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For pro-Biden intelligence veterans, American politics are just another op


J Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy / October 28, 2020

Former vice president Joe Biden showed the world just how politicized and sloppy much of the US intelligence community has become.

During his final debate with President Donald Trump, Biden repeatedly called the revelation of his son’s laptop and email contents “Russian disinformation.”

“There are fifty former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant,” Biden said during the October 22 debate.

That isn’t true.

Biden was referring to a statement that was written, signed, leaked, and published three days earlier in Politico, just in time for Biden to raise it during the debate. The headline read, “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former officials say.”

The headline was false.

The “Public Statement on the Hunter Biden Emails” did not say that the Hunter Biden laptop and emails were Russian disinformation or a Russian plant. Even so, the statement was not an honest intelligence assessment. It was fed, like an op, through a dishonest media outlet to disinform the American public, in order to influence a domestic political outcome.

More properly, it wasn’t “like an op.” It was an op. Not against foreign adversaries, but against the American public.

It uses the truth to convey a falsehood. Thought-leader Jeff Giesea has given this type of op, and its product, a name: establishment disinformation.

The stunt used the credentials of 60 former intelligence, security, and defense professionals and officials, nine of whom refused to give their names, to plant an engineered news story with a phony headline. At the top of the list: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and his partner, former CIA Director John Brennan.

Brennan’s former aide, Nick Shapiro, fed the misleading story to Politico.

Their statement is the type action that has undermined public confidence in the nation’s vital intelligence community.

If the statement is any indication of intelligence analytical products, the United States is in a lot of trouble.

Here’s why.

Fact-free intelligence assessment

The thrust of the statement claimed to debunk the October 14 New York Post revelation about Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop and emails. The core concern: The revelation “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

Responsible intelligence officers indeed should have thought that. And they would have investigated. But they would not have gone public with mere “earmarks.”

Contrary to the fake Politico headline or what Biden would say, the former intelligence officials admitted they had no proof of anything – including Russian disinformation.

“We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not,” they said, “and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement – just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”

Suspicions are fine. They to the search for truth. The signers acknowledged that they had no facts at all – only guesses days before a presidential debate.

“If we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election, and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this,” they wrote.

But they were wrong.

Prejudicial thinking led to blind suspicion that it was a Russian op

They presumed that the whole thing was a Putin op, or in their term, a “laptop op.” Here lies the establishment disinformation.

“Such an operation” – releasing the laptop and emails – “would be consistent with Russian objectives, as outlined publicly and recently by the Intelligence Community, to create political chaos in the United States and to deepen political divisions here,” they wrote.

They’re right. Russia has run such operations against us for much of the past century. The issue is that the sixty signers declared their presumption that it was a Russian disinformation operation without having seen any facts, and made their false presumption public for political purposes.

The intelligence community is a huge field of professional expertise, experience, and discipline. Only a very small number, perhaps two or three, of the signers show any real records of knowing much about Russian disinformation.

If the signers held out for the possibility that Joe Biden might have been targeted under corrupt foreign influence deals through his son, we could take seriously their stated concern about Russian interference in American politics. But they didn’t, so we can’t.

Here’s what they said: “For the Russians at this point … there is incentive for Moscow to pull out the stops to do anything possible to help Trump win and/or to weaken Biden should he win. A ‘laptop op’ fits the bill, as the publication of the emails are clearly designed to discredit Biden.”

This was a political presumption – not an intelligence analysis – that the Kremlin wanted Trump to win. The signers dismissed any possibility that the Hunter Biden laptop material might be legitimate.

Not even the Bidens had done that.

Guilt-by-association through reckless leap of logic

The signers then did what no good intelligence analyst would do: They presumed guilt-by-association despite finding no evidence. That’s unscrupulous even for politicians.

