The Biden Administration Staved Off Russia’s First Round of InfoWar on Ukraine, But How about the Second?

As I’ve noted (most recently in my series on Jeff Gerth’s error-ridden screed about “Russiagate” [sic]), Russian denialists cling to the John Solomon report, from the period when he and Rudy Giuliani were chumming up people like Dmitry Firtash, that Konstantin Kilimnik was really a State Department source, which — they fancy — proves he was not a Russian spy.

The actual communications between Kilimnik and people at State show him attempting to stovepipe shoddy propaganda to his State contacts, not offering useful information.

But a potentially more telling example of Kilimnik’s contacts with State are his description, after going out to drinks with John Kerry’s then-Chief of Staff, Jonathan Finer, just before Klimnik traveled to New York to meet with Paul Manafort about the election, that “Finer or whatever the fuck is his name,” was, “In total space.”

On the evening of May 6, 2016, Kilimnik’s communications suggest he met for “off the record” drinks with Department of State employees.368 Kilimnik was frustrated by this meeting, stating that he met “Finer or whatever the fuck is his name. In total space.”369

Patten said he understood “[i]n total space” to mean “in outer space” and.therefore not well informed on issues involving Ukraine. Patten Tr., p. 79; FBI, FD-302, Patten 5/22/2018.

In 2016, Paul Manafort’s handler was pissed that Finer wasn’t buying his bullshit about Ukraine.

Which is why I find these passages, from Politico’s oral history of the events leading up to Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine, a good place to start reading it. Finer — now Biden’s Deputy National Security Adviser — described bringing allies around to preparing for Russia’s attack by “bombarding them” with so much information they could no longer ignore evidence of Russia’s likely attack.

AMANDA SLOAT: It got to the point where we had to say to the Europeans, “Fine, we can agree to disagree analytically, but let’s start planning as if we are right. If we are right, then we’re in a good place because we’ve got all our planning. If you’re right, that’s the best possible outcome because then there’s not going to be an invasion — at best, this will have just been a waste of time.”

JON FINER: We eventually brought people around by bombarding them with information that you could not ignore.

More importantly, Finer — the guy who, Kilimnik scoffed, was “in total space” about Ukraine — described how Biden’s team preempted Russia’s efforts to use disinformation to justify their attack.

JON FINER: There was a very high likelihood that Russia would use disinformation — which is a fancy word for lies — to create some pretext for invading. By putting out information well in advance of their inevitable attempts to create this justification, we thought that we would be able to discredit any attempt by Russia to portray this as a just war.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you set some time aside to read the whole thing. It’s a remarkable account of American efforts to do what’s right.

It’s also an expression of the auspicious collection of people in place for the fight against Ukraine. At various times, I’ve thought about how lucky the US was to have lifelong diplomat Bill Burns at CIA, to have no-drama Avril Haines at DNI, to have an expert like Tony Blinken at State. This piece provides a glimpse of how well they all worked together, little over a year after taking over from the shambolic Trump Administration.

As Burns — who spent over thirty years at State — described, this is the way government is supposed to work.

BILL BURNS: It’s the way government should work, in my opinion. The president set a very clear sense of direction. There was a shared understanding of the problem and coordination amongst the principals. Broadly speaking, the U.S. government performed the way it should perform in a situation like that.

There are specific details I’ll likely return to: comments suggesting the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a necessary step before Putin would launch the invasion, descriptions from deputy NSA for international economics Daleep Singh and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco about how they’re targeting corrupt oligarchs.

But the most salient comments are about something that has already gotten a lot of coverage: the decision to declassify a great deal of information to undercut Russia’s information advantage.

EMILY HORNE: Many of the senior policymakers who were in and still are in the administration remember vividly seeing these intel streams in 2014 and then seeing what had been predicted come to life. There was this feeling of: “We knew this was coming, but we couldn’t say so because it was classified.” People remember that frustration and felt that we couldn’t let that happen a second time. All the conditions were there for us to try something new and bold, but risky. It was a gamble that this would work.

JAKE SULLIVAN: We convened a meeting of our team to talk through a strategy of downgrade [declassification], and then I engaged directly with the senior most people in the intelligence community about how we could do this.

