On Thursday, putting the final nail in the coffin of the Russian bounty hoax, the Biden administration walked back the claim.
"The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks US and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier," a senior administration official told The Daily Beast.
Can't wait for the hour-long retraction special by @maddow and the ENTIRE hysterical @msnbc @cnn lineup who dutifully has been doing stenography for U.S. intelligence since the dawn of time https://t.co/HkDIKdH3y7
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) April 15, 2021
As The Daily Beast report explains, "low to moderate confidence" means "the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven — and possibly untrue."
The comments from the officials are not surprising, as US intelligence agencies, most notably the NSA, dissented from the Russian bounty story almost immediately. Shortly after the original New York Times report was published, NSA sources spoke out against the conclusion.
A memo circulated by the National Intelligence Council in July 2020 said only the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center assessed with "medium confidence" that Russia offered the Taliban bounties. The memo said other intelligence agencies, only mentioning the NSA by name, gave it "low confidence." According to US intelligence agencies' definition of the confidence levels, the "medium" or "moderate" confidence level leaves plenty of room for doubt.