As leftists, we need to treat the CIA’s claims of Russian election manipulation skeptically.

The Washington Post published quite the humdinger last night.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

The New York Times followed not long after with a similarly shocking story.

…the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

Whoa, if true. Right?

I’m a person inclined to believe these stories. Based on Trump’s blatant requests for Russian hacking of his political opponent, Trump’s ex-Campaign Chairman’s work for a pro-Russian Ukranian political party, and claims from Russian diplomats that Russia was in contact with the Trump campaign, the notion that Russia also had a hand in interfering on behalf of Trump is at least feasible.

And yet…

The entirety of The Washington Post‘s and The New York Times‘ articles are based on claims from the CIA, rather than hard evidence produced by the agency. Which is why, despite my gut feeling that Russia was involved in such nefarious efforts, I can’t yet say with any certainty that they’re definitely true.

Moreover, it’s important that we don’t promote these claims as fact unless we are absolutely sure of their validity. Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

…the more serious the claim is – and accusing a nuclear-armed power of directly and deliberately interfering in the U.S. election in order to help the winning candidate is about as serious as a claim can get –the more important it is to demand evidence before believing it. Wars have started over far less serious claims than this one. People like Lindsey Graham are already beating their chest, demanding that the U.S. do everything in its power to punish Russia and “Putin personally.”

Nobody should need an explainer about why it’s dangerous in the extreme to accept such inflammatory accusations on faith or, worse, based on the anonymous assurances of intelligence officials, in lieu of seeing the actual evidence.

Trump is already taking a haphazard approach to our diplomatic relationships with major foreign powers. We on the left shouldn’t join him in that recklessness.

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