On the Benefits of Having a Career Diplomat Run CIA: “This Is One Information War that I Think Putin Is Losing”

Thus far during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the intelligence community has declassified at least four major reports and a slew of smaller ones:

I would bet a fair amount of money that, when the history of these events is told twenty years from now, we’ll learn of similar, but non-public, selective declassification with NATO-plus-Sweden-and-Finland partners, starting at a NATO summit in February, immediately after which a number of European countries (most spectacularly, Germany) took dramatic and unified action.

There has been a slew of commentary about the aggressive use the US has made of declassified intelligence. The triumphalism of such commentary may yet prove premature.

After all, it’s possible that Putin arrested two FSB officers because he suspects they were sources for some of the intelligence that got shared to undermine Russia’s efforts. It’s possible that Russia’s focus on neutralizing western support for Ukraine in recent days, particularly its attack on the western training base in Yavoriv yesterday, reflects a counterintelligence crackdown responding to declassified US intelligence.

But for now, such declassification has been tremendously successful. It allowed the US and its European partners to repeatedly undercut Russian efforts to gain surprise or legitimize their invasion with disinformation. It has exposed specifics about China’s support for the invasion, raising the costs of such support and, potentially, providing leverage to convince China to distance themselves both publicly and privately from Russia’s efforts. And it seems to have provided a basis for Western countries to unify quickly.

This most recent instance — the organized sharing of information about Russian pleas to China for help just before Jake Sullivan meets with Yang Jiechi in Rome — makes this comment from CIA Director William Burns at least week’s Global Threats hearing resonate.

In response to a question from Susan Collins about Russia’s efforts to use false flag attacks, he tied his own years losing information wars with Russia to decisions to declassify information now.

Well, thanks very much Senator. I think it underscores the concern that all of us need to focus on those kind of issues, whether it’s the potential for a use of chemical weapons either as a false flag operation or against Ukrainians. This is something, as all of you know very well, is very much a part of Russia’s playbook. They’ve used those weapons against their own citizens, they’ve at least encouraged the use in Syria and elsewhere, so it’s something we take very seriously, and it’s one of the reasons, as Director Haines said earlier, that I’m convinced that our efforts at selective declassification, to pre-empt those kind of false flag efforts and the creation of false narratives have been so important.

In all the years I spent as a career diplomat, I saw too many instances in which we lost information wars with the Russians. In this case, I think we have had a great deal of effect in disrupting their tactics and their calculations and demonstrating to the entire world that this is a premeditated and unprovoked aggression, built on a body of lies and false narratives. So this is one information war that I think Putin is losing.

Among other posts Burns served in, he was Ambassador to Russia in the final years of the Bush Administration (months before Russia’s invasion of Georgia) and he served as Deputy Secretary of State during Russia’s response to Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, including its annexation of Crimea.

He knows how successful Russia has been at lying in the last twenty years.

And he explicitly tied his experience of attempting to diplomatically negotiate with Russia and others while Russia’s lies held sway to the decision to declassify information here.

Normally, CIA Directors protect such secrets with knee-jerk obstinance. But under this former diplomat, the Intelligence Community is actually using the intelligence it gathers to gain tactical leverage. After years of Russian intelligence operations designed to split American alliances, that has had the effect of raising US credibility with allies.

This is assuredly not just Burns. Even under Trump, Paul Nakasone was much more aggressive about taking credit for NSA or CYBERCOM operations than past NSA Directors. And Avril Haines, whose background is more diverse, promised a more open Intelligence Community during her confirmation as well.

But after the two decades of paranoid secrecy that followed the Iraq intelligence debacle, the United States is actually using the intelligence it makes such efforts to collect.

87 replies
  1. Badger Robert says:

    The Russia v NATO and the US narrative is dominant right now.
    But Turkey and Greece are working in tandem. Turkey and Armenia have normalized relations. And the Turks have sent UnmAirCrft to Ukraine.
    The Turks have observed the Russian methods and may well employ them elsewhere.

      • timbo says:

        “The Turks have observed the Russian methods and may well employ them elsewhere.”

