CIA and FBI Give Divergent Accounts on Russia’s Meddling in the 2016 Election

FBI is also accused of influencing the Presidential Election result

fbi-cia-logoAccording to the latest article published in Washington Post, a secret meeting took place between lawmakers and FBI in a secure meeting room under the Capitol last week. The Republicans and Democrats had a classified letter in hand which was written by their colleagues in the Senate, summing up the CIA assessment report about Russia’s intervention in the U.S. election. The question they wanted to be answered was whether the bureau concurred with the conclusions made by CIA that Russia “quite” clearly intended to help Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton.

The Democrats in the room were in for a surprise as FBI official’s remarks were comparatively “fuzzy” and “ambiguous” suggesting that the FBI didn’t see eye to eye with the CIA on Russian meddling.

The conflicting messages from the bureau and the agency reveal the difficulty agencies have to face in interpreting fragmentary information. According to the officials in attendance, these different messages also reflect cultural differences between the bureau and the agency. Where FBI looks for concrete evidence to prove something beyond reasonable doubt, CIA is more inclined towards drawing inferences from behavior.

The difference was summed up by an “unnamed” official in the following words:-

The FBI briefers think in terms of criminal standards — can we prove this in court. CIA briefers weigh the preponderance of intelligence and then make judgment calls to help policymakers make informed decisions. High confidence for them means ‘we’re pretty damn sure.’ It doesn’t mean they can prove it in court.

While FBI is convinced that the efforts went one way, they are not sold on the idea that Russia had a specific aim (or a mix of related goals) for the meddling.

The cloudy nature of the assessments is making many lawmakers demand a clear answer to Kremlin’s role in the presidential race. The FBI, under Director James Comey already came under attack when a letter was released with “possible” links to Clinton’s private server investigation. Although the emails proved irrelevant, Democrats believe that it played a significant role in turning the election result. Outgoing Senate Minority Leader, Harry M. Reid on Saturday called on Comey to resign, saying that the FBI deliberately kept quiet about the evidence about Russia’s motives before the election.

The strict classification rules are holding the evidence about Russia’s role shrouded in secrecy. Democrats and Republicans who have access to the underlying intelligence say that the evidence is prone to more than one interpretation, and the already divided public think that the lawmakers are just advocating the conclusion they think is in conformity with the stand of the candidate they backed in the election.

During the briefing which lasted almost two hours, Democratic lawmakers were repeatedly pinning FBI down on whether it believed that Russia had a preference in who won the election. The Republicans lawmaker, on the contrary, welcomed the caution by FBI. They were of the opinion that CIA didn’t have any basis for coming to conclusions presented to the Senate panel.