By Christopher Bedford, The Federalist
The Washington Post gave its readers a clear-eyed view this weekend of how American intel agencies work with sympathetic reporters to smear and discredit political opponents, ignoring a specific explanation from one of the article’s targets of how reporters were being used, and leading to embarrassing corrections in multiple articles (as well as in The New York Times and at NBC News).
The story targeted Rudy Giuliani and Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, excitedly reporting that they were the targets of Russian disinformation campaigns and had been warned of this by the FBI. Sound familiar? Unsurprisingly, there were a number of problems.
First, powerful people across the planet are often the targets of foreign disinformation campaigns; this is normal. Second, powerful intel agencies have a history of conducting briefings solely to create records that can then be leaked to sympathetic reporters in order to generate stories about said threats. Third, there were no actionable specifics in the Johnson briefing, as the senator explained to the Post, generating strong evidence for his suspicion the FBI was setting him up. And fourth, well, the big Giuliani briefing didn’t actually happen at all.
Let’s begin with how powerful people are often the targets of foreign disinformation campaigns. Since the early 20th century the Russians have sought to influence reporters, politicians, entertainers, public intellectuals, and other powerful people around the planet. It isn’t new, it’s well-documented, and it isn’t partisan.
Johnson explained this pattern to The Washington Post, but the publication decided to not include this important portion of his explanation. It is being printed for the first time at The Federalist:
Because of my position as chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, I have always been aware of Russian disinformation and the need to be careful believing and using any information coming from sources from that region. In fact, during all my investigations we have viewed every piece of information and evidence with skepticism and rigorously worked to verify everything. Our report on Hunter Biden proves the meticulousness of our methods. That is why we asked for and received a briefing on [suspected Russian agent] Andrii Telizhenko, and received assurances from the FBI that there was no reason that the Committees should not continue their investigation (see report page 59). We made that clear in the report last September.
Next up — and crucially — powerful intel agencies have a known and well-documented history of conducting briefings solely to create records that can then be leaked to sympathetic reporters in order to generate the narratives actors at the agencies want.
This isn’t conspiracy: Former FBI Director James Comey admitted it to the Senate four years ago, testifying that he had briefed the then-president on his theories of Russian collusion — a conspiracy he also testified “was not true” — only to record his interactions and leak them to a friend to hand off to an allied reporter. His goal, he explained, was to “prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
He wasn’t alone in this. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan were both part of the plan, and played their roles well.
Of course, it seemed obvious enough to skeptical reporters way back when. But skepticism of the state isn’t the game with Trump and Republicans, is it? Instead of incredulity, the American public was treated to now-five straight years of media mouthpieces spreading both the propaganda of our intel agencies and Russian disinformation, from the fake “pee tape” on down.
“A similar hit piece,” Johnson told the Post in another previously unpublished part of his statement, “had been published the day Senator [Gary] Peters disapproved of my subpoena request for Andrii Telizhenko.”
Read more at The Federalist.