The Associated Press “clarified” a false claim it’s been running in stories about President Trump and Russia on Friday, conceding in a release it’s not the case that 17 intelligence agencies “agreed” on the hacking narrative.
The correction to four reports on Trump and Russia comes the same day The New York Times issued a similar correction to a Maggie Haberman report. Both TheNYT and the AP now say the claim they’ve been floating for months is incorrect. (RELATED: The NYT Issued An Absurdly Worded Correction On Russia. We Fixed It For Them)
“The Associated Press reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump,” the AP stated, citing four specific reports from as early as April that made the assertion. “That assessment was based on information collected by three agencies – the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency – and published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents all U.S. intelligence agencies.”
“Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment,” the statement concludes.
The timing of both corrections is odd, since the facts of the claim have not changed since it began circulating in October of 2016, just before the presidential election, and the figure was clearly debunked as early as May of this year. Hillary Clinton used the large number to ridicule Trump on the campaign trail, and has reiterated the claim in recent months, along with other Democrats and members of the press.
The October DNI report did not specify which agencies conducted the assessment on Russian meddling, but of the 17 agencies it’s clear which ones would have purview — the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency. Indeed, further clarification from the DNI in 2017 made it clear these were the only three agencies involved. None of the other agencies overseen by the DNI publicly disagreed with the finding Russia tried to interfere, but that is to be expected, since none of them conducted a review.
Framing the consensus as the result of 17 separate analyses was just as obviously wrong in October as now in June. It’s always been clear that intel agencies run by the Coast Guard or the Department of Energy would not be expected to investigate and weigh in on an election hacking attempt.
The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said as much in a May Senate hearing. The Daily Caller News Foundation also addressed the claim in a fact check of a Hillary Clinton interview after she again reiterated it in May.
The AP identified four reports in which the false claim ran, but it’s unlikely all of those reports will be corrected, since the wire service reports are blasted out to news outlets all over the world for publication.
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