JERUSALEM — During yesterday’s State of the Union program on CNN, host Jake Tapper wildly asserted that “every intelligence expert, both under the Obama administration and under the Trump administration” agrees with the assessment that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Tapper did not explain how he concluded that “every intelligence expert, both under the Obama administration and under the Trump administration” made such an assessment.
No known survey has been conducted among “every intelligence expert, both under the Obama administration and under the Trump administration” to determine whether they agree with the Russia interference charges. It is also not clear what qualifies an individual to be considered “an intelligence expert.”
Tapper also misleadingly asserted that the alleged Russia interference was affirmed in a “unanimous consensus of the intelligence community.”
The U.S. intelligence community consists of 17 agencies, but only three assessed charges that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Former CIA Director John Brennan previously testified about the highly compartmentalized nature of that assessment within those three agencies – the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency.
The Washington Post, in an extensive June 23 article, reported on details of the compartmentalized operation on alleged Russia interference that indicates a high degree of secrecy involving top Obama administration officials.
Tapper made his claims about the intelligence assessments during an interview Sunday with incoming White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.
At one point in the interview, Scaramucci addressed the Russia hacking story, explaining that “all of the information isn’t on the table yet.”
“You know, somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it,” Scaramucci continued. “You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking.”
Scaramucci revealed that the person who expressed doubts about the Russia hacking assessment was President Donald Trump.
Soon after, Tapper stated, “My question right now is about the fact that a geopolitical foe of the United States, Russia, interfered in the U.S. election, according to every intelligence expert, both under the Obama administration and under the Trump administration.”
In the interview, Tapper further stated: “But it’s almost irrelevant whether you think it’s true and what President Trump says, because it’s the unanimous consensus of the intelligence community — community that this happened.”
Tapper’s comments come after numerous news media outlets were forced to correct the widely perpetuated false claim that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies assessed that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
That assessment was in fact made by three agencies – the FBI, CIA and NSA – in a January 6, 2017 U.S. Intelligence Community report alleging Russian interference in the presidential race.
At the time of the assessment, the FBI was led by James Comey, who was fired following controversy over his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email probe; and the CIA was headed by Barack Obama appointee John Brennan.
The third intelligence agency that made the assessment, the NSA, did not share the “high confidence” of the CIA and FBI in the conclusion of the January 6 report alleging the Russian government sought to aid Donald Trump’s “election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The NSA only assessed that conclusion with a classification of “moderate confidence.”
According to the Washington Post, the NSA’s lower confidence was issued because some of the most important technical intelligence used by the Obama administration to allege that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election came from another country.
Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article using an unsupported argument attempting to explain why all 17 of the United States’ intelligence agencies did not assess charges that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Without citing evidence, the Times offered its own explanation as to why the other 13 intelligence agencies were not included in the assessment about alleged Russian interference:
The reason the views of only those four intelligence agencies, not all 17, were included in the assessment is simple: They were the ones tracking and analyzing the Russian campaign. The rest were doing other work.
The Times is clearly arguing that the other intelligence agencies were simply dedicated to other national security efforts.
The Times‘ claim stands in contrast to testimony from Brennan as well as information provided in an extensive, 7,700-plus word Washington Post article published June 23 detailing the highly compartmentalized nature of the Russia interference investigation and the manner in which other U.S. intelligence agencies were deliberately kept in the dark.
At a House Intelligence hearing on May 23, Brennan testified that the FBI, CIA and NSA investigation was deliberately “tightly compartmented” from other intelligence agencies.
Asked about the methods used to compile the January 6 U.S. Intelligence Community report on Russia, Brennan stated:
I think it followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions.
It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of Director of National Intelligence; it wasn’t a full interagency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies and for good reason, because of the nature, the sensitivity of the information trying to, once again, keep them tightly compartmented.
The Washington Post, in its June 23 article, reported on details of the compartmentalized operation that indicates a high degree of secrecy involving top Obama administration officials.
According to the newspaper, in the summer of 2016 Brennan convened a “secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.”
The Post described the unit as so secretive it functioned as a “sealed compartment” hidden even from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community; a unit whose workers were all made to sign additional non-disclosure forms.
The unit reported to top officials, the newspaper documented:
They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.
The number of Obama administration officials who were allowed access to the Russia intelligence was also highly limited, the Post reported. At first only four senior officials were involved: Brennan, Clapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Their aides were all barred from attending the initial meetings, the Post stated.
The newspaper continued :
Gradually, the circle widened to include Vice President Biden and others. Agendas sent to Cabinet secretaries — including John F. Kerry at the State Department and Ashton B. Carter at the Pentagon — arrived in envelopes that subordinates were not supposed to open. Sometimes the agendas were withheld until participants had taken their seats in the Situation Room.
Adding another layer of secrecy, the newspaper reported that when the closed Cabinet sessions on Russia began in the White House Situation Room in August, the video feed from the main room was cut off during the meetings. The feed, which allows only for video and not audio, is usually kept on so that senior aides can see when a meeting takes place.
The paper reported:
The blacked-out screens were seen as an ominous sign among lower-level White House officials who were largely kept in the dark about the Russia deliberations even as they were tasked with generating options for retaliation against Moscow.
The false anti-Trump talking point about 17 intelligence agencies was amplified last October, when Hillary Clinton wrongly stated the following at the third presidential debate: “We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber-attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.