One of the lesser-known pieces in the Russian 2016 election meddling puzzle was the alleged presence, within the Kremlin, of a CIA human intelligence asset. It was from this asset that the US intelligence community learned that Russian President Vladimir Putin apparently had ordered Russian active measures to influence the US election.
It was irresponsible enough that various establshment media outlets in the US had reported the existence of this individual, but CNN, on Sept. 9, committed an even worse transgression when it published a half-baked piece claiming that this asset – allegedly a Russian national – had been extracted by the CIA because President Donald Trump had somehow compromised the spy through the careless disclosure of classified information.
CIA Disputes CNN Report
In a rare move, the CIA responded to the CNN report in a statement. Brittany Bramell, the agency’s director for public affairs, said, “CNN’s narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false.” The statement went on: “Misguided speculation that the President’s handling of our nation’s most sensitive intelligence — which he has access to each and every day — drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.”
The CNN article claimed that “[t]he decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.”
Fake News Strikes Again
This is inaccurate, and CNN’s editors must surely have been aware of that fact. As reported by other media sources, including The New York Times, the decision to extract the anonymous asset was made initially in 2016.
The Times, along with another prominent national newspaper, had reported the existence of the CIA asset in early 2017. “[F]ormer intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source,” The Times stated in a follow-up article on Sept. 9, after the release of the CNN report. “American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction.”
The unidentified Russian source was first offered extraction by the CIA in 2016 and refused. The individual finally was pulled out in 2017 but was still in place when US newspapers disclosed his existence.
CNN’s shoddy and untruthful reporting, then, was a clear attempt to smear the president, even though it was, in fact, the US media that compromised the CIA informant – potentially endangering his life and the lives of his family.
It should be unsettling to any American to hear an American president describe the media as “the enemy of the people,” but when newspapers disclose sensitive intelligence activities, one cannot help but wonder if Trump was not entirely out of order when he used that accusatory label. More specifically, when a major news network blatantly misrepresents the motives and actions of the US intelligence community in order to inflict political damage on a sitting president, it is not unfair to doubt the real loyalties of certain individuals in the news business.