New York Times, Associated Press Correct Claims That All 17 Intelligence Agencies Agreed on Russian Interference

James Clapper

James Clapper / AP

BY:

The New York Times and Associated Press posted corrections last week walking back the widely reported claim that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of helping Donald Trump.

Rather, the assessment involved information collected by the FBI, CIA and NSA, and was then published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all the intelligence agencies.

The Associated Press published a "clarification" on June 30 about four different stories stating all 17 intelligence agencies agreed the Russians interfered in the election in order to help Trump. Instead, it acknowledged, not all those agencies were involved in that assessment:

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.

NewsBusters reported that the New York Times offered a similar correction June 29 at the bottom of a story titled "Trump's Deflections and Denials on Russia Frustrate Even His Allies."

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.

While the remark about all 17 organizations agreeing on Russian interference has been widely repeated by politicians and media members, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper debunked the notion when he testified on Capitol Hill on May 8, the Daily Caller reported.

"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."

Later in the same hearing, Clapper pushed back against Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) when the latter stated that "all 17" intelligence community members concluded Russia interfered in the election:

FRANKEN: The intelligence communities have concluded, all 17 of them, that Russia interfered with this election. And we all know how that’s right.

CLAPPER: 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.

FRANKEN: But all 17 signed onto that?

CLAPPER: 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.

Hillary Clinton stated at the Oct. 19 debate that 17 intelligence agencies had concluded the espionage and cyberattacks originated from the Kremlin and were designed to influence the election, although she did not say it was to help Trump win necessarily. PolitiFact rated her remark "True."

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