- Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell testified to the House Judiciary Committee that an intel letter signed by 51 officials casting down on the Hunter Biden laptop story was “triggered” by conversations from the Biden campaign.
- Groups and experts that study disinformation did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s questions about whether the campaign used misinformation practices.
- “The silence of so-call ‘disinformation experts’ ropes them into the clown show as well,” Tom Jones, American Accountability Foundation president, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “When these elites wonder why the American people don’t trust them anymore, perhaps they should look in the mirror.”
Experts on disinformation are staying silent after news broke that the Biden campaign prompted a letter signed by 51 intelligence officers that cast doubt on the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell testified to the House Judiciary Committee that the letter, which likened the laptop story to a “Russian information operation,” was “triggered” by conversations with Biden campaign Senior Advisor and now-Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Several groups and individuals dedicated to studying and exposing “disinformation” did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s repeated request for comment about whether the campaign partook in misinformation practices and whether or not people should be skeptical of previous attempts to suppress the story.
“Joe Biden – or perhaps more accurately, Joe Biden’s handlers – organized one of the biggest election year disinformation campaigns since Hillary Clinton’s absurd attempt just a few years earlier. Democrats are making an absolute mockery of the US intelligence community, think tanks, security experts, Big Tech, and the media, trying to bury their own corruption. We now know what a joke they’ve become,” American Accountability Foundation President Tom Jones told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The silence of so-call ‘disinformation experts’ ropes them into the clown show as well. When these elites wonder why the American people don’t trust them anymore, perhaps they should look in the mirror.”
Joan Donovan, Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy research director and head of the Technology and Social Change project about “media manipulation,” was quick to question the story’s sourcing on a Harvard Kennedy School podcast on election night in 2020. She said the project “stinks” of “tradecraft” and “drop.”
“What we see as researchers when they’re trying to make a story happen time and time again, and it doesn’t, then you start to see the intensification and adaptation of tactics,” she said. “So, we pretty much expected more and different styles of attack, including a leak, but [what’s] really suspicious [about] it, is you’ve got someone with millions of dollars. He can’t afford Geek Squad at Best Buy to come to his house for the laptop that he’s evidence of crimes on? I mean, it’s really hard to believe.”
Donovan has not tweeted any comments regarding the Biden campaign’s reported affiliation with prompting the intel letter, but tweeted in April 2022 that the “content on the Hunter Biden laptop” was the “most popular straw man” during a disinformation convention she attended.
Nina Jankowicz, who was lined up to head the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board but resigned after online criticism, also made several comments downplaying the laptop story. She told The Associated Press in October 2020 that the laptop may not have belonged to Hunter Biden and that it should should be “view[ed] as a Trump campaign product,” and shared a New York Times article on Twitter that she said “cast[s] yet more doubt on the provenance of the NY Post’s Hunter Biden story.”
Jankowicz did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s asking about the testimony. Donovan responded that she is out of office for the week and would “respond when available.”
Several other groups intended to ward off “disinformation” have also not made statements regarding the Committee’s findings, nor responded to the DCNF’s request for comment. Neither the Global Disinformation Index, which rated the New York Post as one of the riskiest news sites in 2022, nor the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which found that Fox News dedicated more coverage to the Biden laptop story than CNN or MSNBC, addressed the latest update.
“The piece you’re referring to is a case study that clearly compares two events (Biden laptop and WikiLeaks), not a judgement of the veracity or politics of either incident,” Richard Davidson, Atlantic Council director of strategic communication, told the DCNF. “The Atlantic Council and, by extension, the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) are nonpartisan and take no institutional positions. The DFRLab stands by its work producing timely research, driving policy change, and building a global coalition dedicated to ensuring human rights, transparency, and accountability in our global information ecosystem.”
Aspen Digital, an arm of the Aspen Institute, conducted a working group for academics, social media companies and journalists in September 2020 about how to respond to a potential “hack and dump” of information and used leaked Hunter Biden emails as the given scenario, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The workshop was attended by First Draft News, which did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Morrell told the House Judiciary Committee that he signed the letter to help Biden win the 2020 presidential election and to share concern that Russian influence was involved. The Committee wrote to Blinken on April 20 that it was “apparent that the Biden campaign played an active role in the origins of the public statement, which had the effect of helping to suppress the Hunter Biden story and preventing American citizens from making a fully informed decision during the 2020 presidential election.”
“Although the statement’s signatories have an unquestioned right to free speech and free association—which we do not dispute—their reference to their national security credentials lent weight to the story and suggested access to specialized information unavailable to other Americans,” the letter read. “This concerted effort to minimize and suppress public dissemination of the serious allegations about the Biden family was a grave disservice to all American citizens’ informed participation in our democracy.”
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