BILL BURNS: The president made the decision to declassify some of our intelligence relatively early on, which is always a complicated choice to make. Along with my colleagues in the intelligence community, the DNI and others, I believe strongly that it was the right choice. I had seen too many instances where Putin had created false narratives that we never caught up to.

AVRIL HAINES: I remember quite clearly when [the president] directed me to do this. I have this sense of “OK, we’ve got to figure out how to do this in a way that protects sources and methods and understand what it is that we’re trying to achieve here.” It became a real team sport. How do we do this in a way that allows us to protect what we hold dearest?

JAKE SULLIVAN: What we would do is send to [the intelligence community] in classified form the things that we wanted to be able to say, they would tell us what could be declassified, and what couldn’t. We would take what they declassified and put it out. That began in early December and became a central feature of our approach through the beginning of the invasion — and since.


GEN. PAUL NAKASONE: People are always asking, “Hey, did you ever think you’d be releasing your most sensitive intelligence to the American public?” I thought to myself, “Little bit of change.” But what I really think: “This is the nation’s intelligence. This isn’t an agency or the intelligence community’s or anyone else’s intelligence. When it benefits our national security, why do we not do that?”

JOHN KIRBY: I think this is one of the most valuable lessons that we have learned from a communications perspective — the real benefit to downgrading intelligence and making it public. You can really affect the decision-making process of a potential adversary. We were beating Putin’s lie to the punch, and we know that by doing so we got inside his decision-making loop.

Between this and extensive efforts to avoid the invasion, which have gotten less focus, this represented several departures from the poisonous secrecy of “the Deep State” in the decades leading up to it. Those complaining about “the Deep State” likely won’t notice, though, since they’re re-reading a debunked Sy Hersh story for the fourth time.

The oral history doesn’t address several questions I have about US efforts to anticipate and undercut Russia’s information war.

While the piece talks a lot about increased intelligence sharing, it doesn’t discuss the extent to which increased information sharing is a factor in the large number of spy networks — in Europe — that have been rolled up in recent years, starting before the invasion but accelerating since, as WaPo recently laid out.

Over the past year, as Western governments have ramped up weapons deliveries to Ukraine and economic sanctions against Moscow, U.S. and European security services have been waging a parallel if less visible campaign to cripple Russian spy networks. The German case, which also involved the arrest of a senior official in the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, followed roll-ups of suspected Russian operatives in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Poland and Slovenia.

The moves amount to precision strikes against Russian agents still in Europe after the mass expulsion of more than 400 suspected Russian intelligence officers from Moscow’s embassies across the continent last year.

U.S. and European security officials caution that Russia retains significant capabilities but said that its spy agencies have sustained greater damage over the past year than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Russia laid the groundwork for this invasion for years, and it seems Europe is only now reversing some of Russia’s efforts behind it.

But what hasn’t been rolled back — and where this oral history seems overly optimistic — is a Russian backed network of propagandists who have gotten louder with the anniversary of the war.

No one has gotten louder than Tucker Carlson, who seems to be making support for Russia a litmus test in his support for 2024. In his anniversary special, he made the following baseless claims:

  • There was no proof that Russia hacked the DNC (Tucker alters the timeline by a month to sustain this claim); the Democrats weren’t even hacked.
  • The investigation into Trump was all a hoax.
  • If the Ukraine war continues, the US will lose.
  • Biden never mentioned the costs on the support for Ukraine.
  • Biden is censoring information about the war.
  • Zelenskyy is a destroyer who wants US troops to fight.
  • Ukraine is “the least free place in all of Europe, which is why it’s Joe Biden’s favorite place.”
  • Biden was elected in a sketchy election and has never had a majority of support in this country, so he has no legitimacy (Tucker made no mention of Trump’s failure to ever get majority support).
  • Extremism (he doesn’t say terrorism) will have been caused by neglect.
  • Bolsonaro and Trump are moderates.
  • The Biden Administration blew up the Nord Stream pipeline.

This is Tucker doing what he balked at doing during the transition, until he grew desperate to stave off the “demonic force” that is Trump: undermining the legitimate President of the US. This is Tucker simply making stuff up about Russia’s attack on the US in 2016, taking the already baseless claims of denialists and pushing them five steps further.

He’s doing it, of course, while mining exclusive access of footage to the most sensitive spaces in the Capitol.

