By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, May 28, 2017)
It is always prudent not to jump to conclusions when a news story first breaks, particularly when it relates to U.S. intelligence. Case in point is the latest twist in the Trump-Russia connection coming from Washington Post writers Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller.
The entire May 26th story can be read here.
Their story reports about a meeting between President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Russian U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which it is claimed that they discussed creating a secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
The first two paragraphs of the story are most important:
From The Washington Post:
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
One of the most important elements of intelligence tradecraft is the art of deception. There is no country better at it than Russia. And as the Washington Post story makes clear, the information behind the May 26th story came, not from direct collection on the Kushner-Kislyak meeting, but from an intercept of the Kislyak’s reporting about the meeting back to the Kremlin.
We are told in the story that no intelligence collection was done on the original Kushner-Kislyak meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower. If so, the only knowledge the U.S. intelligence community has on the meeting comes from the Kislyak’s conversation with the Kremlin.
That fact should give you pause regarding assumptions about the nature and content of the Kushner-Kislyak meeting at Trump Tower. It is entirely possible — maybe even likely — that Kislyak misrepresented the content of the meeting knowing that U.S. intelligence would hear it.
If the intent of the Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 elections was to sow discord and distrust within the U.S. government, it would make perfect sense for Kislyak to feed false information to the U.S. intelligence community regarding the meeting with Kushner.
I am not saying this is what happened. I could not possibly know. The problem is, I don’t think even the U.S. intelligence community knows for sure.
About the author: Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY). He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.