A recently released Intelligence Community (IC) report lets China off the hook for 2020 election meddling and tags Russia for interfering. Concluding China was not a significant factor was the majority conclusion of the National Intelligence Council in its 10 March 2021, “Intelligence Community Assessment – Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections.” The minority view from the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Cyber did not agree, explaining that China may very well have meddled. As the NIO explained, this opinion “gives more weight to indications that Beijing preferred former President Trump’s defeat and the election of a more predictable member of the establishment instead and that Beijing implemented – and later increased – its election influence efforts, especially over the summer of 2020.”
Few in the main-stream media picked up on that fact. The recent report is not the first time the IC has been misleading in its assessment. In Liberty Nation’s “Intelligence Community Says It Warned of Coronavirus – It Didn’t,” LN explained that the IC’s habit of providing vague intelligence assessments is not helpful. This latest IC assessment, intentionally or not, leads the reader away from what is a relevant point of view that should have been given more credence.
The IC’s election meddling report minority view did not escape Jack Phillips, a reporter for The Epoch Times. Phillips points out:
“A report from the U.S. intelligence community suggests that a minority of intelligence officials believed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did, in fact, attempt to hinder former President Donald Trump’s chances in the 2020 election, while reporting that the CCP did not deploy interference efforts…The National Intelligence Officer for Cyber assesses that China took at least some steps to undermine former President Trump’s reelection chances, primarily through social media and official public statements and media.”
Why is the National Intelligence Council minority view significant? In this case, it’s essential because it comes from the NIO for Cyber. If the Chinese were going to interfere in any way with the U.S. election process, the cyber world would be the most likely battleground.
To be fair, the primary finding of the IC assessment, was that because “Beijing probably judged risk of interference was not worth the reward.” There was a confidence in the Majority View that the Chinese Communist Party would be faced with essentially the same bilateral issues regardless of the election outcome. To spend time and energy attempting to meddle in the election process would not yield a sufficient benefit and could have a costly downside.
The Majority View, in this case, is very reminiscent of the intelligence failure during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A report from the Hoover Institute explained:
“’The establishment on Cuban soil of Soviet nuclear striking forces which could be used against the U.S. would be incompatible with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it,’ the estimate starkly concluded. The estimate justified this judgment at some length, noting that the Soviets had never placed any such weapons even in Soviet satellite countries before…”
As we all know, the Soviets did put nuclear-capable missiles in Cuba, despite the IC’s determination that it would be “incompatible with Soviet” policy. It is entirely possible, and perhaps likely, that China did attempt to interfere in the 2020 U.S. national election in a way that has proven effective for them – cyber-meddling. Additionally, China has a history of using cyberattacks on the U.S., as Secretary of State Antony Blinken charged in the recent U.S.-China talks in Alaska. In this case, the weight of the argument in favor of China attempting to influence the U.S. presidential race favors the minority conclusion.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
Read more from Dave Patterson.
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