        About Syria possibly? Other than that, yeah, the implied ‘they’ in the last phrase is a shave ambiguous. ;/

  2. Joe Sommer says:

    The latest rumor on the arrest of the two senior FSB officers is that they embezzled funds that were intended to suborn Ukrainians before the invasion. Cum granulo salis.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      When you want to discredit information, you discredit the source, for which there is a standard bag of character assassination tricks. Sex, drugs, and financial crimes feature prominently among them.

      • LadyHawke says:

        And these are not mutually exclusive, if you are operating primarily from greed instead of principle, when rocks are unexpectantly being turned over.

        • timbo says:

          Why would an FSB official both embezzle and the talk about the sad state of things at the Directorate with dissident’s in Europe on the undownlow? Seems more like that folks arrested are being made to take the blame for two crimes, only one of which might be reasonably applicable…if that. When one is in an intelligence or counter-intelligence role doing the wrong things, one is either doing them well or doing them badly. But why do both at the same time?

    • Purple Martin says:

      Yesterday I (partially) joked about that, noting in these circles, taking a slice of whatever resources pass through your hands is pretty much accepted as SoP.

      Thus, there’s a prebuilt indictment (“…with the additional advantage of being true!”) for anyone, when someone with power decides it’s time for for someone else to take one for team.

  3. Badger Robert says:

    Exposing the Russian/Chinese alliance is aimed at asset class Russians not in Russia. They must feel somewhat expendable, All it takes is few real or manufactured conspiracy charges, and their Russian assets will be nationalized.

  4. Badger Robert says:

    The challenge for Burns now may be to put numbers behind how fast the Russian economy will decline and how fast the Europeans can decrease their reliance on Russian natural gas.

    [FYI, this tweet was caught in auto-mod because of a typo in username field. It’s been fixed. /~Rayne]

    • viget says:

      I think the other major reason to declassify is to expose Russia’s modus operandi and reliance on deza, false flag, whataboutism, and projection for basically all of their major operations. The broader world public will begin to sense a pattern here, which is very obvious to us here in hindsight.

      This will make defending Putin in practically any jurisdiction nearly impossible, and soon the American public will see the fingerprints of these operations in the events of 2014- onward at home too.

  5. viget says:

    Hear hear…

    Time to break the secrets before the secrets break us. On a selective basis of course.

    Also, re:China. They have a major issue with COVID. See HK for what is likely to happen in China, only worse, given their vax is basically placebo against severe disease.

    Wonder if some vaccine diplomacy might be in order…. Could make Xi reconsider some of his positions.

  6. Rugger9 says:

    The Russian request for Chinese arms is a key data point IMHO. While in many cases the two militaries share arms it’s not universal. Note also that the Russian military colossus’ reputation was predicated upon the idea (expressed by the Chinese as the ‘golden pebble’) of overwhelming conventional strength. What we are seeing is the effects of diverting the military budget to oligarch thefts, much like late Romanov Russia. Putin’s dream of the USSR apparently included the ‘they pretend to pay us so we pretend to work’ social contract and all of the quotas would magically be filled. That Russia is even asking for Syrian ‘volunteers’ or help from the PRC could be seen as Russia saving troops for something more important or Russia running out of gas.

    Much of the chatter I see is premised upon the idea that the PRC wants Russia to prevail to help have a free hand in Taiwan. I’m not so sure of that, so here’s my totally speculative scenario. At the Olympics opening ceremony, Xi gave Putin the green light and promises of assistance so Putin would be bogged down in Ukraine or (even better) bogged down by fighting NATO. That means Xi would have a free hand in the Far East. Where would Xi go? My bet is not Taiwan because both Taiwan and Japan can inflict much damage to the units that make it past the USN’s Seventh Fleet. The returns would not be quick enough to cover the PLA-N’s losses. However, if Putin is truly unable to even cover his Ukraine adventure’s logistics then the Russian problem of holding Siberia becomes even more tempting to the PRC. Siberia has oil needed by the PLA, and it would be doubtful that much assistance will go to Russia to stop such an attack. Attacks on Taiwan, in the South China Sea or on South Korea would also invite intervention by the rest of the world. So, I think Putin’s Russia is Xi’s true target.

