It’s been two years since 51 intelligence agents interfered with an election — they still won’t apologize

Exactly two years ago, on October 19, 2020, one of the dirtiest tricks in electoral history was played on the American people by 51 former intelligence officials, who used the false alarm of “Russian interference” to stop Donald Trump winning a second term as president.

Using the institutional weight of their former esteemed roles, they signed a dishonest letter to mislead voters 15 days before the election, claiming that material from Hunter Biden’s laptop published by The New York Post “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

In their expert opinion “the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue.”

Russia was “trying to influence how Americans vote in this election . . . Moscow [will] pull out the stops to do anything possible to help Trump win and/or to weaken Biden should he win.

“A ‘laptop op’ fits the bill, as the publication of the emails are [sic] clearly designed to discredit Biden . . . It is high time that Russia stops interfering in our democracy.”

It was all a lie. Their letter was the culprit “interfering with democracy” in broad daylight.

Not one of the 51 had seen any material from the laptop or bothered asking for it, but their letter, instigated by, signed and delivered to Politico by Democratic operative and former John Brennan aide Nick Shapiro, killed the story stone dead. It got candidate Joe Biden off the hook for the corrupt influence peddling scheme his family had been running through the eight years of his vice presidency.

The shameful letter was used by Joe Biden three days later, on October 22, to deflect Trump’s attack in their last debate.

Hunter Biden
Images and files revealing personal information were discovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

“There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plan . . . Four, five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage . . . You know his character. You know my character. You know my reputation is for honor and telling the truth . . . The character of the country is on the ballot.”

Biden dismissed as a Kremlin smear all the evidence that was on his son’s laptop of dirty money from China and Russia, of all his meetings with Hunter’s overseas business partners, and all the lies he had told about his involvement in Hunter’s business deals.
The letter, like the Steele Dossier and Russia collusion hoax peddled by many of the signatories, has helped fuel a moral panic about Russia in recent years which now has heightened the risk of nuclear war.

As well as sharing their Trump derangement, the Dirty 51 sit on the same boards and think tanks, speak at the same events or liberal TV shows, write for the same publications, pal around with the same journalists, retweet each other’s “Slava Ukraini” or Mar-a-Lago memes, share hawkish views about regime change in Russia and are remarkably sanguine about the prospect of nuclear war.

You would think since so many have been outed for their involvement in the (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction intelligence disaster that justified the Iraq war, not to mention secret prisons, torture, warrantless eavesdropping and the bulk collection of Americans’ data, that they might have learned some humility.

CIA Director John Brennan
Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force on May 23, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

But they’ve never apologized for those intelligence failures, so it’s hardly surprising they are unrepentant about lying to rig the 2020 election.

Yes, that letter from the Dirty 51 had “all the classic earmarks” of a disinformation operation alright — one designed to ensure Joe Biden won the presidency. And it was essentially a CIA operation, considering 43 of the 51 signatories were former CIA.

In the two years since, not one of them has admitted they are wrong.

David Priess at least gets marks for subjecting himself to a cross examination on Fox News one recent afternoon. He tried to defend the letter by saying people were too stupid to understand it. The letter was “still true” because it did not use the words “Russian disinformation,” but concocted the weasel phrase “earmarks of a Russian information operation.”

He knows perfectly well that Biden and the media drew no distinction, that the letter he signed was used to censor and deride The Post’s accurate story and deny the American people the truth about one of the two candidates for president.

“It’s not my fault if people don’t look up definitions,” Priess said, smirking. “Those words are still true. It has all the classic earmarks,” he said.

He has all the classic earmarks of a psychopath. Not saying he is but just look at him. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

David Priess
David Priess spoke about the letter on Fox News with anchor Bret Baier.

Five former CIA directors signed the letter, Mike Hayden Leon Panetta, John Brennan and Michael Morell (acting), and John McLaughlin (briefly acting), as well as a former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, eight CIA intelligence officers, seven analysts, four chiefs of staff and assorted other Washington former intelligence community grifters.

I asked the 20 most prominent signatories last week if they had any regrets: “As time has proven you wrong, do you have any apology or retraction you would like to make? Do you feel any responsibility for your letter adding to a moral panic about Russia which has heightened the danger of nuclear war?”

And I asked if they were concerned about reputational damage to the various institutions they are attached to. None have responded, other than one turning her LinkedIn profile private and another blocking me on Twitter, as retired CIA senior operations officer Marc Polymeropoulos did.

