Journalist Glenn Greenwald again skewered the media for rushing to present a particular narrative without evidence that has since been proven to be false.
The latest example involves a claim from last year that Russia had placed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The original claim was reported by The New York Times citing anonymous intelligence officials, which have since been identified as CIA operatives. There was never any evidence to back up the story, but that didn’t stop media outlets from using it to attack Trump and claim he was not only weak on Russia (an allegation made against him throughout his 2016 campaign and presidency) but also putting U.S. troops in danger.
As Greenwald explained on Substack, the initial story appeared “just weeks after President Trump announced his plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020.” Thanks to extensive media coverage of the story – with news outlets assuming the anonymous, unverified, and evidence-free claims were true – Congress passed a defense spending bill that didn’t allow for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan or Germany.
“Predictably, now that this CIA tale has served its purpose (namely, preventing Trump from leaving Afghanistan), and now that its enduring effects are impeding the Biden administration (which wants to leave Afghanistan and so needs to get rid of this story), the U.S. Government is now admitting that — surprise! — they had no convincing evidence for this story all along,” Greenwald wrote.
Greenwald also noted that the Biden administration has used the discredited “bounty” story as recently as Thursday of last week.
“When announcing new sanctions aimed at Moscow and diplomatic expulsions of Russian diplomats — primarily in response to allegations of Russian hacking — the White House said ‘it was responding to reports that Russia encouraged Taliban fighters to injure or kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.’ The official White House announcement of the retaliation said explicitly that ‘the Administration is responding to the reports that Russia encouraged Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan based on the best assessments from the Intelligence Community (IC)’ — a claim for which the IC itself admits it has only “low to moderate confidence” is even true,” Greenwald wrote.
When asked about the contradiction, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to claim that assessment puts the onus on Russia to respond, something that has a next-to-zero chance of happening.
As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported Friday, U.S. intelligence officials revealed that they have “low to moderate” confidence in the claim that Russia put bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The problem with the story has been apparent for most of the last year, with intelligence officials saying in September 2020 that they could not find enough evidence to prove the claim. The Daily Wire reported at the time that Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said the story “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me.”
“We continue to look for that evidence,” he added. “I just haven’t seen it yet. But … it’s not a closed issue.”
Reporting now suggests it is a closed issue.