“By devoting so much attention to the Russia story, journalists are failing in the difficult job of developing sources within what the spy world calls “hard targets”—the CIA, the NSA, and other parts of the intelligence community. No one, it seems, deems it necessary to explore the ways in which the U.S. intelligence establishment has for years brazenly hacked, bugged, and stolen data from the elections of others—even friends and neighbors such as Mexico. America the victim is always a far better story than America the perpetrator.”
James Bamford — Author and NSA Expert
NSA expert James Bamford says the reports of Russian interference in the 2016 US election are overblown. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
In a recent article in the New Republic Bamford reminds the readers that no evidence has been presented that this is anything other than the type of intelligence gathering or operation that countries are engaged in all the time. Here is the introduction of the piece:
Shortly after dawn on a July morning in 2007, a convoy of black FBI utility vehicles snaked down Ridge Road, a tranquil, leafy street lined with modest homes and manicured shrubs in the Maryland suburb of Severn. After a few twists and turns, they came to a stop at the end of a cul-de-sac opposite a two-story gray colonial. Seconds later, a dozen agents, weapons pulled from their holsters, burst into the house. Upstairs was William E. Binney, a former senior employee of the National Security Agency headquartered at nearby Fort Meade.
“They shoved my son out of the way as they rushed in with their guns drawn and charged upstairs, where my wife was getting dressed and I was in the shower,” Binney told me. “After pointing their guns at her, one of the agents came into the shower and pointed a gun directly at my head as he forcibly pulled me out. Then they took me out to the back porch and began interrogating me, attempting to implicate me in a crime.”
Binney was suspected—wrongly—of leaking details about the NSA’s illegal and highly secret domestic eavesdropping operation, code-named Stellar Wind. Although he was not arrested, his computers and files were seized. But instead of keeping quiet about the top secret wiretapping effort, Binney spoke out forcefully about the agency’s illegal spying, becoming the first former NSA official to go on the record about the program.
A decade after the raid, in October 2017, the government again questioned Binney. But this time the situation was reversed. President Donald Trump was seeking his help in attacking the FBI and the rest of the intelligence community, which have been investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential election. Trump has, at various points, called the investigation a “witch hunt,” “ridiculous,” and a Democratic “hoax.” And he has attempted to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the election by comparing it to the mistake over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “They were wrong, and it led to a mess,” Trump said last July. Now, on orders from Trump, according to The Intercept, CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited Binney to meet with him in his office at Langley to discuss an analysis the former NSA official had put together.
Binney’s analysis contradicted the conclusion of the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead Binney told Pompeo it was his view, based on a variety of technical factors, that a DNC insider leaked the data. If that conclusion were true, it would discredit the findings of the intelligence community and let the Russians—and Trump—off the hook.
Despite Binney’s reputation as a courageous whistleblower, however, his analysis was widely disputed and apparently changed few minds within the intelligence community—a fact made clear by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment, in February, of 13 Russians and three companies involved in the scandal. In the indictment, Mueller laid out a detailed picture of how the Russian government attempted, time and again, to influence the U.S. election, forcefully undermining Trump’s charge that the claims were a “hoax.”
About James Bamford
James Bamford has written a number of books and articles about America’s intelligence community, with special focus on the National Security Agency. He has also produced Frontline documentaries for PBS on these subjects. His recent article in the New Republic offers his overview of Russiagate.
Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America’s Most Secret Intelligence Organization (Penguin Books, September 1983); Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Anchor Books, April 2002); The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Anchor Books, July 2009); A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (Anchor Books, May 2005).
Intel Expert James Bamford Blasts Russiagate Hype
In this Radio WhoWhatWhy interview, Bamford also talks about the recent failures of the intelligence community, including the theft of NSA hacking tools and the CIA’s bungled efforts to retrieve them. Full Text Transcript
Anti-Intelligence by James Bamford — The New Republic (March 19 2018)
NSA Expert Blasts Russiagate Hype