Despite a lack of any publicly available evidence that proves Russian involvement in hacks of Democrat party organizations, President-elect Donald Trump stated, “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” at his press conference Wednesday morning.
The claim by Trump follows incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stating on Fox News that he thinks Trump “accepts the finding. He’s not denying entities in Russia are behind these particular hackings.”
A number of cybersecurity experts have stated in the past few weeks that we do not have enough evidence to confidently connect this summer’s hacks on the DNC and the DCCC to the Russian government, ever after the Obama administration expelled 35 Russians diplomats.
After the Joint Analysis Report (JAR) released at the end of last month, a company that develops a widely used plugin for securing websites reviewed the report and stated that the malware provided in the report is “freely available to anyone who wants it.” The report stated about the IP addresses provided that “nothing in the IP data [points] to Russia specifically.” Security expert Jeffrey Carr, while reviewing the report, stated that “If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.”
Meanwhile, other sources–even the left-of-center Rolling Stone–have voiced heavy criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the accusations against Russia. Both widely read technology blog Ars Technica, as well as Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone, blasted the Obama intelligence agencies. As Matt Taibbi wrote in his article “Something About This Russia Story Stinks“:
If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.
Taibbi compared the baselessness of the accusations against Russia to those of the Bush administration’s historically false allegations about Iraq’s WMD possession: “Like the WMD story, there’s an element of salesmanship the government is using to push the hacking narrative that should make reporters nervous… Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.”
Previously, Trump has been skeptical of both the current claims about Russia, as well as claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction by intelligence agencies that led up to the Iraq War. Trump said during a February debate in South Carolina about the WMD claims:
They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
Little is known about the contents of last week’s secret meeting between Trump, Obama, and four intelligence heads. It is unknown whether the meeting provided more information than the widely discredited report released by BuzzFeed yesterday.