Intel Officials’ Fresh Laptop Baloney

After calling the Hunter Biden laptop Russian disinformation in 2020, Jim Clapper and co. set about restoring their tarnished reputations.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
February 13, 2023

Two and a half years after more than 50 intelligence community pooh-bahs emerged to slime the New York Post’s pre-election report on Hunter Biden’s laptop, the fact-checkers have arrived on the scene. 

With Biden safely ensconced in the White House—and with the facts about the laptop plainly obvious—the Washington Post has swooped in to tsk-tsk Politico for over-dramatizing its October 2020 headline: "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say." 

Now that we all know the laptop is authentic, the Post wants us to distinguish between "disinformation" and "information" campaigns—foreign efforts to interfere with our elections through the dissemination of accurate information. Scary!

But anyway, the former intelligence officials' letter, the Post’s Glenn Kessler writes, "does not even say what the Politico headline claimed—though that headline likely shaped perceptions of the letter that continue to this day." Except, the headline did appropriately characterize what the intelligence officials said, sans the cover-your-ass caveats those officials well knew would be ignored by a partisan and irresponsible press. That was precisely their intent

It was the lack of any journalistic skepticism about those claims, and the motivations the parties might have had for making them, that was the mistake. The Post reveals that the letter was the brainchild of former deputy CIA director and ubiquitous television presence Michael J. Morell, "a top candidate for CIA director in a Biden administration." Forgive us for thinking that a seasoned Washington operator like Morell might have had some idea how the letter would be received in the press and consider it just the sort of thing that would nudge his application for CIA director to the top of the pile. 

That brings us to the rest of the letter’s signatories, who have decided now’s the time to point out subtleties in their letter that two-and-a-half years of hysterical press coverage overlooked. The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told the Post that Politico was guilty of "message distortion."

"All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation," he added. "Politico deliberately distorted what we said." Now he tells us! 

The figures most guilty of distortion in this sorry ordeal are Morell, Clapper, and their colleagues, and their attempts to distort, retroactively, their October 2020 efforts add insult to injury. 

The mainstream media, for its part, have been revealed as their witting pawns, starting with the Politico piece and ending with the laughable Washington Post fact check that lays the blame primarily at Politico’s feet—rather than calling these Democratic operati, er, intelligence officials—to account for their own attempts to influence a U.S. election.