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The would-be putschists within our Intelligence Community are at it again.
This morning, the New York Times ran a story headlines Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops.
American officials said the Russian plot to pay bounties to Taliban fighters came into focus over the past several months after intelligence analysts and Special Operations forces put together key pieces of evidence.
One official said the seizure of a large amount of American cash at one Taliban site got “everybody’s attention” in Afghanistan. It was not clear when the money was recovered.
Two officials said the information about the bounty hunting was “well known” among the intelligence community in Afghanistan, including the C.I.A.’s chief of station and other top officials there, like the military commandos hunting the Taliban. The information was distributed in intelligence reports and highlighted in some of them.
The assessment was compiled and sent up the chain of command to senior military and intelligence officials, eventually landing at the highest levels of the White House. The Security Council meeting in March came at a delicate time, as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and prompting shutdowns around the country.
What is notable about the article is the sourcing. A bland “America officials.” Not “with knowledge” not “high ranking” not “within the Intelligence Community who were not cleared to talk about the matter” not even “current.” In short, there was no reason to give this story any more credence than any Pulitzer Prize winning story by the New York Times covering the Russia Hoax.
Not to be outdone, Jeff Bezos’s plaything, the Washington Post, had to jump on the bandwagon with Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.
The intelligence was passed up from the U.S. Special Operations forces based in Afghanistan and led to a restricted high-level White House meeting in late March, the people said.
The meeting led to broader discussions about possible responses to the Russian action, ranging from diplomatic expressions of disapproval and warnings, to sanctions, according to two of the people. These people and others who discussed the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity.
The disturbing intelligence — which the CIA was tasked with reviewing, and later confirmed — generated disagreement about the appropriate path forward, a senior U.S. official said. The administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, preferred confronting the Russians directly about the matter, while some National Security Council officials in charge of Russia were more dismissive of taking immediate action, the official said.
It remained unclear where those discussions have led to date. Verifying such intelligence is a process that can take weeks, typically involving the CIA and the National Security Agency, which captures foreign cellphone and radio communications. Final drafting of any policy options in response would be the responsibility of national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien.
Here we see the source as “people said,” which we know is the highest level of classification.
President Trump immediately denied it. As did DNI John Ratcliffe. A review by the IC led to a late breaking report that this intelligence does not, in fact, actually exist but was made up out of whole cloth.
So what are we to make of all this?
It is clearly not outside the realm of possibilities that Russian intelligence, probably the GRU, could be involved in some such activity. From the outcry one would think President Trump had failed the nation by not launching a thermonuclear strike against Moscow. There was no mention of how we know for a fact that Iran paid bounties for dead Americans and provided explosively formed perpetrators to the Shia and Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan that killed a minimum of 500 US soldiers or Marines and wounded and maimed scores more and yet they were deemed a fitting partner for a sweetheart deal with the Obama administration that let them continue developing nuclear weapons and receive billions in cash and unfrozen assets. Not to be flippant about it, the shock would be that Russia, Iran and China are not trying to get more Americans killed in Afghanistan. There is ample precedent…like giving Stinger MANPADS to the Afghan resistance in the 1980s.
There are two likely motives here. The obvious one is that it was calculated to politically damage President Trump by using Russia Hoax catnip the perpetrators knew the media could not resist. President has upset a lot of apple carts within the IC and four more years of a Trump administration might actually bring the IC back under control and no president would ever have to heed Chuck Schumer’s warning, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
But why would this off-the-wall nonsense be launched? Probably because there is resistance within the CIA to the Afghan peace plan hammered out between the various parties to the conflict that could see all US troops out of that country by May of next year bringing to an end our second longest war if one counts the conquest of the American West as the longest. The idea that we would negotiate a withdrawal with an enemy who was not only killing US troops during the withdrawal but getting paid by those devious Russkis to do so.
That this story was knocked down so fast is a credit to both President Trump, former Acting DNI Richard Grenell, and current DNI John Ratcliffe. In the past, the head of the IC just let these stories float about and never bother to knock them down. Dan Coats and his merry band of ‘IC professionals’ might as well have actively aided the propagation of the Russia Hoax by their studied and adamant refusal to either debunk fake news stories or pursue investigations to find the source of these malicious pseudo-leaks.