The usually loquacious Polymeropoulos boasted back in December 2020 that he “basically wrote” the letter along with former acting CIA director Morell.

The idea for the letter came from Nick Shapiro, according to one former CIA operative who declined to sign, when the offer came on Sunday, October 18, a day before publication.

Shapiro is a political hitman, and Obama alum, having worked as press secretary for the Obama for America campaign in Chicago in 2007 and then moving to the Obama White House before he became Brennan’s man. He now runs 10th Avenue Consulting, scooping up $20,000 a month gigs for such Dem luminaries as Gavin Newsom.

Nick Shapiro
Nick Shapiro speaks during a Bloomberg Technology interview in San Francisco, California in 2017.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Shapiro boasts on his website that he is “an expert in dealing with the press under challenging circumstances” but didn’t bother replying to my messages.

Many of the signatories have been rewarded for their perfidy and share cozy gigs in DC think tanks or lucrative consultancy firms.

Jeremy Bash, Panetta‘s former chief of staff-turned MSNBC security analyst, was appointed by Biden on August 29 to a prestigious gig on his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

David Buckley, former inspector general of the CIA, became staff director for the Democrats’ January 6 committee star chamber.

Eight signatories have plum roles with the non-profit International Spy Museum in DC: Bash, Hayden, Clapper, Morell, and CIA alums John McLaughlin, Doug Wise, Kristin Wood and Jonna Hiestand Mendez, none of whom have replied to questions.

Seven are connected to George Mason University, through the Schar School of Policy and Government and the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security, named in honor of Hayden, despite the fact he lied to Congress.

The Hayden Center “is the worst” says a former senior Trump administration intelligence official.

“It is filled with people who started, supported, promoted and deliberately lied to the American people about every anti-Trump hoax from Russian collusion, the Mueller debacle, fake Russian bounties, staged impeachment whistleblowing and of course your laptop from hell.

President Biden speaks about infrastructure on October 19, 2022.
Susan Walsh/AP

“It’s a hybrid — a wing of both the Democratic Party and the Permanent Bureaucracy, joined by their fear of Trump and any other Republican who wants to break up their club.”

The signatories attached to the Hayden Center are CIA alums Hayden, Bash, David Priess, Michael Morell, Larry Pfeiffer, Ron Marks and Rick Ledgett, former deputy director of the National Security Agency.

They also write for the Cipher Brief, a national security publication founded by CNN intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly which has a strategic partnership with the Hayden Center and ultra-hawkish view on Russia. McLaughlin, Clapper, Don Hepburn (CIA and FBI), and Emile Nakhieh (CIA) also write for it.

The Hayden Center cohosts events with the Lawfare Institute which publishes the Lawfare blog in Cooperation with the Brookings Institution and boasts Alexander Vindman of Ukraine impeachment fame as a fellow. Priess is the chief operating officer of the Lawfare Institute and publisher of the blog, which often hosts the bon mots of other signatories

Six are connected to Beacon Global Strategies, a DC-based strategic advisory firm: Panetta, Bash, Morell, Ledgett, Glenn Gerstell, and Mike Vickers.

Six are with Spycraft Entertainment, which was cofounded by signatories John Sipher and Jerry O’Shea: Wise, Wood, Paul Kolbe and Polymeropoulos.

Jeremy Bash
Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the US Department of Defense, speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 2017.
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Three signatories are associated with the University of Texas, Austin, at the Strauss and Clements centers: Brennan, Nick Rasmussen and Stephen Slick.

Three are with The Center for Strategic and International Studies: Panetta, Gerstell and Greg Treverton former National Intelligence Council chair.

Two are with the SpyEx consultancy, Sipher and Polymeropoulos, who claims he suffers from the mysterious and potentially imaginary “Havana syndrome” which forced him to retire from the CIA.

According to one person who refused to sign the letter and knows other refuseniks, it is instructive to look at “who didn’t sign it.” Names of the top Russia experts in the country were conspicuously absent.

He says the real question is “Who asked Nick Shapiro to [instigate the letter] and who had an ulterior motive? There’s a political thing and there’s a bunch of career government people without an axe to grind . . . who were being used. Those things should be separate.”

The problem is most of them did have an axe to grind. They had decided Trump was so terrible he had to go and they thought they had the right to make that decision for the American people.

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