Jeffrey LewisAftergood Catches ODNI Being Lazy

I failed to mention that Steven Aftergood caught ODNI passing off flimsy Russian news accounts as intelligence regarding Russian counterspace capabilities:

Some of the DNI’s statements are surprisingly flimsy. For example, he declares (question 17) that “In 2003, the Russian military prepared for an exercise that included attacking U.S. satellites to disrupt the NAVSTAR global positioning system, the Keyhole optical-electronic reconnaissance satellites, and the Lacrosse radar reconnaissance system with the intent of ‘blinding’ the Pentagon and denying it the opportunity to use precision weapons against Russia.”

This is an odd assertion, first, because intelligence officials rarely if ever use the old Keyhole or Lacrosse satellite names in unclassified public statements. And on closer inspection, it turns out that the DNI’s statement was simply lifted, almost word for word, from a news story that appeared in the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on May 14, 2003. (It was also picked up by the online on May 18, 2003.) The Russian story lazily attributed its claim regarding the anti-satellite exercise to “certain reports.” The DNI repeated the Nezavisimaya Gazeta item nearly verbatim, presenting it as an established fact, with no attribution at all.

Jeff Stein at SpyTalk did a nice job
of getting a quote from DNI, whose response was pretty pathetic:

“We’re not going to provide classified information in an unclassified document.”

Of course, that doesn’t address the central issue — unclassified utterances, especially by DNI still need to be accurate. (There is also, of course, the actual instance of irony — officials usually treat the names LACROSSE and KEYHOLE as classified.)

I wanted to address the substance of the Spokesperson’s apparent disregard for whether or not DNI prepares unclassified products with rigor and seriousness. It is my contention that an inebriated monkey could have written a better unclassified statement that conveyed the same message.

By my count, DNI failed to do at least three things:

1. DNI failed to indicate that the accounts of the exercise were provided in the Russian press. The provenance of the information is not classified information. Indeed, the Open Source Center translated the report in question — full text in the commebnts — and DNI provided that translation to Stein.

2. DNI also failed to accurately convey the substance of the report. DNI indicated that the exercise included Russian forces “attacking U.S. satellites” although the text (in translation at least) reads “to put out of action the most important facilities” — which seems to imply attacks on ground stations, rather than satellites themselves.

3. DNI failed to provide any context for the exercise, which was conducted with our new best friends, India — who, according to some reports, generously agreed to play us in the exercise with Russia.

You may observe other failings in how DNI presented the information. I encourage you all, in the comments, to try your hand at writing a better statement. Here is my submission:

According to Russian press reports, Russia conducted an exercise with India in May 2003 that included simulated attacks on US facilities to deny the United States use of space-based intelligence, navigation and communications systems.

In case you want more information, Nikolai Sokov has a readable summary of the press coverage of the exercise.


  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Russia To Hold Exercises Simulating Nuclear Attack on US, UK

    CEP20030514000190 Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russian 14 May 03 PP 1, 3

    [Report by Igor Korotchenko: “Moscow Rehearses Nuclear Strike on United States. Russian Air Force Tests Strength of North America’s Air Defenses”]

    The Russian military leadership has evidently already drawn conclusions from the war in Iraq and intends to demonstrate to the United States and its allies its determination to counter any potential threats emanating from the West. Straight after NATO Secretary General George Robertson leaves the Russian capital, Moscow will launch the largest exercises in recent years, during which Russian strategic bombers and missile-armed submarines will carry out simulated nuclear strikes on a number of military targets on US and British territory and will complete search and destroy missions on US Navy carrier battle groups.

    It is expected that commander in chief of the Russian Air Force, Colonel General Vladimir Mikhaylov, will submit the plan for the exercises to Russian Federation Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov today [14 May] for his approval. However, certain amendments may be made to the document given that yesterday [13 May] Sergey Ivanov discussed this issue separately when he met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. It should be noted that the issue of combating international terrorism, which just recently figured in practically all official speeches of the Russian defense minister and chief of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Staff, was on this occasion rejected as unnecessary.

    At the heart of the exercises lies one possible scenario for a regional conflict and its development into a war. At the same time, according to some reports a scenario will be played out and a series of combat training exercises completed to put out of action the most important facilities of the US orbital satellite grouping so as to disrupt the regular functioning of the NAVSTAR global positioning system, the Keyhole optical-electronic reconnaissance satellites, and the Lacrosse radar reconnaissance system. In the real conditions of a war, this would lead to the Pentagon being “blinded” and would deny it the opportunity of using precision weapons against Russian Federation Armed Forces groupings.

    Four Tu-160 strategic bombers and nine Tu-95MS’s, 12 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, and four Il-78 tanker aircraft will be involved in the exercises scheduled for 17-18 May. According to Major General Igor Khvorov, commander of the Supreme High Command 37th Air Force, the official goal of the exercises is to tackle issues of cooperation between the long-range aviation and the Navy and other service branches and combat arms in the western, eastern, northern, and southern regions of Russia, and in the seas and oceans. This once more emphasizes the global scale of the current operational exercises.

    I should point out that there are urgent plans to make long-range aviation combined units, which form the core of the aviation strategic nuclear forces, into professional units. The transfer of aviation and support units of the Supreme High Command 37th Air Force to contract employment will among other things enable the reliable use of Tu-160 bombers until at least 2030-2035.

    There is every sign that a key role in the exercises will be assigned to the 22d Guards Heavy Bomber Division stationed at Engels Air Base.

    At the same time, Northern and Pacific Fleet missile-armed submarines will fire live ballistic missiles. To check the readiness of units and combined units in the scenarios, nuclear strategic and multipurpose submarines, surface ships of various categories, coastal missile and antiaircraft units, and missile-armed, fighter, and antisubmarine aircraft will be used to represent enemy forces.

    Russian vessels which are in the Arabian Sea to take part in maneuvers with the Indian Navy will support the exercises. They will carry out search and destroy missions to eliminate multipurpose US Los Angeles-class submarines and carry out missile strikes on “aggressor” ships.

    [Description of Source: [Description of Source: Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russian — Daily Moscow newspaper aimed at an elite audience and controlled by Boris Berezovskiy.]

  2. blowback (History)

    Boris Berezovskiy – isn’t he Putin’s best friend ever? Just like Rupert Murdoch was a best friend of Bill Clinton and is a best friend of Barack Obamas. Perhaps Putin should use The Sun (UK red top) as a source of intelligence on the west.

  3. Allen Thomson

    Sigh. This reminds me of the DIA statements on the “BM-25”.

    Mind you, I think the Russians would be insane not to include ASAT attacks in strategic-level military exercises(*) — the Soviets certainly did — and for all I know the fine folks at Miass really did transfer SS-N-6 technology.

    But I do expect better of the USIC in explaining their level of certainty if not the actual sources concerning such matters.

    (*) Leaving aside the question of the sanity of such exercises in the first place.

  4. Chris Clary (History)

    As to your summary, the way I read the contemporary press coverage the presence of Indian military forces only occurred in a second, separate phase of the exercise. I just note that because an exercise in which India simulated space denial techniques against the U.S. would be a big deal.

  5. Gridlock (History)

    OT – Viktor Bout got his charges dropped and should be free in a couple of days.