Charlie Savage, NYT, CIA Climb Down From Russia Bounties Hoax

The headline blares that it’s a big “administration” conspiracy to play up doubts and play down proofs of the bounties plot, but the text itself reveals that it’s the National Intelligence Council that did the new review and that even the CIA, the agency out in front on this story, has only “medium” or “moderate” confidence on the reality of the plot. Meanwhile DoD and NSA both still say they give it low confidence and cannot verify.

You gotta appreciate the desperate spin of the Times reporters and their editors here:

“A memo produced in recent days by the office of the nation’s top intelligence official acknowledged that the C.I.A. and top counterterrorism officials have assessed that Russia appears to have offered bounties to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, but emphasized uncertainties and gaps in evidence, according to three officials.”

Oh how cynical of the National Intelligence Council to “emphasize” doubts instead of running with wild unverified claims! Their anonymous sources assure us that the memo “was intended to bolster the Trump administration’s attempts to justify its inaction” over the alleged Russian interference. But intelligence officials tell the New York Times lots of things.

I buried the lead nearly as badly as they did, but here it is before they go meandering off saying nothing and refusing to acknowledge the importance of the following admission:

“The memo said that the C.I.A. and the National Counterterrorism Center had assessed with medium confidence — meaning credibly sourced and plausible, but falling short of near certainty — that a unit of the Russian military intelligence service, known as the G.R.U., offered the bounties, according to two of the officials briefed on its contents.

“But other parts of the intelligence community — including the National Security Agency, which favors electronic surveillance intelligence — said they did not have information to support that conclusion at the same level, therefore expressing lower confidence in the conclusion, according to the two officials. A third official familiar with the memo did not describe the precise confidence levels, but also said the C.I.A.’s was higher than other agencies.”

So Charlie Savage admits that his whole stupid story is based on a medium-confidence conclusion of the CIA against the views of the NSA and DoD. I wonder if he noticed the same people gave the story to the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post at the same time as an obvious attempt to use their stenography in a plot to prevent Trump from considering an “early” withdrawal from Afghanistan.

And then check out this from Scott Ritter’s piece at

“’Afghan officials said prizes of as much as $100,000 per killed soldier were offered for American and coalition targets,’ the Times reported. And yet, when Rukmini Callimachi, a member of the reporting team breaking the story, appeared on MSNBC to elaborate further, she noted that ‘the funds were being sent from Russia regardless of whether the Taliban followed through with killing soldiers or not. There was no report back to the GRU about casualties. The money continued to flow.’

“There is just one problem — that’s not how bounties work.”

…And they will keep on jerking that rusty old chain.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

3 thoughts on “Charlie Savage, NYT, CIA Climb Down From Russia Bounties Hoax”

  1. “That’s not how bounties work.” Great line and great post by Scott Horton.

Comments are closed.