I think Tucker is right about one thing: Biden sounds overly optimistic. Because the Republican Party — and a large number of horseshoe leftists — would rather Russia win this war than let him succeed. And that’s a harder information battle to win.

88 replies
  1. Max404Droid says:

    Tucker is right about one thing: Biden sounds overly optimistic. Because the Republican Party — and a large number of horseshoe leftists — would rather Russia win this war than let him succeed.

    Sahra Wagenknecht is the poster child for this over here. Have a look:

    But now the woman revered as something of a heroine of the German left by some is receiving overtures from the far-right Alternative für Deutchland, with party influencers urging her to effectively join forces with them.

    She recently appeared on the front page of the monthly magazine Compact, a self-declared mouthpiece of the AfD. In its latest issue her upturned face appears next to the cover line: “The best chancellor – a candidate for the left and the right.”

    • Max404Droid says:

      Just to add: Wagenknecht headlined a big (somewhat) “peace” demo this weekend in Berlin, replete with old folks from Die Linke, Q-anoners, anti-vaxxers, Reichsburgers (the ones that don’t accept the German state, but rather want the Kaiser back), neo-nazis, and more. Credible reports say the Russian Embassy provided financing.

      This evening she was grilled (and roasted) by a panel on the popular “Hart aber Fair” show and she let slip that yes, the Russian soldiers have raped some Ukrainian women but it happens in all wars, and so have the Ukranian soldiers raped women. The moderator was prepared with a clip from a UN spokeswoman who clearly stated it was a Russian military tactic and that there was no evidence of rape from the Ukrainian side. Especially considering there are few Russians in Ukraine, just Ukrainians, since their country was invaded. A rare moment of Wagenknecht shutting up.

      The skill and deftness of the moderator, from the very good ARD public network was impressive. The disinformationists try but at least in the publicly financed media there is pushback.

  2. Leu2500 says:

    “ All the conditions were there for us to try something new and bold, but risky. It was a gamble that this would work.”

    Not what I was expecting from a Biden Admin, since he’s been in DC for 50 years.

    • phred says:

      And yet, he would be the most likely to succeed at trying something new precisely because that long experience made him acutely knowledgeable about the functioning/failure of the federal government and where to find the points of failure to be able to resolve them.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s one reason I raised the mix of Burns, Haines, and Blinken. They’re all incredibly experienced, but Burns and Haines are unconventional for where they are.

      • Justlp34 says:

        Thanks for recommending that oral history. Impressive collaboration on a grand scale, both here & around the world. And a good lesson in how to responsibly handle classified information and release that which can be useful to tell an important story.

      • MattyGMattyG says:

        …and something we were reminded of in exquisite horror on an almost daily basis during the DT years…

  3. bgThenNow says:

    As much as Biden was at the bottom of my list of D candidates, I think now he was the right person at the right time.

  4. harpie says:

    re: TUCKER’s baseless claim: Zelenskyy is a destroyer who wants US troops to fight.

    2/16/23 DOMINION files public version of it’s case against FOX

    Late on January 6, CARLSON texted with Pfeiffer that
    TRUMP is “a demonic force, a destroyer. […]

    2/16/23 NYT writes about that ^^^. [updated 2/22/23]:
    Fox Stars Privately Expressed Disbelief About Election Fraud Claims. ‘Crazy Stuff.’ The comments, by Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others, were released as part of a defamation suit against Fox News by Dominion Voter Systems []

    2/24/23 CARLSON: Zelenskyy is not a hero. He’s an anti-hero. He’s a destroyer
    8:36 PM · Feb 24, 2023 [VIDEO]

    • timbozone says:

      Carlson’s comment was made when he was urging others at Fox news to stay on Trump’s ‘good’ side; Carlson is more about keeping his ratings and not losing audience share than he is about being a nice or moral person.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Tucker Carlson came from a privileged, but very complicated background. I was shocked to find out this week that he was born in the Mission District of San Francisco, not the typical spawning grounds of Russian shill men.

          The second article below, has very interesting background on his childhood that a bit of armchair, totally unqualified psychoanalysis on my part, lays the groundwork for a lot of his animus.

            • Molly Pitcher says:

              Between the snow and the rain and the unusually freezing temperatures in the Bay Area, no ! But I really want some !

