FBI Agrees With CIA On Russian Interference In Presidential Election

Dec 16, 2016
Originally published on December 16, 2016 6:37 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Major intelligence agencies now agree that Russia interfered in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win the presidential race. Earlier reports had suggested there was a difference of opinions between the CIA and the FBI. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly has been covering this story. She joins us in the studio now.

Welcome, Mary Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Hey. Thank you, Audie.

CORNISH: So what do we know officially at this point (laughter) about these agencies' views on this?

KELLY: So according to an intelligence source who spoke to NPR, the heads of the CIA, the FBI and the director of National Intelligence all met this week. They got together, a kind of triumvirate of spy chiefs. And then today, this same intelligence source tells us, the CIA director, John Brennan, sent an internal memo to his workforce. That memo - and I will quote the bit that we were able to confirm - said, (reading) there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.

Intent would be the key word there because that has been what the reputed disagreement was. All the spy agencies had reached a consensus that Russia had interfered in the electoral process. The reputed disagreement was why. And now we're hearing, from - according to this CIA memo that went out to the workforce today at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., that they are all three on the same page.

CORNISH: So that idea of intent at issue - but why did earlier reports suggest that they just weren't on the same page?

KELLY: Well, in part because members of Congress who have been briefed on the intelligence had suggested as much. They had received classified briefings from the FBI and the CIA. And afterward, some of them said they were left scratching their heads a little bit, trying to figure out - what should we make of this? Are you looking at the same facts or not, heads of FBI and CIA?

I mean, you would hope that there would be dissenting views within the intelligence community and that there should be a healthy debate before some sort of consensus is arrived at. And it's also always worth stressing - the FBI, the CIA are very different organizations. FBI, historically - and still - is a law enforcement agency. The CIA is an intelligence spy agency.

But all that said, a second intelligence source reached by NPR today said there is no gulf here.

CORNISH: So given all that you've described, I mean, what's the significance of the fact that they're now all in agreement?

KELLY: Well, I think, politically, this may increase pressure on President-elect Trump, who has resisted the findings of the intelligence community. It is harder to resist a unified intelligence community. He had dismissed the CIA assessments as ridiculous. He will now have to dismiss the assessments of the FBI and the DNI as well, and that gets a little bit more difficult.

From the intelligence point of view, this is clearly a calculated move to leak the contents of the memo to news organizations to try to shut down speculation that the intelligence world is anything other than supremely united. It's also an attempt to back intelligence agencies out of the political fray, where they have very much found themselves in recent days.

CORNISH: That's our national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly.

Mary Louise, thank you.

KELLY: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.