On Tuesday, the same day that Joe Biden finally emerged to hold his first press conference in 89 days in order to lash out at what he called Trump’s “dereliction of duty” over the NY Times Russian bounties for Taliban militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan story, The Wall Street Journal issued this bombshell:
The National Security Agency strongly dissented from other intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia paid bounties for the killing of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the matter.
The disclosure of the dissent by the NSA, which specializes in electronic eavesdropping, comes as the White House has played down the revelations, saying that the information wasn’t verified and that intelligence officials didn’t agree on it.
As we noted before, it appears a return this week to mainstream media’s prior years of near daily breathless Russiagate reporting, with “anonymous intelligence sources” issuing new leaks of unvetted raw intel to the press.
The WSJ points out that it was primarily the NSA’s firm dissent that kept the Russian bounties allegation out of the president’s daily briefing — which both further confirms the White House’s denials of the initial Friday Times reporting, as well as contradicts the NYT “revelation” itself.
“Because of that [NSA dissent], President Trump was never personally briefed on the threat, the White House said, although a key lawmaker said the information apparently was included in written intelligence materials prepared for Mr. Trump,” WSJ underscores.
No details were given as to precisely how the NSA differed in its assessment of the Russian bounty allegations. For those keeping score, this marks the third major formal distancing from the substance of the NYT reporting by US intelligence agencies and intel community leadership.
Also recall this isn’t the first instance of significant NSA pushback concerning explosive charges aimed at Russia:
In 2016, the NSA also strongly dissented from the CIA’s — aka John Brennan’s — assessment that Russia meddled in the US election to elect Trump. https://t.co/TlNbjERp8D
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) June 30, 2020
On Saturday Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a statement that he had “confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting.”
CIA Director Gina Haspel also appeared to vindicate the White House’s assertion of lack of credible intelligence behind it in a Monday statement. Essentially the CIA director seemed to reference the danger of “cherry-picking” from lower level unvetted raw information.“When developing intelligence assessments, initial tactical reports often require additional collection and validation,” Haspel said.
“Leaks compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability,” she added, strongly suggesting that indeed there was not enough to go on concerning the Russian bounty allegations for it to rise to the level of the commander-in-chief. In actually this was further a CIA condemnation of the “anonymous” leakers out of which the whole narrative was spun.