Wednesday, January 12, 2022

James Comey and media scandal


James Comey and Our Poisoned Politics


This week marks the fifth anniversary of perhaps the greatest media scandal of our age. Outlets like CNN and BuzzFeed flogged a bogus dossier of salacious claims funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, even while admitting they didn’t know whether the dossier’s allegations against Donald Trump were true or false. It wasn’t necessarily that reporters had mistaken fake news for the real stuff—they simply didn’t care or acknowledge that they had an obligation to vet anti-Trump claims before disseminating them.

The pathetic media excuse for running with the story was that important people in the government were talking about it. And no one wanted to talk about it more than the FBI’s then-director, James Comey. He kept talking about it even after his department had failed to corroborate it, and even though the CIA viewed it as mere “Internet rumor.”

On this day five years ago, Mr. Comey emailed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. As the dossier story was raging in the press, Mr. Comey mounted an unsuccessful effort to stop Mr. Clapper from publicly acknowledging that U.S. intelligence agencies had not deemed the dossier reliable and were not relying upon its claims, which had been compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

According to the Obama-appointed Justice Department inspector general who reported on the government abuses in this case in 2019, Mr. Comey’s Jan. 11, 2017 email to Mr. Clapper included the following:

I just had a chance to review the proposed talking points on this for today. Perhaps it is a nit, but I worry that it may not be best to say “The IC has not made any judgment that the information in the document is reliable.” I say that because we HAVE concluded that the source [Steele] is reliable and has a track record with us of reporting reliable information; we have some visibility into his source network, some of which we have determined to be sub-sources in a position to report on such things; and much of what he reports in the current document is consistent with and corroborative of other reporting...

In the long history of Beltway bureaucratic maneuvering, has a government memo ever included so much inaccuracy in so few words? Mr. Steele had already been fired by the FBI as a confidential source, and his story was falling apart. The day after the Comey email, the FBI received a U.S. intelligence report warning of a particular inaccuracy in the dossier and assessing that the material was “part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”

Read the article (paywall)

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