17 intelligence agencies–not

Maggie Haberman is one of the New York Times’s White House reporters, and I think she’s a good one. Sometimes, however, you have to wonder if Times reporters follow the news, or imbibe it straight, no chaser. In a story earlier this week, Haberman repeated the canard that 17 intelligence agencies concurred in the post-election report on Russian meddling. Yesterday the Times appended a correction to Haberman’s article:

A White House Memo article on Monday about President Trump’s deflections and denials about Russia referred incorrectly to the source of an intelligence assessment that said Russia orchestrated hacking attacks during last year’s presidential election. The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.

Hillary Clinton recited the “17 intelligence agencies” canard repeatedly during the campaign. Did the Times ever correct her on it or include it in a list of her many, many lies? That’s a rhetorical question.

The “17 intelligence agencies” canard is still repeated by reporters and talking heads on the news. It is a ubiquitous error.

The declassified version of the intelligence report is posted online here. It states that its analytic assessment was “drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.” The Times adds the concurrence of James Clapper and the ODNI to make four. It’s a fact known by anyone who followed the story in any detail.

Now about the agencies’ assessment that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him” — we’ll have revisit that one some time soon. In the meantime, I will only say that I think it may be even more misleading than the CIA’s strategically timed December 2007 national intelligence assessment that Iran had suspended its nuclear program in 2003 (“despite the fact that Iran was testing missiles that could be used as a delivery system and had announced its resumption of uranium enrichment”).

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