U.S. officials reportedly used unverified “intelligence” about Russia to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin in what NBC News’ National Security Correspondent Ken Dilanian called an “unprecedented” move.
A new NBC report claims three U.S. officials told the outlet there is no evidence Russia threatened to use chemical agents in Ukraine. Rather, the administration publicly said it in order to deter Russia from using the munitions, according to the report. Dilanian said Wednesday the U.S. has “never seen this level of information warfare.”
“That was based on declassified intelligence but we’re also told the intelligence wasn’t very clear about what exactly was going on,” Dilanian said. “They decided to disclose it as a way of deterring Russia from doing that and putting the world on notice that this could happen and that’s what’s going on here, the big picture, this is an unprecedented use of declassified intelligence.”
NBC News: Three U.S. intel officials admit the “intelligence” the W.H. released re: Russia/Ukraine was basically just guesswork meant to “mess with Vladimir Putin’s brain” pic.twitter.com/UWJL6EkdQ9
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) April 7, 2022
“We’ve never seen this level of information warfare before from the U.S. government. And what they’re doing is they’re trying to preempt the Russians, get ahead of Russian disinformation, mess with Vladimir Putin’s brain as one person put it, leave him off balance, show the United States knows what Russia is up to.”
Dilanian called the ploy “rather remarkable” and cited a second example of how intelligence officials warned Russia went to China for help obtaining weapons, saying it was a tactical move to put China on notice.
One European official reportedly said the decision to disclose the information to the public was a “game to prevent any military support from China.”
A U.S. official told NBC News the use of less-than-rock solid intelligence is a way to “get inside Putin’s head.”
Another official told the outlet that “the U.S. government’s effort to strategically downgrade intelligence to share with allies and the public is underpinned by a rigorous review process by the National Security Council and the Intelligence Community to validate the quality of the information and protect sources and methods.”
“We only approve the release of intelligence if we are confident those two requirements are met,” the official reportedly continued. (RELATED: ‘Crazed Recklessness’: Tucker Warns Biden’s Recent Rhetoric Is Something More Than A Gaffe)
One U.S. official told NBC News “it doesn’t have to be solid intelligence when we talk about it. It’s more important to get ahead of them – Putin specifically – before they do something. It’s preventative. We don’t always want to wait until the intelligence is 100% certainty that they are going to do something. We want to get out ahead to stop them.”
Paul Pillar, a retired career U.S. intelligence officer, said the Biden administration’s biggest risk was perhaps predicting the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Boy, if there wasn’t an invasion, this would have a huge ‘cry wolf’ effect and make our president look pretty bad,” Pillar reportedly said. “That suggests that there are some pretty strong bases for this information.”
“Not only did it turn out to be correct … but evidently it had been presented to the president with enough confidence that he felt confident going out on the limb as far as he did,” Pillar said, according to NBC News.