In a Friday January 6 report, the US Intelligence Community (USIC) claimed that after its analysts—using phrases such as “we assess” or “we judge” to simply convey analytic assessments or judgments about “Russian leads”—have come away with concrete evidence that Russia indeed hacked the 2016 US presidential elections. As to whether this “hack” also swayed the Republican (RNC) and Democratic (DNC) primaries in favor of Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton respectively, remains to be ascertained.

The report has been lauded by US media giants although the evidence provided on Russian hacking of the US elections remains tenuous. How did the US Intelligence Community conclude that Russia hacked the elections?

Well, the answer invariable must lie in deducing the charge from the premise: the “constantly growing knowledge base of previous events and known malicious actors, and their knowledge of how these malicious actors work and the tools that they use.” Out of this data, one would think that USIC’s analysts actually found pieces of information that traced operations back to their source, and thus concluded that it was actually Russia.

But no. This is not what happened. At least, the report they’ve provided to the public does not entail concrete proof that such information was actually found and traced to a Russian source. Part of the difficulty is not necessarily the issue with finding the unique evidence that points to Russia or any other country for that matter; or themselves. More, the problem has to do with the very nature of cyberspace itself. Attribution of information to a unique source is an exceedingly difficult task, if not well-nigh impossible, especially when it involves sophisticated actors.

Which altogether mean that while every kind of cyber operation—malicious or not—leaves a trail, it is difficult to pin it on a unique source. This is where the issue gets muddy when the US Intelligence Community analysts insist that they have found evidence that Russia hacked the DNC and its key leaders. Why would Russian be so motivated? To air the Clinton’s dirty linens in public in a bid to garner disdain for Hillary Clinton and hence boost Donald J. Trump’s chances of winning. In a nutshell, this is the nature of the “hack.” Since it was Trump who managed against the odds to force Hillary Clinton to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory the issue has generated much interest from the left.

It is also important to note that the report does not provide any evidence to the effect that Russia actually “hacked” into the voting machines and tampered with the accounting protocols. Nor does the report entail an explanation of why the Russian government favors Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton for president of the US. All the report provides is the analysts’ conclusion on who “hacked” the DNC and key leaders in the party.

To this bold point USIC analysts claim that they have done “a critical job” of providing evidence that Russia indeed hacked the US elections. On the one hand this evidence is the point of the report released to the public. On the other, the US intelligence community seems to also admit that the critical part of this judgment comprised uncertainties based on “the quality and quantity of the information” and the complexity thereof.

What USIC claims to be a deduction from the premises of known facts turns out to be value judgments—an assessment of attribution of not “who conducted an operation [into the DNC emails], but rather a series of judgments that describe (1) whether it was an isolated incident, (2) who was the likely perpetrator, (3) the perpetrator’s possible motivations, and (4) whether a foreign government had a role in ordering or leading the operation.”

Put together, a value judgment is an assessment that reveals the values of the person making the assessment rather than the objective realities of what is being assessed. Take for instance that a high probability of 99 percent is assigned to each of the various categories of (1), (2), (3) and (4) above. Even within this highly confident spurious space of the USIC analyst, one wonders how he comes away with the certainty—since a simple model provides only a probability of 96 percent from the premises—of a Russian government actor. Is this even enough to warrant that 35 Russian diplomats be evicted from the US by the US government in a diplomatic standoff?

What this also means is that the phrases “we assess” or “we judge” has no basis in certainty, except in conjecture – guess work. Now, this guess work includes “two important elements [according to the USIC itself]: judgments of how likely it is that something has happened or will happen (using terms such as “likely” or “unlikely”) and confidence levels in those judgments (low, moderate, and high).”

Yet, according to the US Intelligence Community, the conclusion from the value judgments on the likelihood that Russia picked Trump to win the elections over Hillary Clinton via the DNC emails and the value judgment on the confidence on this likelihood somehow results in the certainty that the Russian government likes Trump and in fact hacked the DNC email server. Few logicians would waste precious time on this gross misrepresentation of data in the name of what the USIC calls “rigorous” calculation gleaned from “evidentiary basis, logic and reasoning, and precedents.”

But of course, the USIC has a track record for such value judgments in certainty! The same “evidentiary basis, logic and reasoning, and precedents” underpinned a conjecture that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, which forced the world’s richest military into open war with one of the poorest militaries in the world. Of course it turned out the USIC was wrong. Dead wrong. There were no WMDs. That value judgment still haunts the world at large today. Hence a value judgment that evicts 35 Russian diplomats from the same country that went to war with Iraq over spurious allegations without evidence should be examined within this backdrop.

