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Intel officials: Trump likely not aware of bounties

The White House is again denying reports that President Trump was briefed on intelligence that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban fighters for the death of American troops.

The New York Times and CNN quote anonymous intelligence officials who are questioning the White House denial.

However, several former intelligence officials went on record and told American Wire that they very much doubt President Trump was briefed, but say that, if briefed, the intelligence offered wasn’t credible. If it was credible, then Obama should have known about it, too.

Del Wilber, a former intelligence officer with eight years’ experience in Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War, says that people don’t understand the intelligence process.

“The amount of rumor and innuendo that analysts have to look at before a report lands on a president’s desk is enormous. Often times ‘intelligence reports’ quoted in the media are just rumors and not official,” said Wilber.

James Waurishuk, a retired Air Force colonel and former deputy director of intelligence for CENTCOM who worked at the White House for the National Security Council, agrees.

“It’s quite possible that the information about Russian bounties is just Russia’s attempt to influence the election. We do this type of thing with other countries and they do it to us. Besides its political effect, no one should be surprised.”

Both Wilber and Waurishuk said that the Taliban would hardly be more influenced by Russian money to kill Americans, and neither has seen credible intelligence that Russia has provided material support in the death of American troops.

The Taliban has dismissed the idea, noting with pride that they need no additional inducement to kill Americans, says Waurishuk.  

Neither Waurishuk nor Wilber completely dismisses the idea, however.  

“We supported the Taliban when Russia invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban killed quite a few Russians with American help,” said Wilber.

Waurishuk said that money to help the Taliban to kill Americans could be coming from a variety of sources including Iran, China, North Korea or any other geopolitical enemy of the United States.  

“Americans have had a price on their head in many places,” said Wilber. “When I went to Iraq in 2004, I was briefed that people doing the work I was involved in had a $250,000 bounty on us by the Iraqi insurgents, likely funded by Iran.”

In fact, Iran has spent most of the last four decades killing Americans around the world. But that didn’t affect the Obama administration’s attempt to warm relations with Iran.

The process by which intelligence is sifted and filtered to the president is complicated, says Waurishuk. Just because something is sent to the White House, doesn’t mean that the president sees it.

“Things get filtered down before the president gets briefed. We don’t know– we’ll never know—exactly what the president is told during briefings,” said Waurishuk.

For Wilber, though, what each president knows is important.

“My question is: Was the information about bounties available during the Obama years?” asked Wilber. “The same threat was present so we should’ve known about it back then. And if it wasn’t known then, that alone speaks volumes about the Obama national security apparatus.”  

Or it casts doubt about the credibility of the current intelligence.

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