James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence during the Obama administration, has accused Politico of "deliberately" distorting an infamous letter signed by him and 50 other U.S. intelligence officials — a move to possibly discredit the New York Post's investigative piece into Hunter Biden's now-infamous laptop.
Clapper's argument against Politico apparently centers on "nuance" and semantics.
"There was message distortion," Clapper told The Washington Post in a story published Monday. "All we were doing was raising a yellow flag that this could be Russian disinformation. Politico deliberately distorted what we said. It was clear in paragraph five."
Then-Politico reporter Natasha Bertrand obtained the letter for a piece headlined, "Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say" — just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
Clapper and other 50 letter signers were seemingly trying to discredit the tenets of the Post's explosive story on Hunter Biden (Oct. 14, 2020) — before a wide audience of readers could digest the material.
A few weeks later, Joe Biden even cited the letter in a one-on-one debate with then-President Donald Trump, who subsequently shot back by accusing Biden of hiding behind that letter to protect his son.
Another signer of the Hunter Biden laptop letter, Thomas Fingar, recently told The Washington Post that no one should be "surprised" by any media members or politicians "willfully or unintentionally" offering misconstrued statements.
"The statement we signed was carefully written to minimize the likelihood that what was said would be misconstrued, and to provide a clear written record that could be used to identify and disprove distortions," Fingar, a former deputy Director of National Intelligence, wrote in the email to The Washington Post.
In its response to Clapper's claims, Politico told The Washington Post: "The article fairly and accurately reported on — and summarized — the intelligence officials' letter. More specifically, the headline is a fair summary of their allegations, the subhead offers additional context, and the first paragraph of the article hyperlinks to the letter itself, allowing readers to draw their own conclusion."
Clapper then responded to the same publication, saying the "intent of the letter was that this could be Russian disinformation — emphasis on could. It's a very important nuance ... a distinction that people are always ignoring."
Douglas Wise, a former Defense Intelligence Agency deputy director, reportedly told an Australian publication that signers of the Hunter Biden letter believed the laptop was somewhat legitimate, and that it might "make any Russian disinformation credible."
That aligned with another comment from Fingar, who reportedly agreed that most successful disinformation campaigns are based on factual information.
"From my experience, the most effective disinformation campaigns — what were called Soviet 'active measures' when I first encountered them during the Reagan administration — build on factual information," Fingar told the Post. "Pure fiction is less likely to fool target audiences. I suspect but do not know that other signers have drawn the same lesson."
Last week, previous executives at Twitter testified before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the company's decision to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story on social media, prior to the 2020 election — based on the reporting of the "Twitter Files" exposé.
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