Rich Lowry / Dec. 15, 2020

The Embarrassing Russian Disinformation Canard

This is the kind of story voters should be aware of when choosing a president.

If there’s one thing that the Hunter Biden laptop episode has proven, it is that former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency aren’t as adept at evaluating evidence as advertised.

Five former directors or acting directors of the CIA signed a letter asserting that the laptop, first reported by the New York Post in the weeks before the election, “has all the hallmarks of Russian information operation.”

More than 50 former senior intelligence officials, including former director of national intelligence James Clapper, endorsed the letter, which was used by the Biden campaign and the press to discredit the damning emails about Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

The signatories should have thought better of their missive when they felt compelled to include the line, “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”

That also should have tipped reporters off to the fact that the letter was rank speculation masquerading as informed analysis, but true to form, they happily ran with it instead.

In a complete reversal from the Cold War era, journalists in the Trump years have not only reflexively believed representations from national security professionals about nefarious Russian plots, they have actively sought them out and promoted them.

In this case, it was former U.S. intelligence officials who were spreading disinformation in an attempt to mislead the American public about a consequential matter touching on the frontrunner in an American presidential campaign. The call came from inside the house.

Anyone believing the officials, who used their past titles and long experience to lend credibility to their letter, would have been shocked to learn last week that Hunter Biden is under federal investigation for tax crimes.

According to news reports, the laptop hasn’t advanced the investigation, but the feds have looked at it and there’s no indication that it’s so-called foreign disinfo.

The provenance of the laptop wasn’t, to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous line about Soviet foreign policy, a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma, but as simple as Hunter Biden — not the most careful person — accidentally leaving it at a Wilmington, Delaware, repair shop.

The idea that the Russians drove the laptop story was always far-fetched. Certainly, no one would ever accuse Rudy Giuliani, who brought the device to light, of being a credible source of information. But if the Russians were behind it, they would have had to fabricate the laptop, drop it off at the repair shop hoping that the owner would eventually look at it and be alarmed enough to tell someone about its contents, or compromise the repair shop owner and make him a tool in their operation.

This might have been plausible if we, indeed, have been living in a Russian spy novel for the last five years. We haven’t.

Still, Democrats and the media relentlessly hewed to the Russian disinformation line. Of course, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff spouted it, “We know that this whole smear on Joe Biden comes from the Kremlin.” Biden used it to deflect during a debate with Trump, “There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plan[t].” And the press, like Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” who did in an interview with Trump, insisted that there was absolutely nothing to see here.

We don’t know where the Hunter Biden story ends up. But if he gets indicted, it’s at least going to be a significant distraction for President Joe Biden and raise questions about how much he knew about his son’s sketchy dealings.

This is the kind of story voters should be aware of when choosing a president. And they would have been if there hadn’t, in effect, been an American conspiracy to misinform people, led by former U.S. intelligence officials who shamefully abused the public trust.

© 2020 by King Features Syndicate

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