    Let’s also consider the idea that Xi sends arms over to Putin. I would expect that any computerized system will have ‘back doors’ built in to render those systems useless when the PLA sends the appropriate signals. The Russian attention to these kinds of details (as highlighted by their taking out the cell towers needed for their comms) is a continuation of the Czarist tradition where messages had to be sent in the clear for the Germans to plan the Battle of Tannenberg (they didn’t have enough code books then). I do not think the Russians would even look for the code anomalies much less know what to do about them.

    So, if Xi said ‘no’ as has been reported then the trap for Putin and Siberia has been laid.

    • Rayne says:

      The trap could be as simple as slight twist on ‘food for oil’ — China trades its unsanctioned currency (not rubles) and other foodstuff commodities for Russian wheat and oil. US has already warned China off aiding Russia, but if China doesn’t provide military aid but currency and foodstuff instead, it will look to Russia like they are getting one on the US and Ukraine though it merely locks the trap.

      As for the backdoors: https://www.csoonline.com/article/3653352/are-ukraine-s-drone-capabilities-being-throttled-in-russia-ukraine-conflict.html

      • SAO says:

        I’ve read that Russia needs tech components for its high tech weaponery. Those self-guided missiles that lock on a target need computer chips and other stuff. Russia has been using them, so needs to keep manufacturing more. China has a huge tech sector.

        • Rayne says:

          You could swap out the word “Russia” for “U.S.” and the statement would still be accurate. That tech sector China has also came by way of a lot of spying, outright theft, and reverse engineering permitted by a lack of adequate controls on US and other technology.

        • Rayne says:

          Yeah. Supply chains are going to be borked again some more. And all the technology sector stock in my retirement portfolio is going to go to hell for a while. I should sell whatever isn’t tacked down here to scrape up cash to buy when it hits bottom.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          BTW, Santa Clara and Mountain View, both in Silicon Valley have seen a big spike in Covid in the sewers, where testing is constant. They have announced they anticipate a big jump in Covid cases in the next 2 weeks.

          Of course all of the schools and businesses now have the option to go mask-less and not require vaccination proof for restaurants and large gatherings. And this all comes right as all the schools are starting winter break.

          The stupidity is mind boggling.

        • P J Evans says:

          Businesses in L.A. are still requiring masks. They don’t check to see if they’re being worn properly though.

        • Krisy Gosney says:

          In the SF Valley and City of LA most are not wearing masks outside. But still most workers are masked inside and over two thirds of customers are masked inside. Some schools still require masks and some are optional. Heard on local npr from a virologist that the virus amount is relatively low here now so loosening up mask wearing is ok but it won’t be long before masks will have to be mandated again they said.

        • P J Evans says:

          Mine just got rearranged. But what I know was actual company stock got sold. (One was in my IRA – company stock. Made some money, though not a lot.)

      • cmarlowe says:

        As for small non-lethal drones, I’ve been a DJI drone owner (weight 10 oz.) for about 5 years. They had by far (and probably still have) the largest share of the market. Many US police departments, at least as of a few years ago, utilized DJI products. There has been some concern about this. I recall that the U.S. military does not.

        • Rayne says:

          DJI drones need to be eliminated based on what we know about Chinese access to them. Imagine the intelligence any DJI drone could collect for China.

          Absolutely insane we allowed this to get this far.

        • cmarlowe says:

          Agreed. There is significant potential for mischief. I long ago stopped doing firmware updates – so it is never connected to the internet. It works fine as is. In any case they would be wasting their time unless they want to steal views of the nearby golf course from 400 feet or or close-ups of my roofing tiles (easier and safer than a ladder for roofing condition checks).

        • skua says:

          Add to that the data available from Chinese security cameras.
          Maybe Chinese-intelligence cameras would be more accurate.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      This is quite possibly Xi’s plan. Given Russia’s behavior towards Ukraine, it would take a very far-sighted politician to sanction China as hard as Russia has been sanctioned.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think Xi intends to take Taiwan without war.

