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Updated: Plausible Denial
The CIA made sure there were no US fingerprints on the Nordstream pipleine sabotage, according to new Washington Post reporting
Plausible denial is the mother’s milk of covert operations. The ability for a government to persuasively argue it had no knowledge of, or participation in, a clandestine caper, especially if it might go sideways, is an essential bodyguard of the plan.
Speaking of which, Washington Post investigative reporter Shane Harris, co-author of an important story on a secret op by Ukrainian agents to blow up the Nordstream-2 pipeline back in September 2022, came on the SpyTalk podcast this week to discuss some fascinating background about CIA involvement—or rather, plausibly denied noninvolvement—in the op.
“They had a conversation with someone we identify in the piece as an intermediary, someone they knew, to basically convey to General [Valery] Zalushny,” Ukraine’s highest ranking military officer, ”that the United States doesn't approve of this. Which is not to say [they said] don't do it. [It was more like] if you do this, we want it on record that we were not co-signing on this operation,” Harris related.
Harris and his Post coauthor, Kyiv bureau chief Isabelle Khurshudyan, interviewed Zalushny, who told them no one from the CIA talked to him about the impending op, which the agency had learned of independently. “But the CIA had someone talk to him about this,” Harris said. “So it is very much their way of saying…We didn't approve of it.”
You can imagine the dialogue, very much a standard scene in spy thrillers.
“At the same time, you know,” Harris added, “the White House is not shedding tears over the fact that Nord Stream has been taken offline.”
Plausible denial—with the Cheshire cat’s grin.
UPDATE: U.S. officials have denied they gave Ukraine officials a wink-and-nod approval for the operation. And Harris cautions that there’s no evidence to support such an inference. “I think the plausible deniability here was one the Ukrainians created for Zelensky, not the CIA,” Harris told SpyTalk after the podcast was aired.
Listen to the whole fascinating conversation here, on Apple, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Update: Harris’s remarks during the podcast ,
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