|CIA Director Mike Pompeo.|
Official CIA Photo.
SCI published, “Why that Story You Heard about the U.S. Killing Russian Mercenaries in Syria Likely Is Wrong, on March 5. The assessment noted that the account the media were providing “was suspect from the start.”
One of the reasons SCI doubted the veracity of the media reports was because of a claim made by Polygraph.info (a propaganda website run by government-supported Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Polygraph.info said it had audio recordings, provided by a source inside the Russian government, that backed up the claim that hundreds of Russian mercenaries were killed in Syria. The SCI assessment said:
Is it possible that a U.S. government propaganda network would be able to develop a human intelligence source close to the Kremlin without Russia figuring it out? A HUMINT source who would feed Polygraph.info audio recordings that would then be publicly disclosed without compromising his identity in the process? Maybe. But it would be very difficult—and that makes the Polygraph.info report highly suspect. In fact, I’d lean towards saying that someone played the people at Polygraph.info.
A second reason SCI doubted media reports was because they acknowledged that no government official would confirm their allegations. From the SCI assessment:
The final sentence from The Washington Post article should have raised alarms for anyone following the story. That sentence indicates two things: (1) if the Post was indeed receiving actual intelligence from U.S. officials, that in itself would appear to be an illegal act. And it subsequently calls into question what the motivation is of those officials disclosing the intelligence. (2) The same (or other) government officials refused to say what they thought of the apparently illegally disclosed intelligence, indicating that they might not be ready to make an analytical judgment on what it means, or that they were using it to manipulate public opinion.