(Op-Ed) FORTUNE: Stop Politicizing Intelligence to Score Points Against the President

(Bobby Fortune is a North Carolina National Guard veteran and native pursuing a Master’s in International Relations at the University of Chicago.)

‘Hi America, it’s the mainstream media here! Remember that Russian bounty story we told you? Yeah, the holes in our story are being exposed but here’s why it still matters. Ignore our back peddling’

The media continues to politicize intelligence that is sensitive to our national security in order to score political points against the President of the United States.

A dominant topic in US national security the past couple weeks has been regarding allegations of Russian bounties being placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan according to the New York Times. This story was pushed by the media with the connotation that President Trump ignored his intelligence briefings because he doesn’t care about our troops and he is somehow beholden to Vladimir Putin. Like the ‘Russian Collusion Hoax’ it was only a matter of time before this story was demonstrably another effort by the media to score points against President Trump.

The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media pointed to anonymous intelligence sources as evidence of this Russian bounty operation in Afghanistan. The story has been lauded as an example of President Trump’s unwillingness to take action against Russia. However, intelligence officials began to respond to the allegations and dispute the evidence as conclusive. While media critics happily sensationalize this story to rip at President Trump; there are several problems with the New York Times’ story.

The anonymous sources at the New York Times admit that this intelligence originates from interrogations from captured militants. It is common knowledge today that intelligence collected from prisoner interrogations (especially when enhanced interrogation techniques are employed) often fail to prove valuable or accurate. This is because prisoners are often willing to tell their captors whatever they want to hear if they are desperate enough.

The media has amplified this story to such an extent, pundits in the media act like Taliban fighters didn’t have reason to attack US soldiers in Afghanistan without bounties being placed. If the Russians are paying the Taliban to kill US soldiers, it has proven to be a rather ineffective policy as US deaths in Afghanistan haven’t skyrocketed compared to recent years.

There is an interesting observation connected to this story. No, I’m not talking about fitting into the long-debunked Russia-Trump-Collusion narrative. This story has equipped Congress with the perfect excuse to make troop withdrawals from Afghanistan (and Germany) more difficult for this President. How ironic that a duly elected President attempting to fulfill another campaign promise by bringing home our troops is continuously undermined by interests in the corporate media and in Congress who have for decades wanted to continue to spill American blood in the Middle East.

The media’s habit of politicizing intelligence has been criticized for some time. Another ironic observation of the media is their biased coverage of General Michael Flynn. General Flynn, a vocal critic of politicization of intelligence, has received largely negative coverage of his case despite the 180-degree turnaround in momentum demonstrating his innocence. The media’s routine habit of positioning themselves against individuals such as General Flynn who have called out problems in the intelligence community, and President Trump who attempt to

lessen American military commitments abroad, will weaponize intelligence leaks if they can score points politically.

Perhaps critics will continue to make claims that this intelligence leak was warranted because President Trump should have still done something about the possibility of these Russian bounties. What these critics fail to illustrate to the public is the process of verifying and developing quality intelligence products for policymakers. As described by officials, when intelligence is not verified or fails to reach a certain standard, the chain-of-command makes the decision whether that information should be passed along. Without considerable evidence of the validity of intelligence, there is hardly a case for action to be taken in response to every rumor discovered from routine intelligence collection.

The absolute obsession by the media over this story, and obvious back peddling as the details cause it to fall apart demonstrate the continued problem of intelligence leaks to the media. These leaks continue to be weaponized and undermine US national security because they can be turned into a tabloid-style hit-piece on political opponents. It’s long overdue for reforms and stopping the media from using sensitive national security intelligence in order to dunk on the President of the United States.

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(Bobby Fortune is a North Carolina National Guard veteran and native pursuing a Master’s in International Relations at the University of Chicago.)

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