An article published at The Washington Post is pushing Americans to treat alleged emails from Hunter Biden as foreign disinformation, asserting that people should consider the “valuable lessons” learned about Russian election interference in 2016.
Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, claimed in the Post on Saturday that Biden’s alleged emails should be assumed to be a part of a “foreign intelligence operation.” In his article, titled “Insisting that the Hunter Biden laptop is fake is a trap. So is insisting that it’s real,” Rid argues that the release of Biden’s alleged emails resembles Russian hacking operations of the 2016 election cycle.
“Take a step back, and the Russian interference of 2016 holds valuable lessons on what to do and what not to do in 2020: We must treat the Hunter Biden leaks as if they were a foreign intelligence operation — even if they probably aren’t,” Rid writes.
Arguably the most impactful disinformation drop of the 2016 campaign was the unverified, and since debunked, Steele dossier first published by BuzzFeed that fueled ex-special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian agents to influence the 2016 election. Rid’s roughly 1,700-word article never mentions the dossier, however, and instead compares the Biden emails to a “Russian hack-and-leak operation” by Guccifer 2.0 — identified by Mueller as a Russian intelligence officer — and WikiLeaks.
After the New York Post first published emails allegedly from Hunter Biden’s laptop, “My Signal messaging app immediately lit up with keen observers suspecting that this was finally it: the long-expected Russian hack-and-leak operation, a rerun of 2016, surfaced via a computer repair shop and the Post, in lieu of Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks,” Rid writes.
Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks published a number of emails and documents that led to scandals for the Democratic National Committee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others. While those efforts were part of a foreign intelligence operation, much of the information put out was authentic compared to the Steele dossier.
Rid insists that the alleged Biden emails should be treated as fakes, even as the emails lack a number of the red flags suggesting a foreign intelligence fingerprint found during the Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks operations of 2016.
After praising the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter for censoring the Post’s articles on Biden’s alleged emails, Rid says that the Trump campaign and President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani are easy targets for foreign disinformation operations, increasing the odds that the alleged Biden emails are fake plants.
However, the strategic studies professor concludes by giving what he says is probably the best evidence that the emails are not part of a foreign intelligence operation: they are “unremarkable.”
Indeed, there are good reasons to be skeptical of the theory that the laptop is a foreign plot. If a competent Russian intelligence agency went to the length of procuring hacked material, blending it with forgeries, perhaps researching a suitable surfacing locale and setup in Wilmington and surfacing the package in a human intelligence operation that required careful planning — then it’s highly likely that agency would have found, or more likely forged, files that would have actual political impact, instead of the unremarkable material revealed in the Post so far.