The Atlantic

Former Intel Chief: Community Caught Between 'Scylla and Charybdis' on Trump Dossier

A conversation on intelligence and well-meant incompetence
Source: Andrew Harnik / AP

There were two high-profile, highly sensitive documents circulating in Washington in early January, both relating to Donald Trump and the Russians. The first, a classified report by the U.S. intelligence community, contained evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 United States election, which intelligence officials have publicly concluded was intended to help Trump win the presidency. The second, a now-public, unverified opposition research report compiled by a private intelligence firm, contained explosive personal and financial allegations about the president-elect, in some cases allegedly gathered by or in the possession of Russian intelligence.  

And what has publicly linked these two reports of different genres is two pages. That was the length of an “annex” appended to the classified government document on Russian election hacking, reportedly summarizing some allegations from the other document, the private firm’s dossier on Trump. And it was a news leak about those two pages that precipitated the publication of the full opposition dossier. Though members of the intelligence community had been made aware of the dossier as far back as August 2016, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, emphasized this week that the dossier was not, itself, “an intelligence community product”—American intelligence officials had neither produced nor verified the contents of the report, but summarized parts to provide policymakers with the “fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.” (Further confusing matters, it appears a former British intelligence official did produce it.)

As Stanford’s Amy Zegart notes, all intelligence is information, but not all information is intelligence. So what information

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