              Am I wrong in thinking the Ooni is best used outside ?

              • bmaz says:

                Oh, absolutely, DO NOT do that indoor. But if you have any back patio under roof at all, it is fine. Turn it on, let it heat up, and then you only need 60-90 seconds to cook a pie. If not wildly blowing rain, should be fine.

                And, by the way, have been watching the weather in CA lately, and it is truly insane. Saw video last night of Pasadena, and it looked like Big Bear. Just bonkers.

                • Molly Pitcher says:

                  Good to know. Our only protection from the elements are umbrellas and trees, so I think we will need to wait for some warmer weather.

                  Of course, now all I can think of is a pesto pizza with pancetta.

                  Mt. Diablo and Mt Hamilton look like they belong in the Sierras. 17 over to Santa Cruz keeps being shut down due to snow and downed trees. It has been nuts.

                • P J Evans says:

                  Mountain High is reporting 90 inches of new, on 36 inches of base. Tahoe area – they’re advising Not Going There for the next few days.

          • Ravenous hoarde says:

            “ In 1995, they prepared and executed substantially similar wills, each leaving all their assets to the other. Lisa’s will was a one-page handwritten document that stated: “I leave all of my earthly goods and possessions to my husband, Michael Erroll Vaughan. This includes but is not limited to; all of my shares of our jointly owned real estate, personal property, common stock, mutual fund shares, bank accounts, silver, paintings, jewelry and vehicles.” Codicil #1 appeared immediately after her signature and stated: “I leave my sons Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson and Buckley Swanson Peck Carlson one dollar each; $1.00 each.””

            I wonder if that the equivalent of leaving a dime as a tip or normal for a will?

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I believe that one-page codicil, disinheriting her sons, was found years later in Italy. Apparently hand written, but in her writing, it was contested by the boys in California. They won and kept their shares of her estate.

              Tucker’s step mom was also an heiress, so he’s never hurt for money, only parental attention, self-esteem and recognition. Since boyhood, he seems to get there through an odd mix of outlandishness, chaos, and followership, as in how rarely he contests the right wing authority figures he admires.

            • P J Evans says:

              It was the way you could deal with kids who either already had received their inheritance, or who you were otherwise disinheriting. The theory AIUI is that by leaving them something, they couldn’t claim they were omitted.
              I have a transcription of a will where – well, it’s an excellent example of dysfunctional family. Mother, a longtime widow, left her older son by her second husband 10 pounds to be paid in one year if he or his heirs called for it, the second son 20 shillings on the same terms, assorted bequests to non-family, and to her son by her first husband the rest of the estate, with a trustee to see he doesn’t spend it all (he was over 60 years old).

  5. Alan_OrbitalMechanic says:

    This is probably the one area in Russia’s abilities that seem to be improving.

    I’m not sure what team Biden is going to do to counter it, but I don’t think that Twitter responses, press events, and new appearances are going to cut it.

    Team Biden has turned out to be good at those, but what they having to counter is a lot more insipid than that.

  6. BobBobCon says:

    I agree that the contrast between Biden’s team and “the shambolic Trump Administration” is like night and day.

    I’d add that the same thing is largely true for the GW Bush crew, and that highlights a couple of huge problems.

    The establishment GOP gives huge weight to the opinions of absolutely incompetent people like Bolton and Kyl, who directly colluded with Trump, and people like Condoleezza Rice have been far more interested in butressing the GOP than building any effective coalitions on national security issues.

    And the second part is the extent to which the DC pundits and press refuse to treat the GOP as being at odds with national security. There was a weird episode in Peter Baker’s book about closing days of the Trump administration, where top generals asked Robert Gates if they should resign in the face of Trump’s craziness.

    Gates counseled against it, saying the press would ignore it after a day.

    Which may well have been true, and Baker — top White House correspondent for the Times — doesn’t even bother to challenge Gates’ opinion of the press.I honestly don’t think Baker even understands how little he and his colleagues care at this point about the collapse of the GOP’s foreign policy and national defense networks.

  7. Fancy Chicken says:

    Thank you for breaking down the article you recommended in Politico before I go and read it. Having your analysis always makes me a better consumer of media.

