Marcy Wheeler, an American independent journalist specializing in national security and civil liberties, responded:
A befuddled Abramson then responded:
What exactly is Marcy talking about? A search turns up this article Wheeler penned in 2018 January. Key excerpt:
For some reason, many people who’re convinced the Trump Russia investigation will hit paydirt but who haven’t been particularly attentive believe the Steele dossier must all be true. This, in spite of the fact that some parts of it clearly are not true. The best example of that is report 086, labeled as July 25, 2015 (but which must actually date to July 2016), which quotes a former senior Russian intelligence official claiming FSB was having difficulty compromising western and G7 government targets. In the previous year, the Russians had been enjoying quite a lot of success against just those kinds of targets, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Russia’s APT 29 is also believed to have compromised the DNC in July 2015), making it surprising anyone following Russian matters even marginally closely could present that report as credible.
So the claim was that the FSB was “having difficulty compromising western and G7 government targets”? Here’s the verbatim text of the report, 2016/086:
2. In terms of the success of Russian offensive cyber operations to date, a senior government figure reported that there had been only limited success in penetrating the “first tier” foreign targets. These comprised western (especially G7 and NATO) governments, security and intelligence services and central banks, and the IFIs [international financial institutions]. To compensate for this shortfall, massive effort had been invested, with much greater success, in attacking the “secondary targets”, particularly western private banks and the governments of smaller states allied to the West. S/he mentioned Latvia in this regard.
So was the FSB’s success at penetrating first-tier targets “limited”? Well, it’s a black-and-white issue like whether Cohen went to Prague — we’re quibbling over the definition of “limited”. Do we measure as a percentage of attempts, which also requires us to know how many unsuccessful efforts they made? And does the DNC even count as a first-tier target? Given Steele’s definition, it would seem not. In any case, Wheeler’s argument here is extremely weak at best.