Multiple top government agencies released statements on Monday pushing back against the credibility of a recent New York Times report that claimed that President Donald Trump was briefed about a secret Russian military group that had allegedly offered bounties to militant fighters in Afghanistan for killing U.S. soldiers.
The Associated Press reported on Monday evening that the Trump administration allegedly knew about the alleged bounty on U.S. soldiers in 2019, a full year before the date that The New York Times reported.
“Over the past several days, the New York Times and other news outlets have reported on allegations regarding our troops in Afghanistan. While we do not normally discuss such matters, we constantly evaluate intelligence reports and brief the President as necessary,” National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien said in a statement. “Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence Community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items. Nevertheless, the Administration, including the National Security Council staff, have been preparing should the situation warrant action.”
“To those government officials who betray the trust of the people of the United States by leaking classified information, your actions endanger our national security. No matter the motivation, there is never a justification for such conduct,” O’Brien concluded. “Let me be clear that there is nothing more important to President Trump than America’s security and the safety of our men and women in uniform. He has demonstrated this commitment time and again.”
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) also put out statements on the matter, with the DOD saying that it has “no corroborating evidence to validate” the allegations in The New York Times’ report and ODNI saying that the leaks are criminal.
“The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” the DOD said in a statement. “To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports. Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan — and around the world — most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats.”
ODNI said that the selective leaking of any classified information “disrupts the vital interagency work to collect, assess, and mitigate threats and places our forces at risk. It is also, simply put, a crime.”
“We are still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting and we will brief the President and Congressional leaders at the appropriate time,” ODNI continued. “This is the analytic process working the way it should. Unfortunately, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”
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