A recently declassified report and a letter sent to Congress by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe have confirmed election interference from China.
In his letter (pdf), Ratcliffe wrote that management of the CIA suppressed information about China’s interference in the election, and reportedly pressured analysts to withdraw their support for the view.
As evidence, Ratcliffe cited a newly declassified report written by the Intelligence Community’s analytic ombudsman, Barry Zulauf, which confirmed that some of the analysts were reluctant to describe China’s actions as election interference because they disagreed with the policies of President Trump, and were concerned that if they agreed that China had interfered, it would appear that they supported the president.
On January 17, The Washington Examiner published Ratcliffe’s letter and the declassified ombudsman report.
“Based on all available sources of intelligence, with definitions consistently applied, and reached independent of political considerations or undue pressure—that the People’s Republic of China sought to influence the 2020 U.S. federal elections,” Ratcliffe wrote.
Zulauf’s report was given to Congress on January 7, along with an assessment by the intelligence community on interference in the 2020 election. In his report, Zulauf confirmed that analysts working on Russia and China applied different standards in their reporting of interference in the election.
While analysts labeled Russia’s activity as clear election interference, they were unwilling to do the same for China’s activity.
“Given analytic differences in the way Russia and China analysts examined their targets, China analysts appeared hesitant to assess Chinese actions as undue influence or interference,” Zulauf wrote.
“These analysts appeared reluctant to have their analysis on China brought forward because they tended to disagree with the Administration’s policies, saying in effect, I don’t want our intelligence used to support those policies,” he added.
No actual details relating to China’s interference in the 2020 election were included in either the ombudsman report or Ratcliffe’s letter.
Zulauf’s report confirmed that analysis of interference from both China and Russia were politicized. He also claimed that neither analysts nor leaders in the intelligence community were at fault for the politicization, instead placing the blame on the hyper-partisan atmosphere in the U.S.
“In most cases, what we see is the entire system responding to and resisting pressures from outside, rather than attempts to politicize intelligence by our leaders or analysts,” he wrote.
In a December 3, 2020 op-ed, Ratcliffe wrote that the Chinese Communist Party “poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II.”
“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily, and technologically. Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party,” he added.