It's no surprise that president-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are dismissing a report by the Central Intelligence Agency that says Russian hackers tried to swing the election in Mr. Trump's favour. What is surprising is the way they are going about it – by mocking the past failures of the CIA and other American intelligence services.
Mr. Trump's team released a statement on Friday dismissing American intelligence agencies as "the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." Mr. Trump himself mocked the CIA's report and the reaction to it. "Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!" the future leader of the free world tweeted on Monday.
It's ironic that Mr. Trump's team brought up the case of the WMDs that were used to justify the war in Iraq, and which turned out to be mostly non-existent.
It's true that, in that case, the CIA provided faulty intelligence supporting the theory that Iraq was stockpiling WMDs. But this overlooks the fact that other intelligence sources, including the Defence Intelligence Agency and a number of weapons inspectors, were arguing that there were no WMDs in Saddam Hussein's arsenal that could pose a threat.
Furthermore, it was the president and his cabinet – and not the intelligence community itself – that convinced the world that Iraq had WMDs. In doing so, the Bush White House listened to reports that supported its agenda, and ignored ones that didn't. Hundreds of thousands of people died and the Middle East was thrown into turmoil, not because some intelligence was bad, but because the White House listened selectively to what it was being told.
Mr. Trump is now doing the same thing. He doesn't want to hear that Russian operatives appear to have hacked into the e-mail servers of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, but only released information damaging to the Democrats. There is no smoking gun, but President Barack Obama and a number of high-ranking Republican senators rightly believe the only proper next step is to fully investigate this ominous conclusion.
Intelligence is only as good as the people acting on it. Like another Republican president before him, Mr. Trump is dismissing findings that don't suit him. We all know how that can end.