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From Consortium News
The New York Times is pulling out all the stops in promoting its dubious story on Russia offering bounty for dead U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Wednesday's installment, a "news analysis" by Times veteran writers David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, treats the allegations that Russia paid Taliban or Taliban-related terrorists to kill U.S. troops as flat fact:
"Russia's complicity in the bounty plot came into sharper focus on Tuesday as the The New York Times reported that American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia's military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account."
This is presented as "bolstering other evidence of the plot, including detainee interrogations." The take from the Afghan-run interrogations is, ipso facto, highly dubious; and we need to know a lot more about the alleged new "electronic data."
Sanger and Schmitt put the "bounty" story atop a "list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rival[ing] some of the worst days of the Cold War." They hold up to ridicule White House statements that the president wants to have only "verified" intelligence, claiming that this prompts "derision from officials who have spent years working on the daily brief and say it is most valuable when filled with dissenting interpretations and alternative explanations."
The President's Daily Brief (PDB)
Granted, such dissent might have been helpful to President George W. Bush, rather than having PDB briefers like Michael Morell (later to become deputy CIA director) parroting the line of then-Director George Tenet and Vice President Dick Cheney that there were tons of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But what is wrong with preferring "verified" intelligence rather than a menu of options attempting to explain unverified reporting reeking of political agendas? (Morell later went on TV to call for the covert murder of Russians and Iranians in Syria.)
I helped prepare The President's Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and personally conducted the one-on-one morning briefings in the Oval Office from 1981 to 1985. In those days we did our best to corroborate reporting especially on highly sensitive issues and did not try to cover our derrieres by alerting the president and his top aides to highly dubious reporting, however sexy.
Later, Cheney's fascination/fixation with the yarn about "yellowcake uranium" going to Iraq from Niger did not pass the smell test, for example, something that it took the International Atomic Energy Agency only a day or two of investigation to demolish.
Seymour Hersh wrote in the March 24, 2003 New Yorker, just days after the attack on Iraq:
"On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the IAEA in Vienna, told the UN Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. 'The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents ... are in fact not authentic,' ElBaradei said.
"One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told [Hersh], 'These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.'"
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