      But I also think China was happy to have Russia try to take down US hegemony to make taking Taiwan easier.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I’m not so sure Taiwan’s political picture would support a peaceful reunification given how strong the independence movement is there, the PLA’s antics and threats and the example of what happened to Hong Kong’s promises to respect their democracy. As it is now no Taiwan government would survive a capitulation on any terms.

        As for US hegemony in the 7th Fleet region, remember that we aren’t alone either. As mentioned above both Japan and Taiwan have credible militaries and FWIW I think Japan helps Taiwan if asked even with the prior history as Formosa. The Russian threat has been (apparently) overblown based on the performance in Ukraine, so much so that Japan’s making serious noises about reclaiming the South Kuril islands again.

        • timbo says:

          Note that if the US becomes less dependent on the Taiwanese silicon fabs then the PRC has less to worry about if/when it decides that now is the time to bring Taiwan back into a united China. This is how you make wine out of sour grapes.

    • Fraud Guy says:

      The scenario of Clancy’s “The Bear and the Dragon”, without the US riding in to help a friendly Russia.

      • rip says:

        I hate to say this, given Clancy’s pretty strong neo-conservative leanings, but he has predicted to some degree a fair number of scenarios that came to be – in some similar form.

        But they say that people with a conservative bent are more fearful of the potential for change. Maybe that’s not all a bad thing.

    • Ravenclaw says:

      Eventual Chinese hegemony over much of Siberia is probably inevitable. But I don’t think such a plan as you outline is in their style. First, Russia (even a badly wounded Russia) remains very dangerous (and if wounded, perhaps unhinged). Second, more weapons systems are Russian-made than Chinese-made, and for all their faults the current military-industrial leaders there aren’t nearly as bad as those who served the Czars. China is ancient and patient.

      • Leoghann says:

        Russia may have a big market advantage in weapons systems. But although those systems are built in Russia, the manufacturers source nearly all the parts from elsewhere, just as with their automotive, heavy equipment, and aeronautics industries.

    • madwand says:

      Xi wants Taiwan more than he wants Russian oil is my bet and as much as Putin wants Ukraine. As US deployments continue and the US commits more and more troops to Europe there will never be a better time to try and take Taiwan. This is even more true if the US and NATO cannot keep out of engaging with Russia at any level less than a full nuclear response. And how many friends do the Chinese have in this world, having a Russia on your side no matter how weak still provides a buffer against the west should they try to seize Taiwan. The Russians will trade oil for MREs or whatever. While it may be true that there will never be a better time to invade Siberia, it’s also true there has never been a better time to take Taiwan so what does Xi the aging dictator want more.

      • timbo says:

        Hmm. Modern economies currently run on oil. No oil makes it really difficult to invade with modern military tech so…uh…

    • Leoghann says:

      Does anyone besides me remember that China made a series of very aggressive moves toward Taiwan earlier in the winter?

  7. Wayne says:

    First, Director Burns is, I’m sure, running into resistance within the hallowed halls. It is, however, good to be the king. And showing results is good.

    Second, I still don’t think the WMD fiasco was an intelligence failure. It was, instead, a political move on the we part of GWB’s administration. Just about every analyst I knew just said WTF – and then provided the best Intel they could – as they always did.

    • dejavuagain says:

      It was a failure of the head of the CIA, George Tenet, who has scarcely been heard of since. I recall reading at the time reading about the aluminum tubes on page 14 or so of the NYT – that the tubes could not be used for centrifuges. Anyone with the slightest understanding of STEM, as we use the term today, would know that WMD was a scam.

      • Wayne says:

        Hmmm. I’m biased because I liked Tenet.

        However, I don’t recall him staking his job on the WMD, just Powell.

        And all as an excuse to head back into Iraq.

