October 22, 2016

Joy Reid's handling of the WikiLeaks trickle of private emails is the first actually honest discussion I've seen around the ethics of reporting on the contents of John Podesta's email, but it's also a much larger discussion about Russia's interference in our elections.

AHEM: This is where I remind everyone that the DNC is a private organization and John Podesta is a private citizen. The emails they're dumping right now are the fruit of a virtual burglary of private, proprietary communications by private citizens.

Reid made the same point at the top of the segment, where she asked Nance how much confidence anyone can have in the content, given that it's passed through the FSB on its way to the Wikileaks servers. His answer was predictable. Zero.

Things got more interesting when Steve Cortes tried to confuse the Wikileaks dump with Clinton's State Department emails. He was slapped down for suggesting her private server was hacked. According to the FBI report, there's no evidence of any hacks into her private server, even as U.S. government servers were breached. Cortes just didn't have a good answer for that.

Nance expanded:

NANCE: Right. And you can see the outlines of how Russian intelligence agencies, their version of NSA, Russian military intelligence of the KGB -- FSB as we call them now, how they didn't get into the server or allow targeting at the time to penetrate the server. What they've done is a circle of intercepts around her by people who would have access to the key information she would have communicated with. So they went to softer faster easier targets. That's how we would do it if we were focusing on an individual like trying to get Putin's input on things. We would go to people who use e-mail. So for the most part. Hillary doesn't have to actually be -- you know, actually have to get into her server to get information related to her as we're seeing on these hacks.

But then again this is a Russian intelligence agency, targeting the United States in an active cyber warfare operation.

And if you side with that. If you side with Wikileaks. That's what you're asking for.

Cortes then tried to veer the discussion off-track by claiming Clinton wants a war with Russia, only to be forced back on that claim as well.

CORTES: I would say to that larger point about Russia. Forget about leaks. What she has said publicly, I find it fascinating. It's almost like the cold war has been flipped on its head. We have no illusions in the Trump camp that Russia is our dear friend. She's plunging head first into war with Russia, talking about a no-fly zone in Syria. I believe if she becomes President, we're going to be in an actual armed conflict with Russia that is totally unnecessary from our point of view.

REID: When has she said she wants to be in an armed conflict with Russia?

CORTES: She wants a no-fly zone in Russia, which is essentially a declaration of war at least in theory over Syria.

REID: In Russia?

CORTES: Syria.


REID: Let me ask Malcolm about this. You're the expert. What do you make of what Steve just said?

NANCE: Well, certainly, you know, I don't believe Hillary Clinton wants a hot war with Russia. That has never been on the table.

That right there, that talking point, and the talking points of the Trump campaign, certainly including the dissolution of NATO, the breaking up of the European Union, and allowing Russia to have free rein in Eastern Europe and Syria, those are the talking points of the Kremlin.

And it shows a successful operation that has co-opted what would have been a traditional conservative campaign and turned it into a mouthpiece for another nation.

All of this warhawk talk, you see it in Russian state propaganda. Sputnik, Russia Today, organizations very close to the campaign, utterly amazing how you've said the Democratic party has become a party of the nationalism and the Trump campaign have become technically active surrogates of foreign agents.

There are two reasons we haven't covered the Wikileaks dump more extensively. First, because I have no confidence that all of the leaks are real. I do have confidence that some of them are real. For example, there's no question that there are emails in the bunch which point to the intent of the Clinton campaign to win the primary. However, those aren't particularly newsworthy. It should go without saying that the Clinton campaign wanted to win the primary.

That brings me to the second point. These are, once again, discussions held in email between private citizens who had an expectation that they were speaking in private. This to me is not much different than having a telephone conversation as a private citizen and expecting not to have my phone bugged.

Assuming the speech excerpts are authentic, those could possibly be newsworthy to cover. But heat-of-the-campaign gossip between campaign operatives operating in a private capacity? Not so much.

And again, it can't escape notice that these thefts are a one-way street, intended to do harm to Hillary Clinton's campaign for the benefit of Donald Trump's efforts. Nothing will save him. The only thing being accomplished here is what Nance alludes to -- foreign interference in our elections. We view the effort to interfere as far more newsworthy than the tools with which they are using to interfere.

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