Prove it

Former U.S. senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada once told a tale of how he heard from U.S. intelligence how secure the Shah of Iran was not long before he fell from power. Our spies were caught completely by surprise. While we hate being on the same side as Donald Trump, we’re not ready to believe the stories of Russia tampering with our election just because U.S. intelligence says it happened.

It’s time for our government to come forward with the evidence of election problems. This vague, nebulous, non-specific claim isn’t flying.

PBS Newshour: “Top intelligence officials stop short of providing evidence of Russian hacking at Senate hearing.”

Japan Times: “Charges of Russian hacking fall flat without evidence.”

Wired: “Feds’ Damning Report on Russian Election Hack Won’t Convince Skeptics.”

Whenever we read a news report on this topic, there’s always a line where the evidence fails to appear: “The officials declined to describe the intelligence obtained.”

Meanwhile, Democrats—always legitimately critical of Trump’s use of bogus information—seized on what are just rumors to claim election fraud. It’s not easy to support good relations with Russia while demonizing it.

Then there are the patriotic chauvinists who seem to think Trump should be loyal to U.S. intelligence. Slate: “Why Does Donald Trump Continue to Defend Russia and Attack U.S. Intelligence?” Doyle McManus: “Trump just compared the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany. Let that sink in.” Los Angeles Times: “Trump hurts himself and the nation by trashing the intelligence community.” Let’s keep in mind that what Russia is accused of, U.S. intelligence is an old hand at. Our agents have overthrown, installed or destabilized governments all over the planet, causing the United States endless problems.

U.S. intelligence agencies are just that—agencies, like OSHA or the Veteran’s Administration. They should be subject to scrutiny by journalists like McManus and presidents like Trump—and especially by Congress. If they engage in misconduct, as U.S. intelligence frequently has done, they should be called to account.

The record of U.S. intelligence is abysmal, from the promise that exiles landing at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 could “melt into the mountains” to contributing to the uncooked evidence of weapons of mass destruction in 2003. Major developments, like Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, got by U.S. intelligence completely.

What we want in the present case is congressional hearings—open hearings—in which evidence is subpoenaed and examined. There should be no withholding anything for national security. There should be no extended period for declassifying records. This was our election, not the government’s, and we should get all the information fast. Public confidence is part of national security. The case should be presented in language all—not just Wired and Bill Gates—can understand. And there should be clear distinctions drawn between “influencing” an election and “hacking” an election.

If our government wants us to believe Russia behaved like—well, like our government, then it needs to prove it. Lay it all out.