  8. Amicus says:

    On the combat front, the Ukraine Matters youtuber just put up a piece that estimates Ukraine might be forming as many as 20 new assault brigades for a possible late Spring offensive. Based on past force structure that is on the order of 80,000 soldiers and an awful lot of armor and mobile artillery. By comparison, that translates to about four or more US mechanized divisions. That’s a lot of firepower and does not include lots of other new weapons being supplied to Ukraine and other Ukrainian forces. Of course, this assumes the information is accurate or substantially so.

    War is a highly contingent enterprise. But Ukraine may soon possess the capability to unleash a crushing counter-offensive.

  9. wetzel says:

    I have been struck by how there are methodological and philosophical differences in the approaches each brings to the information war, Biden’s and Putin’s teams. I think while the Biden approach is empirical, analytical and relies on game theory, Putin’s approach comes from a phenomenological historical materialism and a deep understanding of the social construction of reality in Stalinism.

    I think you can see the genius of Biden’s approach in how he has managed escalation. For example, at one point last March, Russia put it out that there wouldn’t be threat of nuclear escalation unless the Russian regime felt it was under existential threat. A week later, Biden had a “gaffe” where he said he didn’t understand how Putin could stay in power. The administration then put it out that Biden had misspoken, that he didn’t mean to say that. This allowed Biden to communicate that Putin was under existential threat, but no, it was just an old man’s gaffe! It changed the game without changing it. No, Putin, you’re not under existential threat, but you are! Biden’s team is great at this. They have made it impossible for Russia to engineer the Ukraine war into an existential crisis because the ground is always shifting.

    I think Biden’s administration has been masterful at this kind of thing. As an example, I think they use F-16’s this way. No, we’re not going to give F-16’s. That would be escalation! It’s always held out, like the forbidden fruit, even though F-16’s probably wouldn’t be that big a deal given how thick Ukraine is with air defense, but holding them out as a forbidden “trigger”, the Biden administration has been able to get a great deal of weaponry including HIMARs and Bradleys into Ukraine without it being “escalatory”.

    Putin on the other hand is a genius at fascism and terror. The atrocities in Ukraine have created a new Stalinism in Russia. I think it’s hard to judge how much the Russo-Ukraine war is really about making a new social reality in Russia. In the analytical and empirical view, violence in war serves some factitious end, to seize resources or territory etc. From a phenomenological point of view, violence in war creates a new social reality. Sometimes I think we miss this “fascist way of war”. The exhibitions of atrocity in Ukraine are as much an instrument to create the terror state as they are to achieve this or that comprehensible objective.

    • Just Some Guy says:

      Enjoyed reading your analysis. For me, that makes the matter of Russia’s Ukrainian invasion being contingent upon U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that much more of a question mark — which I don’t expect any of us to answer, but it is interest to speculate upon.

  10. dadidoc1 says:

    I’m just amazed at the number of Republican legislators and members of the right wing media who seem to be Russian assets. It’s very disturbing at how shameless they are. Putin couldn’t have scheduled the Murdaugh trial at a better time.

  11. Tom-1812 says:

    Sickening to see the Law & Order party supporting thugs like Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group marauding over the Ukrainian countryside and committing atrocities like the worst of the Free Companies of mercenaries from the Hundred Years War, or the brutal Condottieri of the Renaissance period. Yes, the Tough on Crime folk are all in favour of releasing prisoners from jail, putting weapons in their hands, and sending them off to kill. There’s a good reason the Ukrainian forces refer to the Russian invaders as orcs. The GOP and Right Wing supporters of Putin should have their noses rubbed in this hellishness every time they open their mouths to speak.

  12. harpie says:

    Sorry, this is OT, about the recent revival of the COVID / Lab leak / Propaganda story.

    > US Energy Department assesses Covid-19 likely resulted from lab leak, furthering US intel divide over virus origin []

    [end of the article]: […] One of the sources said that the new assessment from the Department of Energy is similar to information from a House Republican Intelligence Committee report [no link] released last year on the origins of the virus.

    This MAY be that report:
    R E P O R T together with MINORITY VIEWS []

    • bmaz says:

      Pretty much every scientist I talk to thinks the “lab leak” theory is not only not likely, but silly. This by Dr. Angie Rasmussen is typical (check her entire feed out):

      “But I do know that to be consistent with the available scientific evidence, the DOE has to explain how the virus emerged twice over 2 wks in humans at the same market the size of a tennis court, over 8 km & across a river from the only lab in Wuhan working on SARSr-CoVs.”

