Senate Intel releases new report on Russian interference

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner released a new report today on the committee’s bipartisan Russia investigation.

The report, titled “Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment,” examines the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work behind the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment that determined Russia conducted an unprecedented, multi-faceted campaign to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The report builds upon the committee’s unclassified summary findings on the ICA issued in 2018.

Findings

  • The committee finds the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case that Russia engaged in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The committee concludes that all analytic lines are supported with all-source intelligence, that the ICA reflects proper analytic tradecraft, and that differing levels of confidence on one analytic judgment are justified and properly represented. Additionally, interviews with those who drafted and prepared the ICA affirmed that analysts were under no political pressure to reach specific conclusions.
  • The committee finds that the ICA reflects a proper representation of the intelligence collected and that this body of evidence supports the substance and body of the ICA. While the Intelligence Community did not include information provided by Christopher Steele in the body of the ICA or to support any of its analytical judgments, it did include a summary of this material in an annex —largely at the insistence of FBI’s senior leadership.  A broader discussion of the Steele dossier will be included in the final volume of the committee’s report.
  • The committee finds that the ICA makes a clear argument that the manner and aggressiveness of Russia’s election interference was unprecedented. However, the ICA does not include substantial representation of Russia’s interference attempts in 2008 and 2012.
  • The committee finds that the ICA did not include a set of policy recommendations for responding to Russia’s interference attempts. This omission was deliberate, reflecting the well-established norm that the role of the Intelligence Community is to provide insight and warning to policy makers, not to make policy itself.
  • The committee finds the ICA would have benefited from a more comprehensive look at the role of Russian propaganda generated by state-owned platforms in the multi-pronged interference campaign. Open source reporting on RT’s and Sputnik’s coverage of Wikileaks’ release of information from the Democratic National Committee would have strengthened the ICA’s examination of Russia’s use of propaganda.

Statement from Burr: 

“In reviewing the ICA, the Senate Intelligence Committee looked at two key questions: first, did the final product meet the initial task given by the President, and second, was the analysis supported by the intelligence presented? We found the ICA met both criteria. The ICA reflects strong tradecraft, sound analytical reasoning, and proper justification of disagreement in the one analytical line where it occurred.

“The Committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s conclusions.

“One of the ICA’s most important conclusions was that Russia’s aggressive interference efforts should be considered ‘the new normal.’ That warning has been borne out by the events of the last three years, as Russia and its imitators increasingly use information warfare to sow societal chaos and discord. With the 2020 presidential election approaching, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant against the threat of interference from hostile foreign actors.”

Statement from Warner:

“The ICA summarizing intelligence concerning the 2016 election represented the kind of unbiased and professional work we expect and require from the Intelligence Community. The ICA correctly found the Russians interfered in our 2016 election to hurt Secretary Clinton and help the candidacy of Donald Trump.  Our review of the highly classified ICA and underlying intelligence found that this and other conclusions were well-supported. There is certainly no reason to doubt that the Russians’ success in 2016 is leading them to try again in 2020, and we must not be caught unprepared.”


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