The statement said that a Ukrainian figure whom the US had identified as a Russian agent had passed Hunter Biden-related materials to Giuliani. They did not allege that the agent had given Giuliani the computer drive. They leapt to the conclusion that because the individual was (indeed) a Russian agent and was trying to influence Giuliani to help Trump win the election, then everything Giuliani did was a Russian setup.

This was a reckless leap of logic. Serious former prosecutors and aggressive lawyers like Giuliani – to say nothing of journalists and intelligence officers working in the gray zone – routinely associate with such figures as part of their jobs. It’s what they do with those associations that matters, and the sixty signers simply jumped to conclusions.

Political trash job, not honest intelligence

All sixty presumed that Giuliani was a knowing Russian agent. They based their “view” on a single report in the Washington Post. The report said that the White House had been provided intelligence that the Russians had targeted Giuliani in an influence operation. Obviously a targeted person would have been warned, so one normally would presume that the forewarned Giuliani was immunized against any Russian op.

But all sixty signers presumed that Giuliani was a traitor – a willful conspirator with a known Russian agent to spread disinformation. That presumption is not real intelligence. It’s a political trash job. It’s disinformation from a Washington establishment network that seeks a political outcome.

They made the inexcusable error of getting the sources wrong, single-sourcing all the emails to Giuliani when, in fact, much of the material originated and emerged from a source apart from the presidential lawyer: former Biden business associate Bevan Cooney, who provided full access to his gMail account to investigative journalists Peter Schweizer and Matthew Tyrman, a fact that was known at the time. A third independent primary source of emails, texts, and other inside information – former Biden business colleague Tony Bobulinski – was providing a separate flow of data, but might not yet have been known publicly.

To fortify the argument that Giuliani was a willing dupe or a traitor, the statement threw in a comment that the “FBI has now opened an investigation into Russian involvement in this case.” As it should. The statement cited USA Today that the Hunter Biden laptop material Giuliani supplied “is part of a smoke bomb of disinformation pushed by Russia.”

All 60 signers admitted that they really didn’t know the facts

Then, after having used the reports as blocks on which to build their argument, the signers conceded, “We do not know whether these press reports are accurate.”

So they admitted that they never even saw the Hunter Biden computer contents in Giulani’s possession or emails that they (wrongly) attributed to him. They admitted that they didn’t examine any of the facts at all.

This is sloppy, unprofessional work. Yet this is the analytical product over the names of sixty influential former U.S. intelligence figures.

Even as private citizens, former intelligence officers still reflect the intelligence community

The signers, as private citizens, used the prestigious titles of their time in the service of the United States – and with those titles, the inferred authority of the intelligence community itself – in propagating a political operation to mislead the American public.

For decades, the intelligence community has considered themselves, even as private citizens or retirees, to reflect on the integrity of their professional community. That remains the tradition.

However the signers of the statement, or at least its organizers, were running an op against their own countrymen. Most of the rest simply signed on.

Shame on them.

They ran an op against the public

The statement tells us a lot about the intelligence leaders who destroyed careers and hounded the president with now-disproven claims that he was a Russian collaborator.

It documents the politicized state of the intelligence community today.

And it brings discredit and distrust to an already wounded profession that the nation desperately needs.

But for the signers of the Hunter Biden statement, it solved its political purpose as a fabrication for a presidential debate.

To Brennan, Clapper, and apparently their fellow signatories, it was just another op.

[End]

Who signed the statement

The signers of the “Public Statement on the Hunter Biden Emails” follow, in order of appearance and with descriptions from the original:

Jim Clapper, Former Director of National Intelligence; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; Former Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; and Former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency;

Mike Hayden, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director, National Security Agency; Former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence;

Leon Panetta, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Secretary of Defense;

John Brennan, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor; Former Director, Terrorism Threat Integration Center, Former Analyst and Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Thomas Finger, Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis; Former Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, Department of State; Former Chair, National Intelligence Council;

Rick Ledgett, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency;

John McLaughlin, Former Acting Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director, Slavic and Eurasian Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency;

