Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE
Donald Trump: Questionable intelligence. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Donald Trump: Questionable intelligence. Picture: BLOOMBERG

On the one hand there is cause to celebrate. The world is about to get a Republican US president who is sceptical of data supplied by US intelligence agencies.

Remember the evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction collected by intelligence agencies? It turns out they didn’t want facts to get in the way of a good war.

So kudos to Donald Trump for questioning a CIA finding that Russia had intervened to skew the US election in his favour by hacking and distributing the contents of the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails.

But was Trump acting out of scepticism or self-interest? After all, he was the direct beneficiary of the hacking, the CIA says.

US director of national intelligence James Clapper is not buying the Trump histrionics. In his words: "There’s a difference between healthy scepticism ... and disparagement."

Since Trump’s campaign was built on disparagement, it’s clear Clapper is less than impressed with the presumptive president.

Writing in USA Today, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations said: "Yes, the intelligence community has made mistakes, most notoriously regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But in this case it is obvious the spies have such a high degree of proof — including, one suspects, electronic intercepts of conversations and human intelligence reports
to go along with forensic investigation of the hacked computers — that there is no disputing their bottom line."

Note the phrase "including, one suspects", which one suspects is code for "they told me this off the record".

Under fire and with the possibility that "electronic intercepts of conversations" and "human intelligence reports" might end up on the desk of a Washington Post blogger, Trump has begun to alter course.

He has clarified that he has the "greatest respect" for intelligence agencies. Of course he really means it. After all, it’s in black and white on Twitter.

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