[Thread.] Few comments about this NBC story, which is yielding the usual feast of reason and flow of the soul on social media. nbcnews.com/politics/natio…
The piece is centered on comments made by Gen. McKenzie, who, from what he says and how the story is framed, wants to see a straight line from GRU payments to attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The term "bounty" was never used in the intelligence, as per @douglaslondon5 and others in the IC, although it became the media's term of art following the first NYT story.
But what was the intelligence? The NYT was a lot more specific than NBC. The money, $500K, came from GRU Unit 29155, which controlled bank accounts that transferred the funds to Taliban-linked accounts:
A lot of earlier speculation, that the intel was premised solely on what captured and interrogated Taliban fighters said, was wrong. The gravamen, which even convinced IC skeptics that the GRU was incentivizing attacks on Americans, was intercepted financial data, as per NYT:
Now why did these intercepts raise alarm bells at CIA? Because of what Unit 29155 is within the GRU. They're an assassination and sabotage squad responsible for the Skripal and Gebrev poisonings, a failed coup in Montenegro and other violent acts of destabilization in Europe:
(It would be one thing, for instance, if a Russian service was simply recruiting Taliban commanders for espionage: to garner intel on NATO movements in Afghanistan or ISIS activity or the opium export industry, etc. But Unit 29155 doesn't do that.)
Now what, based on the reporting, is in dispute among U.S. intelligence officers and the Pentagon? That Russia is paying the Taliban and has been for years? Nope.
That the GRU has been paying the Taliban? I've seen no "debunking" of the original NYT scoop suggesting that is in doubt among skeptics. That Unit 29155 is the culprit? Ditto. But there are hints and clues. E.g.:
One way to stand up the "bounty" assessment is to draw a straight line between prior attacks (particularly lethal ones) on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the money tracked going from Unit 29155's account to the Taliban. This would constitute evidence that the program not only...
... exists but has been successful. McKenzie, it convincingly appears to be the case, is trying to do just that. Here again is his quote from the NBC story, followed immediately by another "U.S. military official familiar with the intelligence" who says:
McKenzie's "final connection" would be American corpses -- or at least documented Taliban attacks -- with Unit 29155's paw prints on them.
But herein lies the problem, which gets at the broader ambiguities in intelligence gathering and intelligence assessing. Operational intent is different from operational success or even operational action.
It may well be the case that, owing to the newness of this alleged "bounty" program (the NYT dated it as beginning in early 2020, though other outlets dated it even earlier), none of the Taliban fighters who received the money ever went out and tried to kill any U.S. soldiers.
Maybe they were rounded up or got croaked before they could, maybe they got cold feet, maybe they took the money and fucked off.
So you've got generals, who want to know whether or not to retaliate for Russian aggression, looking for copper-bottom "actionable" proof, while spies are making interpolations based on context (Unit 29155's m.o.) and available evidence (intercepts, detainee testimonies).
And all of the above assumes you're dealing with professionals who are eager to suss out the truth and share a baseline consensus on evidence but disagree over conclusions. It doesn't address how intel can be embellished or obfuscated for political purposes.

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More from @michaeldweiss

2 Sep
From the annals of Russian intelligence poisonings: Ignace Reiss (real name: Ludwig Poretsky), an early Fourth Department/GRU defector, was originally supposed to be murdered with strychnine-laced chocolates given to him by one of his agents, Gertrude Schildbach.
Schildbach got cold feet when she realized Reiss’s wife and child would also die from ingesting them. So instead Reiss was machine-gunned at point blank range after an attempted abduction near Lausanne went sideways.
(One of the OGPU/KGB agents responsible, Renata Steiner, had also surveilled Trotsky’s son, Lev Sedov in Paris. Sedov later died under suspicious circumstances during recovery for acute appendicitis. He was almost certainly poisoned in hospital by the OGPU....
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2 Sep
So Yevgeny Prigozhin's Internet Research Agency -- the troll farm -- created a fake left-wing news site, complete with AI-generated editors. They duped freelancers into contributing to "PeaceData". Great expose by @Graphika_NYC: public-assets.graphika.com/reports/graphi…
Perhaps just a coincidence that the IRA decided to give PeaceData's editor-in-chief the same name as Hillary Clinton's senior policy adviser:
Standard fare for a tankie digital pub, including a lot of cross publication from other brands:
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25 Aug
THREAD. Welp. I think I've found the former beauty queen Trump is rumored to have gotten to know perhaps a little too well in Moscow in 1996.

The SSCI leaves several clues about the "Miss Moscow" pageant winner, even amidst all the annoying redactions.
"Miss Moscow" is in fact only mentioned twice in the entire report. Here are both mentions.

1. A news article, translated from Russian, from 1998. Note "Miss Moscow" is in inverted commas (I'll come back to that).

2. Footnote from architect Theodore Liebman's interview.
The SSCI also cites Trump's alleged mystery paramour as being written up or quoted in the Russian press -- the sources are redacted, but the first is from 1998 and the second from 2007.
Read 20 tweets
20 Aug
Today might be a good day to note that Bannon's Cambridge Analytica work was evidently also the brainchild of Kilimnik, identified in the SSCI report as an active GRU officer (and implicated here in the DNC hack and leak operation).
I suppose we can be pedantic here and say that Kilimnik might belong to a different service, not the GRU. But the evidence in his c.v. and as established by the SSCI doesn't bear that out.
He attended the Military Institute for Foreign Languages in Moscow in 1987; the institute minted GRU officers. (Today it is part of the Kremlin’s Military University, tied to the Russian Ministry of Defense.)
Read 11 tweets
18 Aug
Let's put this into context, shall we? According to the Senate, evidence suggested WikiLeaks was "knowingly collaborating with Russian government officials." Stone communicated with WikiLeaks. He also communicated with the GRU via its persona Guccifer 2.0... (Cont'd) ImageImage
Paul Manafort worked for years with Konstanin Kilimnik, identified by the Senate here as an active Russian intelligence officer (GRU), and someone with whom Manafort shared Trump campaign strategy and polling information.
The GRU, it is absolutely fair to conclude, reduplicated efforts. Whether or not all of its officers/agents were working in concert or separately doesn't matter. In the 30s, "parallel apparatuses" (unknown to one another, until they weren't) worked toward the same objectives.
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30 Jun
If I'm reading CIA v. NSA angle on this story right, then the IC dispute isn't whether or not the GRU sent money to the Taliban (they did), it's whether or not that money was used for bounties on U.S. soldiers. The latter conclusion, pushed by CIA (although perhaps not Haspel)...
appears derived from querying human sources (interrogations) and piecing together the data and timing of events. Recall that CIA concluded with "high confidence" the Russian interference operation in 2016 was designed to help Trump. NSA had "moderate confidence."
"Show me the intercepts" versus "We have sources who are reliable who confirm."
Read 7 tweets

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