In short, the analytic judgments of US Intel in this report are simply based on value judgments or on previous value judgments. But for some reason, these judgments once they are put together and pushed through the matrix of a convoluted algorithm of “evidentiary basis, logic and reasoning, and precedents,” these value judgments come out as evidence, as solid as it can ever get again in the US Intelligence Community, that Russia indeed hacked the DNC. Now you ask, how can certain conclusion derive from uncertain building blocks? How can one glean objective information from value judgments?

For the US Intelligence Community “rigorous analysis” is every bit about value judgments. Nothing more.


  1. Narmer Amenuti shares with us his analysis of the US Intelligence report released this Friday about the alleged Russian “hacking” of US Elections. Accordingly, the report which was supposed to assuage concerns about the lack of evidence to the effect that Russia hacked the DNC actually failed to remove doubts about its tenuous claims.

    In fact, there’s still no evidence that the Russian government hacked the DNC, or ordered the hack on the DNC, or even preferred Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the just ended US presidential elections. Narmer Amenuti has provided an astute general analysis of the report and has also provided a link for an in-depth review for anyone who wants to read more on the topic.

  2. For the price of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, I know someone from the former RLG Ghana who could have produced a more cogent analysis than the crap the US Intelligence Community has provided. I mean, Gee…! And Narmer Amenuti, what a first take! Excellent!

  3. The “intelligence” report is so ridiculous that you wonder if the authors IQ dropped to the level of room temperature or anal temperature to be less modest. Making claims such as RT being used to favor Trump as an indication of hacking and influencing the US elections. So the BBC a British government funded entity being openly pro Hilary and visibly anti Trump was okay. So RT bad propaganda, BBC good propaganda. George Orwell would be pleased with the big brother 1984 atmosphere in the Washington establishment lol

  4. The Ministry of Truth says: let’s redo the election. Why else would this “report” come out now. Even the jury is still out on the Clinton foundation but this report needed to finish well before jan 20. hmmmm…

  5. Thanks Narmer for laying down the framework for examining the report. The US intelligence community report asserts, for example, that President Putin must have ordered the hacking. It doesn’t say that the hacking of the election or influencing actually happened. No! But it says: “If it happened, Putin must have ordered it.”

    What does the report provide as evidence for this? It gives the fact that after the election, Russia did not question the validity of the election process and that it in some way supposes that Putin ordered that the process be hacked. Now, it as if because Putin did not question the validity of the election process in Ghana then Putin must have ordered a hack of the presidential elections in Ghana. It is sheer nonsense.

  6. It’s astonishing, really that the Western mainstream media now can boast of very few journalists anymore. The overwhelming number of them are just stenographers who type out the neoliberal and neocon narrative and don’t question the official line. Nobody of any intelligence could have read this report and believed it. Almost certainly the main stream journalists, who are supporting the report, have only read some of it at the start and have not actually read through the whole thing.

  7. That’s probably what they were banking on–that no one would read the entire report. Except they didn’t realize that 20 something pages isn’t very much. Maybe if the report was several hundred pages, few would read it. But then bloviating on paper is a tough sport. It’s not as easy a filibustering. Writing actually has to make some sense.

  8. Remember that just a week ago, the Washington Post, owned and directed by Jeff Bezos actually published a report that Russia hacked the Vermont Electric grid. That was an unsubstantiated Fake News story of Putin’s hacking of Vermont’s electric grid: Like, “here are the bloody Ruskies interfering with our electricity.” Unnamed “senior administration officials” went on and on about what it might mean that Russia hacked Vermont’s electric utility.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI quickly jumped in by issuing a joint analysis report, alleging that the Russians had indeed hacked Vermont’s Electric Grid: “that the Russian military and civilian services activity ‘is part of an ongoing campaing of cyber-enabled operations directed at the US government and its citizens.”

    Of ocurse, like this report about Russia hacking the US Elections, the false charges could not be supported, and were officially disavowed by the US government. One result was yet another retraction from the completely discredited Washington Post.

    What sticks is the false image of a nuclear power like Russia as a threat to another nuclear power. Those who produce these fake threats are leading the US into thermo-nuclear armageddon. But Gee… what do the insouciant people of the US care?


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