        • dejavuagain says:

          Really. In my view, it was 100% Tenet’s fault. He sat behind Powell with the guiltiest look on his face. He knew the CIA was relying upon a so-called expert with zero qualifications to opine that the tubes could be used for centrifuges. Then there was the bogus yellow-cake. Powell would have never said a word if Tenet had not said it was a slam-dunk. There is a reason Tenet disappeared from public view – and was given the Medal of Freedom by Bush for keeping his foul trap shut. Tenet was and is a low-life.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I also remember Cheney’s office being the epicenter of a government-wide program to gin up false intel to feed the Iraq war fever. From Cabinet members to Park Service employees, no government worker was too high or too low to face Cheney’s bureaucratic wrath for not playing his kind of hardball.

        • Manwen says:

          Cheney stationed advisers in the Pentagon known as Group B. They cherry-picked intelligence, much of it fed to CIA by Iraqi ex-pats passed along by Chalabi who himself planned to become head of state. The group included Paul Wolfowitz (assistant Secretary of Defense) who became the fall guy. He left Defense and was shamefully appointed to head the World Bank, reminiscent of Robert MacNamara.

          Cheney also spoon-fed selective leaks to Judith Miller of the NYT promoting the false leaks. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice would then go on Broadcast media and quote the NYT to persuade the public and pressure Congress to support the war. (The NYT later conducted an internal investigation and determined they failed to meet their own journalistic and management standards).

          The whole operation was run by old pals Cheney and Rumsfeld. They selected unvetted intelligence that fit a story they wanted to tell; narratives that their self-interested informants knew they wanted to hear. Then they cycled the info out and used their leaks to make their public case. The intelligence service was sidelined in a misinformation campaign run out of the EOB. Remember, they also outed a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, to punish her husband. He, being the former ambassador to Niger, that CIA sent to confirm that Niger had shipped uranium to Iraq. But, he reported the truth that Niger had not done so.

          Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz bulldozed the intelligence service. Tenet cooperated or, at a minimum, he allowed the agency he directed to be used, rather than defend its employees and their work product.

        • vvv says:

          One might see Dr. Wheeler’s excellent *Anatomy of Deceit* for more on this.

          OT, but I find Scooter Libby’s support of Liz Cheney interesting in light of TFG’s pardon of him.

        • vvv says:

          I don’t understand, *what* seems to be, “another one of your fanciful and bizarre connections”?

        • Eureka says:

          vvv’s a good dude, definitely not prone to fanciful and bizarre connections. Is it possible you’ve mistaken him for someone else?

        • Theodora30 says:

          Don’t tell me Powell really believed all the BS he spouted. For example it was well known that Saddam was not involved in 9-11 but Powell repeated the claim in his U.N. speech. That claim had been publicly debunked before Powell’s speech. The fact that the evidence for Saddam having WMD was very iffy was also publicly known as was the fact that Cheney had been pressuring the CIA to produce “evidence” that Saddam had WMD. Unfortunately most of the media chose to ignore that fact. Watch Bill Moyer’s program “Buying the War. He interviewed journalists who had been reporting that the CIA had serious doubts about the WMD claims. Knight Ridder’s Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay had repeatedly reported that fact and when Moyer’s asked him have they got the story right when so many didn’t, they said they talked to WMD experts at the CIA, not the political people. In contrast Tim Russert’s excuse for not knowing these facts was that no one had bothered to call to tell him. No wonder Cheney thought Russert’s show was the best venue for getting his lies out to the public.
          Colin Powell is no stranger to lying to be a “good soldier”. He is definitely not the saint the media has made him out to be. The fact that Powell lied under oath to Iran Contra investigators was deliberately buried by them even though that fact was in the Iran Contra Independent Counsel’s final report. One network deliberately killed a completed report about that to not anger Saint Colin.

      • bidrec says:

        I recall that the treasury secretary also doubted that the aluminum tubes were for a centrifuge and Paul O’Neill was head of Alcoa before he was treasury secretary.

