New reports show that U.S. intelligence had “low to moderate” confidence in a story peddled by leftists and their corrupt corporate media cronies last year. The anonymously sourced story claimed Russia offered members of the Taliban bounties in exchange for killing American soldiers.
“The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier,” a senior administration official said on Thursday.
“U.S. intelligence community agencies have low to moderate confidence in this judgment in part because it relies on detainee reporting, and due to the challenging operating environment in Afghanistan, our conclusion is based on information and evidence of connections between criminal agents in Afghanistan and elements of the Russian government,” the official continued.
Last summer, corporate media outlets ranging from the Washington Post and the New York Times to CNN and MSNBC treated the claim from unnamed intelligence sources as gospel truth and used it to fuel their anti-Trump narratives ahead of the 2020 election. These are the same media outlets that peddled false narratives about the debunked Russia collusion hoax.
A look back on how cable news went all in on the discredited Russian bounties story. pic.twitter.com/QaG9xAqiuR
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) April 15, 2021
It's one level of "bad" to realize that Russia is doing this. It's a whole other level of "bad" to know that the U.S. president has known that Russia was doing that for four months and during that time he's chosen to do nothing about it.
That is a whole other level of crisis. pic.twitter.com/Z7BoqVgLQH
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) June 30, 2020
The Daily Beast, which reported the senior official’s comments on Thursday, ran multiple stories about the unproven “scandal” last year.
New: Russiagate disinformation outlet @thedailybeast suffers another blockbuster humiliation. pic.twitter.com/JNCXlag05q
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) April 15, 2021
A Daily Beast senior editor even mocked Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway for approaching the bounty claims with caution.
I remember the Daily Beast editor-in-chief dismissing and mocking me for knowing in June what his publication finally admits today. pic.twitter.com/HwR5aRBwjy
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) April 15, 2021
When former President Donald Trump also dismissed the rumors in an Axios interview, WaPo’s lead “fact-checker” gave the president a “Four Pinocchios” rating for denying the bounty allegations as “fake news.”
“Reports of Russian bounties targeting U.S. troops have spurred the Defense Department to action, triggered a leak investigation by the Justice Department and continue to be investigated by U.S. officials. By giving a total denial, as if trying to put the cat back in the bag, Trump earns Four Pinocchios,” the article concluded.
From the White House podium, I said this intelligence was "not verified," "no consensus" & that the NYTimes & Dems were "irresponsibly politicizing"
NOW WE LEARN: "US Intel Walks Back Claim Russians Put Bounties on American Troops"
Wonder what other stories were FALSE https://t.co/Op2IMmccUk
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) April 15, 2021
The bounty scandal not only blew up on liberal cable news networks and front pages of increasingly leftist papers, but Democrats and NeverTrumper legislators used the story as justification to reject Trump’s attempt to pull troops out of Afghanistan.
Watch how pro-war House Democrats and Liz Cheney used this Russia bounty story to try to block Trump's withdrawal plan from Afghanistan. This is @sethmoulton in July. Listen to what he said:https://t.co/Fkzadf8ZHk
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 15, 2021
Even when the media were presented with information that added skepticism to an already shaky narrative, journalists kept the story alive for months, much like the Russia collusion hoax.
2 months after top Pentagon officials vowed to get to the bottom of whether the Russian gov't bribed Taliban to kill US service members, the commander in the region says a review of the intel has not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program https://t.co/RaiUV2XtHr
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 14, 2020
As journalist Glenn Greenwald points out, the first round of reporting on the Russia bounty story was based on unquestioned information from the Central Intelligence Agency.
One of the NYT reporters who originally broke the Russia bounty story (originally attributed to unnamed "intelligence officials") say today that it was a CIA claim. So media outlets – again – repeated CIA stories with no questioning: congrats to all.https://t.co/4GbUXBCOpI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 15, 2021
In addition to their reporting malfeasance when the story first broke, the corporate media completely overlooked the fact that Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was briefed as early as February of last year about the possible bounties but refused to take action at the time.
As Hemingway and Federalist co-founder Sean Davis wrote at the time, “Schiff is demanding that the Trump administration brief all of Congress about the unverified allegations, yet he himself did not ask for a briefing of the Intelligence Committee following the February briefing of his own staff.”
The backpedaling by intelligence officials comes the same day that President Joe Biden sanctioned Russia for messing with the 2020 election and potential involvement in major cyberattacks.
[READ: Media Are Playing Games Yet Again With Anonymous Russia Leaks]