Greenwald To Stelter: "Don't Just Blindly And Uncritically Accept The Claims Of Intelligence Community"

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BRIAN STELTER, CNN: Well, whether he's watching or not, let's turn to Trump's tweets because this is something we've seen all week long -- Trump deflecting, downplaying the importance of Russian meddling. And that's where you come in, because you've been outspoken on this, saying that journalists should be very skeptical of the U.S. government claims. Lay out your case for us.

GLENN GREENWALD, THE INTERCEPT: So, I think everybody would agree that it's certainly plausible that this is something that Russia might have done. I certainly wouldn't put it past them. It wouldn't shock me if it turns out that they did. This is the sort of thing Russia and the U.S. have done to other countries and to one another for many decades, including over the last ten years. So, nobody would say that Russia didn't do it or that it would be shocking if they did.

But there's a lesson -- a really critical lesson that I thought we have learned back in August 1964 when the U.S. Senate stood up and authorized Lyndon Johnson to escalate the war in Vietnam with two dissenting votes, based on the intelligence community's claims about what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, that turned out to be totally false.

And the same lesson in 2002 when a group of bipartisan senators assured the nation that the intelligence community convinced them that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was in alliance with al Qaeda.

And the same lesson we learned in 2013, when just months before the Snowden reporting, James Clapper, President Obama's top national security official, lied to the faces of the country when he said that he wants to assure everybody that the NSA doesn't collect data on millions of Americans.

And that lesson is, we don't just blindly and uncritically accept the claims of the intelligence community, especially provocative claims about a foreign adversary, without seeing convincing evidence presented by them that those claims are true. And we absolutely have not seen that in this case.

STELTER: Do you think there's a related lesson here, which is that as political polarization increases in the U.S. and elsewhere, partisans will take their own sides, they will dismiss conflicting information? We saw it in 2003 with the run-up to the Iraq war. We're seeing it now but in a different direction with regards to Russia.

GREENWALD: Absolutely. I mean, the whole phenomenon of fake news which has so many people worried about, at its heart has this idea that we've balkanized ourselves on the Internet and on cable news, that we can simply believe whatever is pleasing or flattering to us.

And this idea that we ought to be skeptical about the intelligence community is one that just a few years ago was extremely popular. In fact, I would call it conventional wisdom among Democrats and progressives and liberals who really learned the hard lesson, not just from Vietnam, but from Iraq. And now, you have a complete role reversal, where it's Republicans who are expressing skepticism of the CIA and Democrats who are saying, if you don't believe the CIA, it means you're disloyal and unpatriotic and you're siding with a dictator against your own country.

And I think it has to do with exactly what you just said, which is that we have this tendency to believe whatever we want to believe and adopt whatever principles are most convenient for it at the moment...

You know, when George Bush was president, Dick Cheney was out there, they are saying, "People who don't accept what the CIA says are traitors and on the side of Saddam." And now, you have Democrats who are saying that.

So, I think Obama is absolutely correct. You shouldn't reject what the CIA is claiming simply because it helps a Republican to do so. But the other side is also true, which is that you're not obligated through patriotism or decency to simply accept what the CIA says, lest you'd be accused of siding with a foreign dictator, or being unpatriotic.

What should determine the discourse is the evidence presented. And it's on the key claims that Putin directed this hacking and did so to elect Donald Trump. There is no evidence for it. Not unpersuasive evidence, or inadequate evidence, no evidence. Just CIA assertions over and over. And that just simply is not enough.

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