    • Ewan says:

      It was nonsense and they all knew it. Have you ever seen what a centrifuge setup looks like ? Supposing one being assembled then (never mind the non existing turbines..), any idea how long it would take to get to a decent level of enrichment with a handful of them ? There was absolutely no way this had anything to do with it, and anyone having worked in that area would have told them. Considering the process was invented in the US a long while ago, and has pretty much been used without a change ever since, experts were available by the dozen. The one non-expert selected for his expertise was one John Bolton, as you remember, who was looking for WMD literally under the beds of Saddam Hussein’s relatives.

      • dejavuagain says:

        I agree with Bmaz that Tenet was being pressured by Cheney et al, but that distinguishes between the men and the boys, or the women and the girls, or the them and the little them. Tenet knew in his brain and in his gut that the tubes were b.s. Powell knew in his gut something was off, but his brain was still conflicted. I give Powell as little pass – a little. I give no pass to Tenet. He was a liar and a cheat and a coward and his Presidential Medal should be taken away or he should come clean and give it up.

    • thomasm says:

      I agree, it was almost like believing in Santa Clause, (WMD’s intell) people knew in their heart it was wack. But speaking of intelligence failures who predicted that Russia would be a paper tiger? What an epic f$ck-up.

    • Rugger9 says:

      That topic might be worth its own rant post (go get ’em, Rayne!). Tulsi Gabbard continues to dishonor her Army service as well by s%&tposting Kremlin talking points before going on Tucker’s show. We also have all of those GQP officials that went to Russia on top of Individual-1 himself. That list makes for significant fifth column when combined with all of their sycophants and accessories (looking at you, Chuckles and GG).

      • fm says:

        Remember back in 2019 Hillary Clinton implied the Russians were grooming Tulsi for a third party run in 2020. Tulsi tried to sue her for defamation, which went nowhere.

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    Two weeks ago today, my oldest son said something that has stuck with me. He said, “For the first time in my life, the US’s intel was actually true.”

    Given that he turned 17 a little over a month after 9/11 and the run up to the war in Iraq was his foundational political experience, he’s not wrong.

    I’m as amazed as he is that the Biden administration used the intelligence the U.S. gathered effectively and honestly.

    • Rayne says:

      Is it that the US intelligence is true for the first time, or the US intelligence *shared* with the public is true for the first time?

      The latter, as far as I can tell. It’s also much harder now for nation-states to manufacture intelligence and not be caught out immediately — why not lean hard into radical disclosure?

      • cmarlowe says:

        Relying to WilliamOckham: “… he’s not wrong.”

        With all due respect, he is wrong. They did not just suddenly learn how to get things right.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          The point, probably not entirely clear because I left out some context, was that the Biden administration’s public use of intel was honest, instead of deceitful. For the entirety of the Bush administration, every memorable use of intelligence by the U.S. was bullshit. Even during the Obama administration, we were treated to blatantly false intel, particularly around civilian casualties of drone strikes.

        • cmarlowe says:

          They (Obama) found Bin-Laden. BTW – I generally enjoy your comments. In any case, what we see and know is much much smaller than the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

          Relying to BMAZ: No doubt the greatly improved leadership we now have at all levels helps, but the experienced people and systems had to be in place.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          [I expect to piss off everyone with this comment]
          The assassination of Osama bin Laden was a despicable crime. My view has nothing to do with who bin Laden was and everything to do with the rule of law. I will never endorse the notion that the U.S. President has the right to summarily execute any person on this planet, with no regard to international law, national borders, or human decency. There’s no way to justify the bin Laden operation or the drone strikes that continue to this day without that claim.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          No, I don’t admit that. The CIA’s fake vaccination drive that was part of that effort continues to cause public health issues in Pakistan. The effort to locate bin Laden was eventually successful. That doesn’t make it good.

        • cmarlowe says:

          There is more than enough awfulness right now, so you won’t be able to do piss me off. I’ll simply rephrase my “good” comment with respect to what I think was the point of your first comment: The Bin-Laden intelligence was correct. One can then decide whether or not that intelligence led to something that was “good.”

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, Mr. Ockham is one of the nicest people here, he is not affirmatively trying to piss you off. And I think you are very much conflating what is “good intelligence” and how it is packaged into a product ultimately used.

        • Valley girl says:

          I still remember Obama’s predator drone “joke” at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It was vile.