      Then there are all the virologists that say the sequencing does not look man made. Then there are people like Max Kennerly (a very sharp atty and reader of all things government, not an epidemiologist) who properly noted:

      “Correction: I suggested above “some bureaucrat with a BA from Georgetown typed up some bullshit, hence having nothing new.”

      I would like to amend this with: that bureaucrat may have just cut-and-pasted bullshit from the GOP report.”

    • Rayne says:

      This DOE-attributed “assessment” infuriates me to no end. What the actual fuck is DOE doing making this assessment? It’s not their purview. I can’t open the WSJ article because it’s paywalled, but this sounds like some asshole MAGAt inside DOE went rogue and bent over for House GOP.

            • Rayne says:

              The only legitimate reason there may be for any DOE personnel to offer an assessment should be under the aegis of State Department with CDC involvement.

              What’s not being asked is if this is information warfare intended to ratchet up tensions with China.

              Now ask why Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is running this crap.

              ADDER: References re COVID origins, since it’s clear we’re going to have to go there now that DOE-types have decided to throw conspiracy theories around —

              Conspiracy Theories About COVID-19 Help Nobody
              The continued pushing of a “lab-leak” theory is unsupported and dangerous.
              By Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan, and Michael Worobey, department head of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

              The molecular epidemiology of multiple zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2
              SCIENCE 26 Jul 2022 Vol 377, Issue 6609 pp. 960-966

              The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic
              SCIENCE 26 Jul 2022 Vol 377, Issue 6609 pp. 951-959

              • bmaz says:

                Lol, they already ran it. The gig is up already. And everybody else is running with it too, including CNN, NYT and others. DOE had a right to enter the “assessment”, and they did. That is done now. Yes, I am familiar with the various reports as to zoonotic. That is irrelevant, there is another report in the mix now too.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Why is it not surprising that one of the CBS News “journalists” pushing this story is Catherine Herridge?

          • bmaz says:

            That is not totally true. “The primary mission of the DOE national laboratories is to conduct research and development (R&D) addressing national priorities: energy and climate, the environment, national security, and health”.

            There is no reason in the world they cannot give an assessment, as wrongheaded as it may be.

            • Rayne says:

              Health with relation to the environment, with respect to energy production and use and its impact on climate/environment/national security.

              That’s it. It falls under the very narrow purview of Associate Under Secretary of Energy (Environment, Health, Safety and Security) under the Undersecretary for Infrastructure, in turn under the Secretary of Energy.

              They do NOT have a remit regarding biological laboratory operations owned and operated by another country, unrelated to energy.

              • bmaz says:

                That is directly contrary to what Cheryl Rofer and several others say. They can release the assessment if they want, and they did.

                    • Silly but True says:

                      While that’s always true to an extent, I’d still like to cling to some idea that our U.S. government isn’t out there making statements like this in reasonable chance of being wrong.

                      I mean “most likely” is a combination of words which used to have specific meaning. Now it could be that it is the most likely possibility at 5% reliability, because 5% reliability may be the highest of all the possibilities, but if that’s the case, he probably needed more nuance.

                  • Rayne says:

                    Mmm. The same FBI which had a little problem with a rogue agent who took bags of cash. Got it.

                    I don’t know how we’re supposed to trust them, especially about a biolab in fucking China and not inside the US.

              • Lit_eray says:

                The national laboratories are involved in an incredibly wide ranging number of activities. They do run at least Biosafety Level 2 laboratories, if not even higher. A lot of individual and program funding comes from outside of the DOE. So from condensed matter physics, to space plasma physics, to human genome, to HIV genome, to Hepatitis C genome, to theoretical physics, to advanced mathematical theory, to computational science, to tracking fissionable materials in former states of the Soviet Union, to you name it; someone is working on it.

              • Silly but True says:

                DOE’s aegis to investigate is more specific here than generalized as “it manages federal labs.

                The short answer is because the Energy Department has a special division that, as part of its mission to track and mitigate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, specializes in the study of biological weapons such as viruses.

