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Top intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information

The Hill logo The Hill 6/30/2020 Rebecca Klar
a close up of Rep. John Ratcliffe: Top intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information © UPI Photo Top intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information

Top U.S. intelligence officials released statements Monday criticizing leaks to the media as the Trump administration continues to defend against allegations that it knew Russia had offered bounties to incentivize Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan.

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe released similar statements Monday night slamming leaks as detrimental to intelligence investigations.

"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 also, simply put, a crime," Ratcliffe said in a statement.

Haspel said that "leaks compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability."

Neither official directly addressed the reported intelligence assessing Russia had offered bounties to militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"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," Ratcliffe said.

"Hostile states' use of proxies in war zones to inflict damage on U.S. interests and troops is a constant, longstanding concern. CIA will continue to pursue every lead; analyze the information we collect with critical, objective eyes; and brief reliable intelligence to protect U.S. forces deployed around the world," Haspel said.

President Trump has denied being briefed on the matter, tweeting on Sunday that he, Vice President Pence and chief of staff Mark Meadows were never told "about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians." He also criticized The New York Times, which first reported on the intelligence last Friday.

Earlier Monday Ratcliffe released a statement stating "that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday."

Asked about the reports during a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president "was not briefed on this and neither was the vice president."

Pressed on whether the information was in the president's daily briefing, McEnany said he was "not personally briefed on the matter."

She also said that "there's no consensus in the intel community" adding that "there are dissenting opinions from some within it."

CNN reported Monday, citing an unnamed source, that information about the Russian bounties was included in one of Trump's daily briefings.

The White House declined to comment on CNN's reporting.

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