Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday that he could not remember receiving briefings that contained “the word bounty”. Russia has reportedly offered Afghan militants bounties for the murder of US soldiers.
Esper was asked about the reports during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
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“As far as I remember, I didn’t get a briefing that included the word bounty,” said Esper.
Esper was then asked where the secret service came from Russian bounties, and he replied, “It was not produced by a DoD secret service.”
The New York Times reported for the first time that Moscow reportedly offered Afghan militants bounties last month to kill US soldiers. Fox News also reported last month that several intelligence threat streams indicated that Russian intelligence officials were offering bounty to Taliban militants to kill US troops.
The Washington Post further reported that Russian bounties “may have resulted in the deaths of several US soldiers.” And The Associated Press reported that officials said an April 2019 attack on an American convoy that killed three Marines in Afghanistan was under investigation.
However, the White House has insisted that there is “no consensus” that the news that Russia has offered bounty to the Taliban militants to kill US troops is accurate, which is why the subject of President Trump or Vice President Pence was never reported.
The White House has denied that Trump has been informed of the issue, although branches such as the New York Times, which reported late Monday that the bounty problem was included in the President’s written daily earlier this year, reported the opposite. However, it has been widely reported that Trump does not read the detailed report regularly and is more often verbally informed about intelligence issues.
Meanwhile, national security advisor Robert O’Brien said last week that Trump’s CIA abbreviation had made a call not to let him know that Russia was supposedly offering bounty to Afghan militants for the murder of U.S. soldiers.
“The president was not informed because they were unconfirmed at the time of the allegations,” said O’Brien, noting that the Pentagon also said the agency had not been confirmed.
“The intelligence agencies have no consensus,” O’Brien continued. “As a result, the President’s CIA career decided not to inform him because it was unchecked information.”
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The CIA shortener that O’Brien referred to would have been Beth Sanner, who was the President’s shorter secret service at the time in question when the Russian Bounty Secret Service appeared. Sanner was appointed deputy director of the National Mission Integration Mission last year. Sanner has headed the President’s daily news program since April 2017.
O’Brien defended Sanner as an “outstanding officer”.
“Since I know all the facts I know, I definitely support your decision,” said O’Brien on Wednesday.
Sources familiar with the President’s intelligence briefings, however, told Fox News that the Daily Shorter, as Sanner was called, is not authorized to remove an item from the intelligence briefing without the approval of a senior official. The sources suggested that in this case the CIA director, the director of National Intelligence, or O’Brien would have been the officials who had to approve the removal.
A senior US official who had been informed of the matter told Fox News earlier last week that the information received by the National Security Council was based on “multiple worrying information streams,” some of which were contradictory and others open to interpretation be.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin, Gillian Turner and Associated Press all contributed to this report.