          “The Jonas Brothers are here. (Applause.) They’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But, boys, don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) I have two words for you — predator drones. (Laughter.) You will never see it coming. (Laughter.) You think I’m joking. (Laughter.)” — Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, May 1, 2010


          As if I wasn’t already disgusted enough with Obama and his drones. It was random inexcusable execution.

        • timbo says:

          It’s okay for him to make jokes like that—he has a Nobel Peace Prize…that he apparently got out of a crackerjack box or something. Ugh.

        • emptywheel says:

          Ah, makes more sense now.

          I have the same instinct that Rayne does that the IC has been providing really accurate intel for a long time, it just never gets shared publicly.

          But that’s because the US has spent so much time lying, as your son observed. Russia has succeeded in discrediting the IC (via efforts like the Snowden leaks) in significant part because it was easy to paint the IC in the worst light.

  9. LaMissy says:

    Seems like a great twitter follow:

    Opening tweet of a quite long thread which patiently explains the many flavors of corruption in Russia under Poutine (as the French have taken to calling him).

    https:// twitter.com/kamilkazani/status/1503430216554795014

    • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

      The French have long called him “Poutine”. It’s the standard spelling. Whether they knew how good a joke they’d made is unclear. You don’t see poutine in France the way you do in Canada.

  10. Anne says:

    Maybe it was real intelligence. But because this stuff is in the Russian playbook, the CIA could have made it up, leaving the Russians frantically hunting for the nonexistent mole.

    Or I am writing spy movie scripts?

    • scribe says:

      Not necessarily. Thing is, as noted upthread, all this is in their standard playbook. Including rubbling cities, wanton killing (read about the time some central Asians – Chechens, I think – took over a school. Russian troops brought in to end the terrorist assault just pitched grenades in through windows. If you were a hostage, tough.) and KGB (sorry, old habits die hard) cleanup squads shooting their own soldiers in the back if they don’t advance fast enough.

      Clancy wrote just about everything he wrote from open-source. When his first book, Hunt for Red October, came out the IC and defense community went into a full-on freak out, thinking he’d gotten a huge leak or something. Then they saw his note cards and that they were all open-source and went away, rethinking what to let out and what to keep in. So, yes this reads like a Clancy novel, but he wrote from life, so to speak.

      Emailing on this and that with my old roommate, now a retired O-6, we’re both deeply impressed by the fight in the Ukrainians and especially in their president. IDK whether he had a script for how to lead, or just is going all method on us, but I don’t think anyone has done a better job of leadership in an existential national crisis since perhaps Churchill. Or maybe one of the Israelis – I don’t know enough of the details of their fights. But demanding more ammunition and rejecting a ride made all the difference in this war.

      Still, I want this on a t-shirt: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ukraine-unveils-new-stamp-based-off-russian-warship-go-fck-yourself-audio_n_622cf975e4b0e01d97abfe07

  11. fishmanxxx says:

    In the current battle (could maybe call it an undeclared war) of fake news and disinformation, declassified information will provide a strong defence and certainly took the edge off Putin’s lead up to his heinous attack! Of course the IC had lost credibility, post Iraq, with the WMD assessment so they were going uphill with everyone.
    In the past, reports by the IC, went to the country’s leadership and stopped there. The rationale, for not declassifying the content of that report, was that releasing that information would thereby divulge the sources and harm further intelligence gathering. I understand that perspective but disagree where the potential good outweighs that negative effect. It appears that weight came to bear recently with the US call on Putin’s BS. I hope that continues?

  12. Spencer Dawkins says:

    “There has been a slew of commentary about the aggressive use the US has made of declassified intelligence.”

    Thank you for this. I’ve been startled about the chattiness of pretty much everyone about US intelligence sources and methods since at least the late Obama administration, and Biden has taken this to new heights.

    I wonder if a reversed children’s story (“the little boy who said there was no wolf”) may be one option for the US – if we keep saying things that predict the future accurately, then people are less likely to question what our spokespeople are saying, and pulling the rug out from under listeners becomes easier.

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