                So DoE’s virology expertise, particularly regarding tracking point of origin of new, novel viruses, is generally beyond reproach; they certainly include the worldwide experts. It’s been reported the unit is housed at Lawrence Livermore.

                • Silly but True says:

                  Something is afoot on this.

                  In last day, Jon Stewart devoted a program to his “cancellation” after his Stephen Colbert appearance supporting lab leak allegation in 2021.

                  And I just saw breaking news a couple of min ago that FBI Dir. Wray says it likely leaked from lab.

                  None of this puts me at ease, as I now wonder what Wray knows and when did he know it.

                  But further, we shouldn’t divulge anything that risks our already difficult intel gathering from inside China.

                  So, I’m resolved that maybe we don’t or shouldn’t need to how how and why it’s origins are confirmed if they finally are.

                  • Rayne says:

                    Do you recall the little problem we had with intelligence collection in China which ended up with a bunch of dead and disappeared sources?


                    Or the pandemic monitoring program the Trump admin shuffled hard — disbanding the Directorate of Global Health Security and Biodefense — yanking resources inside China months before the pandemic?


                    I don’t trust Wray at all because the dismantling of monitoring happened on his watch and we never heard a peep about it from him with regard to its affect on FBI intelligence. Tell me how the US was supposed to have resuscitated surveillance in China after Trump but during Xi’s Zero COVID policy. It’s a crock of shit.

                    • Silly but True says:

                      Yeah, our intelligence gathering within China has taken some huge dings the past decade, and I understand it to pretty much be an opaque wall since their purge.

                      It’s maddening: anything we can do to eke out better performance is good.

                      But, something of magnitude of covid, people throughout the world deserve to understand the reality of what occurred. Was it a bioweapons lab? Does more pressure need to be exerted within geopolitical strategy, financial leverage, Security Council and/or UN? Was it a medical lab? Is it even true at all?

                      There are some tradeoffs that will have to occur between all of those goals.

                    • Rayne says:

                      Did you fucking read any of the reports by experts in virology and epidemiology about the origins of COVID? Not goddamn intelligence personal who have no expertise in biology but PhDs who study viruses and disease?

                      One more fucking time:

                      The molecular epidemiology of multiple zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2
                      SCIENCE 26 Jul 2022 Vol 377, Issue 6609 pp. 960-966

                      The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic
                      SCIENCE 26 Jul 2022 Vol 377, Issue 6609 pp. 951-959

                      The biggest goddamned problem with the “low confidence” bullshit being disseminated through right-wing propaganda outlets first is that they utterly failed to look at China’s response to the early outbreak. The entire world saw people dropping dead in the street; China was worried enough that they shared data with WHO and the CDC as early as January 2020, including autopsy data.

                      Does that fucking sound at all like a lab leak a secretive authoritarian government would want to hide? The same authoritarian government which locked two US senators out of the electronics manufacturing province back in 2009 to keep them from seeing counterfeit electronics production? The same authoritarian government which managed to quietly execute 30 intelligence assets and sources before the US public caught on there was a problem? All of which happened under the noses of the US intelligence community you’re trusting to give a rational, fully-investigated opinion?

                      I can’t fucking believe the lack of critical thinking about the flimsy lab leak claims. Mind boggling.

      • Just Some Guy says:

        Watching this “assessment” get laundered into something approaching “credibility” from the likes of Nate Silver sure is unpleasant.

      • harpie says:

        YES, I agree. That’s why I went looking for that report—[don’t know why CNN couldn’t link to it in the first place!]
        I haven’t had a chance to look through it, yet…but I quickly went through some things I saved, and think I may have a lead on who this person [IF there is this person] might be…still looking.

        ADDED: Here’s some info on the labs from Cheryl ROFER:
        11:25 PM · Feb 26, 2023

        I’m seeing a number of people expressing surprise that DOE runs the national laboratories. They have 17. There are other laboratories run by other agencies. The DOE laboratories have participated in the human genome program. [link]

      • Matt___B says:

        I had the same reaction as to purview, thinking the HHS, CDC and FDA would be the primary agencies. Apparently DOE got in the game after the CARES act passed:

        I think publicizing a report with “low confidence” is a curious PR move though…

      • BruceF says:

        I am only aware of one political figure who stood up for the manner by which CCP Leader Xi had responded to the outbreak of Covid. That was Trump. Politico documented fifteen times that Trump praised Xi for his handling of the outbreak. Strange how reporting on DOE’s new “low confidence” analysis seems to infer/conflate a Biden administration failure from their admirable effort to get a bottom line answer on source. The off target reporting fails in an epic manner to identify which administration did not get an answer on source, or act to hold China accountable!

