More than 20 former government officials are calling for President Barack Obama to declassify purported evidence showing Russia hacked U.S. political institutions to support GOP President-elect Donald Trump.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Obama from Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, the signers, drawn from the intelligence, military and diplomatic community, said the White House should make the evidence clear to the public — or admit the proof on hand simply isn’t sufficient enough to tie Russia to breaches of U.S. political institutions and the outcome of the election.
“As President for a few more days, you have the power to demand concrete evidence of a link between the Russians and WikiLeaks, which published the bulk of the information in question,” the letter begins. “Lacking that evidence, the American people should be told that there is no fire under the smoke and mirrors of recent weeks.”
The letter continued with a direct ask.
“We urge you to authorize public release of any tangible evidence that takes us beyond the unsubstantiated, “we-assess” judgments by the intelligence agencies,” the former government officials wrote. “Otherwise, we – as well as other skeptical Americans – will be left with the corrosive suspicion that the intense campaign of accusations is part of a wider attempt to discredit the Russians and those – like Mr. Trump – who wish to deal constructively with them.”
While the letter goes on to acknowledge the importance of classified sources and methods, the fact that numerous politicians and political commentators have accused Russia of an “act of war,” in particular GOP Sen. John McCain, makes it prudent to consider an exception to the rule, as other administrations have done in the past.
The former officials, for example, cited former President John F. Kennedy’s decision to declassify photos of Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in order to bolster the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community.
That credibility is now on the rocks again, given Trump’s ongoing fight with these agencies, which resurfaced Monday. CIA Director John Brennan started out the day by stating Trump’s comparison of the intelligence community to Nazi Germany was “outrageous.”
Trump then fired back on Twitter and asked if Brennan himself was responsible for leaking the 35-page report full of unverified allegations about Trump’s activities in Russia to BuzzFeed. Brennan denied that charge in the evening.
Although the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in early January to try and put away some of the skepticism surrounding Russia’s meddling with the presidential election, the report doesn’t actually contain any evidence at all and instead appears to be a circuitous way of restating the claim that the public should simply trust the intelligence community’s assessment.
But according to signers like former National Security Agency Technical Director William Binney, there should be evidence on hand that shows a transfer of data from Russia to WikiLeaks. And that evidence should either be made public, or the administration should admit there isn’t enough to support the claims of the intelligence community.
“We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks,” the letter stated. “If NSA can produce such evidence, you may wish to order whatever declassification may be needed and then release the evidence. This would go a long way toward allaying suspicions that no evidence exists. If NSA cannot give you that information – and quickly – this would probably mean it does not have any.”
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