- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s recent three-hour meeting with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange as reported earlier this week by The Hill may prove interesting in light of the allegations of several former high-ranking U.S. intelligence analysts that the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians or anyone else prior to last fall’s presidential election.

Mr. Rohrabacher said little after the meeting other than that Mr. Assange repeated his denial that the materials he obtained and made public did not come from the Russians, but claimed he had more information about what actually happened that he intended to share with President Trump.

The “common wisdom” in Washington circles is that the Russians were responsible for illegally hacking into the DNC computers during the campaign and leaked the emails thus obtained through WikiLeaks, but recent revelations suggest that there is at least a possibility that the “common wisdom” is dead flat wrong. If it is wrong and can be proven, the charges of “collusion” so dear to Mr. Trump’s opponents could collapse.

The Nation magazine earlier this month published a lengthy report on the conclusions of a number of intelligence analysts who have looked at the available evidence and concluded that it would have been physically impossible for the Russians to have done what Mr. Trump’s critics allege.

They maintain that the information that made its way into the public sphere wasn’t hacked at all, but leaked by someone within the DNC itself.

The Nation piece, by Patrick Lawrence titled “A New Report Raises Big Questions about Last Year’s DNC Hack,” claimed that for technical reasons, the data that was supposedly downloaded to a hacker could not have been downloaded in the manner alleged because the underlying data they analyzed showed it was downloaded far faster than would have been possible given the technology available to the supposed hacker at the time.

The only way they believe the data could have been downloaded in the time it was in fact downloaded was if the job was done internally to something like a thumb drive that was later turned over to WikiLeaks.

The piece resulted in turmoil within the left-wing publication itself with many writers and contributors bitterly suggesting it should never have been printed because the publication has some sort of obligation to only publish material that strengthens rather than weakens the case against the president they despise.

Many were particularly upset that the piece was picked up and praised by a number of conservative publications and commentators.

In response to the attacks, Katrina vanden Heuvel, the Nation’s editor and publisher has launched what she is calling a “post publication review” of the article.

It is certainly true that the allegations in the article are both controversial and contested, but it is at least possible that whether the Nation decides to trash its own writer and disavow the conclusions of his article, the analysts quoted in it are right.

The Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump’s enemies take it as fact that the Russians were behind the “hacks” and that they constituted an attempt by Vladimir Putin’s regime to “affect” the outcome of the election and hint openly that it was all done in collusion with the Trump campaign. That, after all, is what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to prove.

They almost as one dismiss evidence to the contrary, relying on the “consensus” view of “seventeen” US intelligence agencies that it was indeed the Russians who did it. The “consensus” view as former Obama Director of Intelligence James Clapper has since admitted was put together by “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies and never underwent the rigorous review one might have expected.

This is, of course, the same James Clapper who had earlier been caught lying to Congress.

When the Nation article first appeared, the Democratic National Committee responded in writing “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration.”

When The Hill article reporting on the Rohrabacher/Assange meeting appeared, the DNC was at it again, “We’ll take the word of the U.S. intelligence community over Julian Assange and Putin’s favorite Congressman,” said DNC Deputy Communications Director Adrienne Watson,

There are conspiracies and then there are conspiracies. Julian Assange may have the proof as to who is right and who is fantasizing and if he provided that proof to Mr. Rohrabacher things could get very interesting for all involved and especially for Mr. Clapper and those who have relied on his “consensus view.”

• David A. Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.

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