Michael Morell, Former Acting Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency;

Mike Vickers, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; Former Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Doug Wise, Former Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; Former Senior CIA Operations Officer;

Nick Rasmussen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center;

Russ Travers, Former Acting Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Former Deputy Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Former Analyst of the Soviet Union and Russia, Defense Intelligence Agency;

Andy Liepman, Former Deputy Director, National Counterterrorism Center; Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

John Moseman, Former Chief of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of Congressional Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Minority Staff Director, Senate Select CommiSee on Intelligence;

Larry Pfeiffer, Former Chief of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director, White House Situation Room;

Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chief of Staff, Department of Defense; Former Chief Counsel, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence;

Rodney Snyder, Former Chief of Staff, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of Intelligence Programs, National Security Council; Chief of Station, Central Intelligence Agency;

Glenn Gerstell, Former General Counsel, National Security Agency;

David B. Buckley, Former Inspector General, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Democratic Staff Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Former Counterespionage Case Officer, United States Air Force;

Nada Bakos, Former Analyst and Targeting Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Patty Brandmaier, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Associate Director for Military Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Director of Congressional Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency;

James B. Bruce, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Senior Intelligence Officer, National Intelligence Council; Considerable work related to Russia;

David Cariens, Former Intelligence Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency; 50+ Years Working in the Intelligence Community;

Janice Cariens, Former Operational Support Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Paul Kolbe, Former Senior Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chief, Central Eurasia Division, Central Intelligence Agency;

Peter Corsell, Former Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency;

Brett Davis, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Director of the Special Activities Center for Expeditionary Operations, CIA;

Roger Zane George, Former National Intelligence Officer;

Steven L. Hall, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chief of Russian Operations, Central Intelligence Agency;

Kent Harrington, Former National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of Public Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chief of Station, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency;

Don Hepburn, Former Senior National Security Executive;

Timothy D. Kilbourn, Former Dean, Sherman Kent School of Intelligence Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency; Former PDB Briefer to President George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency;

Ron Marks, Former Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Twice former staff of the Republican Majority Leader;

Jonna Hiestand Mendez, Technical Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Emile Nakhleh, Former Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Senior Intelligence Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency;

Gerald A. O’Shea, Senior Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Served four tours as Chief of Station, Central Intelligence Agency;

David Priess, Former Analyst and Manager, Central Intelligence Agency; Former PDB Briefer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Pam Purcilly, Former Deputy Director of Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Director of the Office of Russian and European Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency; Former PDB Briefer to President George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency;

Marc Polymeropoulos, Former Senior Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Acting Chief of Operations for Europe and Eurasia, Central Intelligence Agency;

Chris Savos, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Officer;

Nick Shapiro, Former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Director, Central Intelligence Agency;

John Sipher, Former Senior Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Deputy Chief of Russian Operations, Central Intelligence Agency;

Stephen Slick, Former Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council; Former Senior Operations Office, Central Intelligence Agency;

Cynthia Strand, Former Deputy Assistant Director for Global Issues, Central Intelligence Agency;

Greg Tarbell, Former Deputy Executive Director, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Analyst of the Soviet Union and Russia, Central Intelligence Agency;

David Terry, Former Chairman of the National Intelligence Collection Board; Former Chief of the PDB, Central Intelligence Agency; Former PDB Briefer to Vice President Dick Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency;

Greg Treverton, Former Chair, National Intelligence Council;

John Tullius, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

David A. Vanell, Former Senior Operations Officer, Central Intelligence Agency;

Winston Wiley, Former Director of Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency; Former Chief, Counterterrorism Center, Central Intelligence Agency;

Kristin Wood, Former Senior Intelligence Officer, Central Intelligence Agency; Former PDB Briefer, Central Intelligence Agency;

In addition, nine additional former IC officers who cannot be named publicly also support the arguments in this letter.

See the original text of the Center for Security Policy article here.

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