        • Rayne says:

          Wow. Thanks for slinging a bunch of opinion and propaganda around, as if we haven’t had enough of that fact-free bullshit about COVID since January 2020 — earlier, if you want to count the Trump administration’s killing of pandemic monitoring before 2020.

          Zero-COVID was Xi’s mandatory lockdown of more than one billion people by an authoritarian government. The policy had to be abandoned because it was not only killing Chinese but creating a threat to Xi’s grip on power. Meanwhile, Trump lied to the public about the severity of the pandemic repeatedly, while undermining mitigation efforts like mask mandates. Trump became a joke because he lied so damned much and so stupidly about COVID. Those are facts.

          Take your bullshit and hit the exit.

      • harpie says:

        Max Kennerly found the DNI report:
        8:18 AM · Mar 1, 2023

        There’s our answer:
        [to the question: “Why is the FBI Director giving exclusive interviews to a propaganda outlet?”]
        the FBI Director gave an exclusive interview to a right-wing propaganda outlet to deliver right-wing propaganda.

        The FBI’s assessment remains confidential. The ODNI report says the whole basis for it is “there’s a lab in Wuhan.” [screenshots] [link]

        The link doesn’t go to the DNI report, so here it is
        [WHERE is the date?]

        Office of the Director of National Intelligence
        National Intelligence Council
        Updated Assessment on COVID-19 ORIGINS

          • harpie says:

            I’m glad you’re saying that, because that’s the feeling I have, only you understand things better than I do. :-)

              • Rayne says:

                Got a date on that? A source? Anybody with a background in virology or epidemiology at FBI who’s done comparable legwork to the researchers who did the analyses published in Nature last July?

                • bmaz says:

                  No, and not going to waste my time looking for one. Are you disputing that there has never been a consensus of US Intel agencies on the Covid origin? Really? There is really nothing new, or changed, here. And, yes, zoonotic remains, as always, the most likely. You are falling into the argument trap being hyped.

                  • Rayne says:

                    I’m contesting the point the FBI is a credible source on a biolab in China, especially when their opinion is like stapling Jello. Beyond fucking fed up with the amount of anti-science bullshit which puts the FBI’s opinion above credentialed experts in their field.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Sure, absolutely agree. But they are an IC member, irrespective of whether they are non-virologically competent dopes.

  13. chetnolian says:

    Back on topic, as I read this I wondered if Biden’s long experience also helped with the understanding of misinformation, given that he must have witnessed its manufacture regarding Iraq in the “4th Executive Branch” of the USA during the time of GWB.

  14. Savage Librarian says:

    Tucker’s son, Buckley, is Communications Director for Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). Can’t help but wonder if McCarthy gave Tucker access to the J6 Capitol tapes as some kind of deal connected to the dispute with Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

    Banks and Emmer were competing for House Republican Whip. Emmer won. But Tucker has a grudge against Emmer because he thinks he was responsible for trashing his son, Buckley. Did Kevin give Tucker the tapes as some kind of sick concession?

    I guess Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy can now revise their joke about Putin paying Trump. They should add their names to that list because they both may be indirect beneficiaries through Fox.

    “Inside Trumpworld’s Dark Obsession With the GOP Whip Race” – 10/21/22

    • Just Some Guy says:


      Also, how many dang Buckleys can one family have? If I’m reading prior comments correctly, Tucker named his son after his brother.

      Do they all have nicknames like Tuck and Buck and… well, you know the rest.

    • -mamake- says:

      Ditto this. Important to donate & flag as support for Brandi Buchman decision, among many other reasons!

    • Just Some Guy says:

      This is definitely a sliver of silver lining of good news on a dark cloud of bad news regarding the Daily Kos layoffs. I am not able to contribute at this time, but I definitely appreciate Emptywheel helping Ms. Buchman out, and those who can contribute to her reporting!

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