Streetwise Professor

December 10, 2016

The CIA Leak About the DNC & Podesta Leaks: The Ad Hominem Fallacy Run Amok

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:52 am

Today’s Daily Freak Out relates to a WaPoo story claiming that a “secret” (not any more!) CIA study has concluded that Russians with “links to the Russian government” provided Wikileaks with the hacked DNC and Podesta emails. (I only note in passing the irony of leaking a document to stoke outrage about leaks. Evidently judgments about leaking are instrumental and situational.)

If the CIA has identified individuals who at the very least are accessories, presumably the FBI and DOJ will launch criminal investigation and (if the evidence is a rock solid as the CIA claims) indict them. Unless that happens, I put the credibility of this report somewhere around the level of Curve Ball and aluminum tubes.

Even the “secret” report acknowledges that the CIA has no evidence that these purported individuals were directed by the Russian government. Instead, the CIA infers that the Russian government intended to influence the election based on the (alleged) fact that the RNC was also hacked, but its communications were not leaked.

Can the CIA actually be this stupid? (Rhetorical question alert!)

If the DNC and Podesta emails were damaging, it was because they revealed highly unflattering information about Hillary Clinton and her legions of flying monkeys in Democratic Party circles. The leaked documents revealed that the DNC was actively partisan in its support for Hillary, and took active measures to rig the process against Bernie Sanders. (Which is why I still wouldn’t rule out that a disgruntled Bernie-ite in the DNC played a role here.) Individually and collectively, the emails cemented the narrative of a corrupt Hillary and a corrupt party establishment rigging the system against Sanders: the narrative was already out there, with plenty of evidence to back it up, and these emails just put the cherry on the sundae. They revealed that Hillary and the Democratic National Committee were actively anti-democratic.

It is quite possible that RNC emails would have also revealed a party apparatus intent on undermining an insurgent candidate. Who would have been Trump. That is, whereas the DNC and Podesta emails showed Hillary and her minions to be the perpetrators of an offense, the most likely scenario is that the RNC documents would have shown Trump to be the target and victim of a campaign to disable his candidacy. That would have actually played to Trump’s benefit! It would have fit right in with his narrative of a man fighting the system and the establishment. It would have confirmed all of the criticism he had leveled against the party during the primaries.

Can you see the difference here? If your IQ is above 85 or thereabouts, I presume so. But then apparently you would be disqualified for working as a crack analyst at the CIA.

And let’s always keep one fact in mind. Those who decry the impact of the leaks are effectively taking the position that it would have been better for the American people to have cast their votes in ignorance. That the problem with the leaks wasn’t that they were lies: it was that they revealed unpleasant truths. The provenance of the documents, and how they came to light is secondary or tertiary: the content is primary. If your defense is “it’s an outrage I got caught and those who caught me are dirty bastards”, you deserve no deference or sympathy.

This controversy is the ad hominem fallacy run amok, that it is the speaker (or the source) not the substance that matters.  If revelations about your conduct contributed to the election of a mercurial political neophyte, your conduct, not the party that brought it to light (no matter their motives) is to blame.


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  1. At the election I thought people should hold their noses and vote for Trump: better the absurd candidate that the appalling one. Since the election, everything that’s happened has made me wonder whether I was wrong. Maybe the Dems ran a candidate who was both appalling and absurd.

    Comment by dearieme — December 10, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

  2. If Russian intelligence thought (like most did) that Hillary would win, then dumping a lot of kompromat on her would have helped, all else equal, weaken an incoming President. Trump, in this scenario, was irrelevant (other than building, through his campaign antics, the expectation that he couldn’t win).

    Comment by Phil Rothman — December 10, 2016 @ 1:32 pm

  3. So the Russian propaganda succeeded when the propaganda from CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, NYT, practically every MSM outlet, every European media outlet, every European politician, the Pope, Streisand, Lady Gaga, all of Hollywood and every kind of celebrity with a PR agent with a pulse all were promoting HRC? Is that the premise? Does that make sense to you?

    Comment by Richard Whitney — December 11, 2016 @ 10:22 am

  4. Let’s talk about the vaunted halls of the CIA for just a moment. How much of this terrific “spy” agency (the bureaucrats of it, primarily) has shown efficacy in deterrence since the OSS days when Wild Bill got in bed with Joe’s boys? The rank and file at the “company” have always paid felty to their masters. It’s not been the rank and file who’ve created the messes we’ve stepped into–Iraq, Russian collapse, et al. Worst of all, in clandestine agencies has throughout history been, inept leadership from the Whitehouse. After eight solid years of socialist dithering and “leading from the crapper” I would expect no less a report of solid “evidence” that Russians outed the lib’s indescretions so that Trump could win–I’m sorry, some in the Kremlin are smart enough to have foreseen the glory days coming in with a President Clinton.
    Leave the CIA to fix its position among the stars with some real leadership while we all tell the libs to, …, well, words escape me.
    Simply put, media-libs (alloneword), go sit down!

    Comment by Wayne Brown — December 12, 2016 @ 11:58 am

  5. I don’t think that Americans should be forced to choose: Sure, the DNC has behaved badly and, by making it public, I think that whoever made this leak has done a favour for American democracy in the long term.

    However, if the source of that leak was Russia, then both left and right in America should be very concerned. If the reaction is muted just because the hack and subsequent leak were only damaging to those already up to no good, it might embolden the hackers to escalate their actions for next time.

    I mean, it’s your country and all, but I think the left are too busy carping about Trump and the right are too busy thinking “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to bother asking themselves if this presents a real risk in the future…

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — December 16, 2016 @ 5:21 am

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