With Friends Like This

I received notification of this story when I was chasing something else. At the Washington Post Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet are reporting that we have known that the Ukrainians were responsible for sabotaging the Nordstream pipeline since before it happened:

Three months before saboteurs bombed the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, the Biden administration learned from a close ally that the Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Details about the plan, which have not been previously reported, were collected by a European intelligence service and shared with the CIA in June 2022. They provide some of the most specific evidence to date linking the government of Ukraine to the eventual attack in the Baltic Sea, which U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe’s energy infrastructure.

The European intelligence reporting was shared on the chat platform Discord, allegedly by Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira. The Washington Post obtained a copy from one of Teixeira’s online friends.

There’s a lot to decompress in that story if true:

  • The Ukrainians sabotaged the pipeline.
  • A “European intelligence agency”, presumably the Poles or the Swedes, knew about it well in advance
  • They notified our intelligence agency
  • Either the president knew about it and lied about it OR he didn’t know (my suspicion)
  • The whole thing was published online by Jack Teixeira

I wouldn’t fault the Ukrainians for going after the pipeline—it was a legitimate target. However, if our intelligence agency did not inform the president they did wrong. The president needs to know about this stuff. Either ignorance or lying about it reduces his credibility. That’s the reason I think he had not been informed.

The sabotage hasn’t hurt the Russians much—they just found different customers. It DID hurt the Germans—it forced their hand which was, presumably, the objective.

6 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    Just a couple of notes,

    First, the link in your post is to a different story about Poland.

    Second, a report about Ukraine wanting/planning to blow up the pipeline is not dispositive proof they actually did it.

    We don’t have the report itself, so we can’t evaluate its legitimacy. From personal experience, there are a lot of single-source reports about all kinds of things that end up not being true, or not totally accurate, or any number of other things. And this was a single-source human intelligence report.

    The intelligence report was based on information obtained from an individual in Ukraine. The source’s information could not immediately be corroborated, but the CIA shared the report with Germany and other European countries last June


    The CIA initially questioned the credibility of the information, in part because the source in Ukraine who provided the details had not yet established a track record of producing reliable information, according to officials familiar with the matter. The European service, a trusted U.S. partner, felt that the source was reliable.
    But despite any reservations the CIA might have had, the agency communicated the June intelligence to counterparts in Germany and other European countries, officials said. The European service also shared it with Germany, one person said. German intelligence personnel briefed lawmakers in Berlin in late June before they left for their summer break, according to an official with knowledge of the closed-door presentation.

    So this European agency had a single source in Ukraine that provided the information to the CIA, which then provided it to relevant partners. This is normal and SOP, but it’s still just a single report from a single individual.

    The article does not give any indication that there was corroborating intelligence, it doesn’t have any mention of follow-on collection and analysis – and certainly, with something like this, analysts would look to other sources and methods and also query the original source for confirmable details. This may have happened, but it’s not reported here.

    And there is this:

    The intelligence summary says that the Ukrainian military operation was “put on hold,” for reasons that remain unclear. The Ukrainians had planned to attack the pipeline on the heels of a major allied naval exercise, known as BALTOPS, which ran from June 5 to 17, 2022, according to the report.

    So, my take is that this is one piece of evidence, and it’s evidence that – as far as we know – wasn’t fully vetted or verified and comes from a single individual of unknown reliability. There’s no evidence – in the public at least – that this report was corroborated in any way.

    So it may be true and accurate, it may be false or deception, or something in between.

    Keep in mind that the reports on the existence of mobile biological weapon production labs in Iraq prior to the 2003 war were also from a single human source.

  • I’ve fixed the link. Thanks.

    My own view is that it’s more credible than Seymour Hersh’s story. BTW Russian language sources prefer Hersh’s story.

    As to sourcing if there’s only a single source, they’ve forgotten everything they ever learned in J-school.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    So it has gone from the
    “Russians bombed their own pipeline” to
    “who knows who actually did it” to
    “perhaps some Ukrainians did it with no link to Ukrainian government and with no foreknowledge to the American government” to
    “the Ukrainian military did it without President Zelensky being involved and the American intelligence knew and told the Germans”.

    How long before it is
    “the Ukrainian military did it with the assistance of another NATO nation (Poland) and the CIA but the White House wasn’t looped in” to
    “the Ukrainian military did it with the assistance of NATO (Poland and US) through the CIA and the White House was looped in but the President was not” to
    “the Ukrainian military did it with the assistance of NATO (Poland and US) through the CIA and the White House, the President was looped in but he doesn’t recall because of his age and signs of dementia”

    Even the current story while more plausible is still incredulous. The Ukrainian military decided to do an operation with such potential for blowback without authorization from their President and approbation from key “partners”? That an operation in those waters was properly timed to occur an efficient getaway without intelligence help?’

  • Drew Link

    “As to sourcing if there’s only a single source, they’ve forgotten everything they ever learned in J-school.”

    Hmmm. Russia, Russia, Russia. Laptops. Biden’s grandkids paid by Romania for their vital and insightful analysis……. Uh, er, well, ahem………..oh, nevermind.

  • Andy Link

    “As to sourcing if there’s only a single source, they’ve forgotten everything they ever learned in J-school.”

    It’s not a well-written article, but it does specifically say the info comes from a single Ukrainian guy, and it doesn’t say that the info was ever vetted.

    The headline is accurate but misleading. The US had a single intelligence report.

    I think the journalists failed to put it into context, including some of what I wrote in my comment above.

  • steve Link

    In this case i feel sorry for the journalists. If they dont report this single source story they risk being accused of a cover up. Reporting it as a single source story was probably the right choice, though I agree with Andy that they could have done a better job of making that point clear.


Leave a Comment