hysteria", the Post was actually reporting on the only facts that were available at the time -- as indicated by the headline of the piece:
Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say
You'll notice the words "officials say".
As new facts were made public and it transpired that the compromised laptop had not been connected to the grid, the Post immediately followed up with a correction, along with an editor's note on the original report. According to Greenwald though, this is evidence that the Post, along with other liberal outlets are promoting "hysterical, alarmist proclamations of Putin’s menacing evil".
To be clear: getting facts straight before jumping to any concrete conclusions about the Russian hacking is incredibly important. Greenwald is right to urge caution when assessing this fairly complex story, and liberals should not mimic conservatives in promoting stories that have no factual basis. But it doesn't mean ignoring the overwhelming body of evidence that clearly suggest Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin hacked the DNC in order to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election -- a story so alarming that one would expect Greenwald and his band of merry truth seekers at the billionaire libertarian funded website he works at to investigate it properly. True to form though, Greenwald has already reached the conclusion that America is bad and Russia is good, and is busily twisting the facts to support the narrative that only he, Donald Trump and Fox News believe to be true.