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On Thursday, the U.S. intelligence community struck back. Not at Russia, which it accuses of hacking the Democratic National Committee to destabilize American democracy and swing the 2016 presidential race, but at President-elect Donald Trump, whose recent tweets have called into question not just the agencies' findings but their competence.

It's entirely appropriate, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee, for the president to express a "healthy skepticism" about intelligence. But, he added, "there's a difference between skepticism and disparagement."

Clapper acknowledged that, because of the need to protect secrets and sources, the full case against Russia hasn't been made public. But he said an unclassified report with more details would be released next week, and that the intelligence community's belief in Russia's responsibility was only getting "more resolute."

A public spat between the incoming president and the intelligence community helps neither side. It can only result in greater politicization of intelligence issues, recalcitrance from the agency's professional staffs, and a loss of public faith in the ability of the executive branch to protect the nation's vital interests.

Editorial on 01/07/2017

Print Headline: When everybody loses

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