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Why believe CIA on Russia?

President-elect Donald Trump is dismissing intelligence reports about Russian interference in the 2016 election as "ridiculous," but lawmakers in his own party are calling for a government investigation.

I am baffled by the lack of skepticism regarding a CIA assessment that Russia influenced the election ("Russian interference," Dec. 12). No evidence, much less proof, has been offered.

I am loath to agree with Donald Trump ("a short-fingered vulgarian," in the words of the late, great "Spy" magazine), but I suspect he got it right about the unproven CIA report: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

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That's just the tip of the CIA's history of lying (anthrax labs and aluminum tubes in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Syria using gas against its own people in Damascus, and the extent of National Security Agency spying domestically and abroad, just to name a few). And it strains credulity to swallow whole an assessment by an agency with a long, sordid and well-documented history of election fraud and overthrowing governments in Europe and South and Central America.

Another reason I suspect the Russian election interference story: Where are the calls to secure our electoral process? If the hodgepodge of state-by-state election methods and machinery is this fragile, why aren't our political leaders calling for a national campaign to fix it? I'm no computer expert, but it's safe to say that paper ballots are hack-proof.

All of this is amid a drumbeat of fear over Russia's "resurgence"— that somehow this under-developed nation is a military threat to the U.S. that must be contained. A quick online search of military budgets shows that Russia spends $46.6 billion a year on defense, in fifth place behind Great Britain. The U.S. military budget, in first place, is a whopping $581 billion, more than 10 times that of Russia, more than double that of second-place China, and more than the combined military budgets of the next 12 nations down the list.

What happened to questioning authority? In the words of the late journalist I.F. Stone, "Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed" (and, yes, that goes for Russia).

Or, as they say in the newsroom (at least when I worked in one), "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Joe Surkiewicz, Baltimore

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