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Intelligence community slams New York Times report on Russia-Taliban bounty plot

Leading intelligence community officials are speaking out following a news report about Russia paying the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan — denouncing leaks of sensitive information to the media.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien each released statements on Monday in which they condemned such information getting out to the public.

All three of the statements were similar in messaging, all declining to confirm the report itself, saying that the intelligence was still being assessed. The statements also mirrored one another due to the concerns they raised over leaks from top intelligence officials.

“We are still investigating the alleged interference referenced in media reporting and we will brief the President and Congressional leaders at the appropriate time,” Ratcliffe said Monday, “Unfortunately, the unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”

Haspel blasted leaks from the intelligence community, saying that they “compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability.”

On Friday, the New York Times reported that President Trump and the National Security Council were informed of the covert operations in March, but had taken no action in response.

The White House and the commander-in-chief have denied the report on multiple occasions.

“Nobody briefed or told me, @VPPence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an ‘anonymous source by the Fake News @nytimes. Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us,” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday regarding the report.

The National Security Council is backing up the White House’s denials, with O’Brien saying, “While we do not normally discuss such matters, we constantly evaluate intelligence reports and brief the President as necessary.”

U.S. special operations service members conduct combat operations in support of Operation Resolute Support in Southeast Afghanistan
US special operations service members conduct combat operations in support of Operation Resolute Support in Southeast Afghanistan.The 75th Ranger Regiment

“Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence Community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items. Nevertheless, the Administration, including the National Security Council staff, have been preparing should the situation warrant action,” O’Brien continued.

O’Brien went on to join Haspel and Ratcliffe in slamming the leak of such sensitive information, saying, “To those government officials who betray the trust of the people of the United States by leaking classified information, your actions endanger our national security. No matter the motivation, there is never a justification for such conduct.”

Both the Taliban and Russia’s foreign ministry have also denied the allegation.

In an interview with NBC News on Monday, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior official with the Kremlin, called the allegations “100 percent bulls—.”

“You know, maybe I can say it’s a little bit rude but this is 100 percent bulls—,” Peskov said, “It’s an undiplomatic thing, but it’s bulls–t.”



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