On Friday the CIA, FBI and NSA released a joint report alleging that Russian foreign intelligence services used disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks to help get Donald Trump elected. But this morning the Kremlin shot back. And they used words pretty identical to Donald Trump in the process.
“We are growing rather tired of these accusations. It is becoming a full on witch hunt,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on a phone call this morning with a number of news organisations. Coincidentally, Trump himself called the report a “political witch hunt” on Friday.
It’s unclear if the identical language was used by the Kremlin coincidentally or as a way to antagonise the US intelligence services that issued the report.
“Without getting too far in front of the headlights of our rollout next week to the Congress, this was a multifaceted campaign,” James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence testified to members of the Senate on Friday. “The hacking was one part of it, but it also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
The unclassified version of the report that was released on Friday has been criticised for lacking concrete evidence tying Russia to the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and strategist John Podesta’s email account. The contents of those hacks were supplied to Wikileaks, which shared them with the world in the lead up to the US presidential election.
“These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level that is hardly worthy of professional work of truly world class security services,” said Peskov.
The denunciation of the report as “amateurish” and unworthy of “truly world class security services” is the strongest condemnation of the CIA yet from Moscow. And clearly intended as a rather direct “screw you” for fingering Russia in the report.
“We still don’t know what data is really being used by those who present such unfounded accusations,” Peskov said this morning.
“We are still categorically denying any implication of Moscow and any accusations that officials or official government agencies have anything to do with hacking attacks,” he continued.
The editor-in-chief of RT (formerly Russia Today) shared similar sentiments in a blog post this weekend. Though, perhaps notably, that editor, Margarita Simonyan, did not use the term “witch hunt”. RT is the Kremlin’s international propaganda arm, not unlike the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in the United States.
The post by Simonyan called the US intelligence report the “comedy hit of the year”. The editor in chief gave a run down of ways in which she couldn’t possibly be taking instructions directly from the Kremlin, something that’s completely unnecessary for a propaganda arm of any state actor to do when the journalists of that organisation know what’s expected of them.
Whether Russian intelligence agencies were involved in tipping the US election for Trump or not, we’re about to witness an unprecedented relationship between the President of the United States and his own intelligence services.
An incoming president has never been so publicly at odds with the CIA and NSA, and we’re truly in uncharted waters when it comes to where the US goes from here. If Trump and his own intelligence agencies continue squabbling we can probably expect, at best, plenty more Snowden-level leaks in the years to come.
Worst case scenario? The instability ripples around the world and we’ll tell our grandchildren about an antiquated notion of civilisation as we huddle around barrels of “Make America Great Again” hats to stay warm.