Why the FBI disagrees with CIA on Russian hack

The C.I.A. concluded Friday that Russia was attempting to aid Donald Trump in the presidential election [AFP/File / SAUL LOEB]
The C.I.A. concluded Friday that Russia was attempting to aid Donald Trump in the presidential election [AFP/File / SAUL LOEB]

The Central Intelligence Agency last week announced that they believed Russia was not only involved in hacks into Democratic operatives’ email accounts but that Russia did so specifically to support Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The C.I.A. report has had several critics, most prominently Trump himself, who called it “ridiculous” and pointed out that the C.I.A. was wrong 14 years ago about there being weapons of mass destruction located in Iraq.

However, there is another group critical of the findings, one slightly less personally involved in the matter than Trump: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the New York Times, a senior law enforcement official there said “the Russians probably had a combination of goals, including damaging Mrs. Clinton and undermining American democratic institutions.”

Of course, that sounds very similar to what the C.I.A. is saying–Russia was involved to help Trump versus Russia was involved to hurt Clinton. Still, the F.B.I. is insistent on making the distinction. As the Times article states, “Whether one of those goals was to install Mr. Trump remains unclear to the F.B.I.”

One of the differences is perhaps the standards of proof in each agency. The F.B.I. creates criminal cases that are tried in court, whereas the C.I.A. gathers intelligence and doesn’t need to be held to the criminal standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The F.B.I. has been investigating the hacks since the summer and apparently came close to fingering a Trump connection in August and September but backed off as the election neared. On October 28, Director James Comey sent Congress a letter regarding their investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a letter which some believe cost Clinton the election.

Now retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is saying that the F.B.I. is hiding evidence, which he was briefed on back in the late summer, tying Russia to Trump.

“The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge specific information about Russia and the presidential election,” Reid said on Saturday. Comey, Reid said, “has let the country down for partisan reasons.”

12/12/2016 12:02 PM by David Kinzer

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