US national security and intelligence veterans have expressed concern over President Joe Biden’s strategy in dealing with Russia, saying that regular leaks to the public over a predicted invasion of Ukraine could hurt Washington’s credibility in the long run and turn out to be entirely wrong.
“I am concerned about the long-term credibility of our intelligence with all these select declassifications,” a former CIA officer told Politico in a report published on Tuesday.
Officials are growing concerned at what Politico called the administration’s “unusual openness” about intelligence on Russia. The ex-CIA source told the outlet such openness, combined with leaks to the media, could “undermine” the trust of both the public and the US’s allies.
One of the latest leaks from “insiders” came in a Newsweek report this week, claiming Russia had planned a “false flag” operation to make it seem as though there was a Kremlin plot to “stage attacks against Russian-speaking Ukrainians.” The aim of the alleged operation was to “discredit and distract Washington,” according to the report. Moscow has repeatedly denied any intention to invade Ukraine.
Whether it’s true or not, the more information like this is dumped, the more likely foreign operatives can track the sources and methods used to obtain it, a former National Security Council member told Politico.
“How many freaking times do they need to warn that anything may be imminent?” the former national security official said.
The Biden administration’s strategy has garnered some support, with one current senior intelligence official arguing the “cost-benefit analysis” has so far worked out in America’s favor.
Calder Walton, a Harvard intelligence historian, summed up the Biden administration’s information dump strategy as “high risk,” comparing it to late President Ronald Reagan and his administration insisting that a Korean Air Lines passenger plane had been shot down deliberately by the Soviet Union in 1983. It would later emerge that it was not intentional.
“The result was that the Reagan administration undermined its criticism of the Soviet government by overstating its case,” Walton said.
Others pointed to the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan as possibly motivating the administration now to be more hawkish in their approach.
“They know they have to be seen as a dependable ally,” a former intelligence official said. Meanwhile, an anonymous senior Democratic congressional aide echoed the sentiment and said the “withdrawal experience” – in which the Taliban quickly regained control and multiple US service members died – may be making the administration “more susceptible to bad hawkish advice.”
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