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Useful Idiots in America Are Helping to Spread Putin’s Lies About Moscow Terror Attack

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

U.S. Intelligence Community Directive 191 declares that any “intelligence element that collects or acquires credible and specific information indicating an impending threat of intentional killing…shall have a duty to warn the intended victim.”

Although designed primarily to warn U.S. citizens of danger, this directive has been applied liberally to foreign governments as well. This “duty to warn” is one reason the United States on March 7 warned the Russian government that “extremists” had “imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts.” It cited the intelligence in a public warning to U.S. citizens to avoid large crowds in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t just ignore the warning, he denounced it. Three days before the attack he claimed the warnings were “provocative statements” and “outright blackmail” with the “intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

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After the attack, he and other Russian officials now say the U.S. warning was really a threat and the attack was the delivery of that threat. Ukraine is behind the assault, he says, adding details to support this fantasy, including the claim that Ukraine had prepared a “window” into their country to allow the terrorists to escape.

None of this is supported by any facts. All available information indicates that the horrendous March 22 attack on the Crocus City Hall that killed at least 137 people and burned the venue to the ground was carried out by the Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

The terrorist group, a powerful remnant of the former ISIS “caliphate” now operating in and around Afghanistan, claimed credit for the attack. It was strikingly similar to the attack it carried out on Jan. 3, killing 95 Iranians as they gathered to commemorate the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the Iranian city of Kerman. There, too, the U.S. had warned Iran. There, too, the leaders ignored the warning.

Over the weekend, ISIS released videos of the attack to support its claim of having masterminded the assault. The Guardian reports that the footage, published by the news agency of ISIS, Amaq, “showed gunmen filming themselves as they hunted victims in the lobby of the hall and fired from point-blank range, killing scores of people. At one point, one gunman tells another to ‘kill them and have no mercy.’”

U.S. officials are certain, as White House spokesman John Kirby said on Monday, “There was no linkage to Ukraine. This is just more Kremlin propaganda.” Other Western countries are confirming this conclusion from their own intelligence, with France announcing on Monday that ISIS was to blame and that the group had planned several attacks on French targets.

These spectacular, mass-casualty, civilian attacks are favored by ISIS, al Qaeda, and similar groups. There is no evidence whatsoever that Ukraine or the United States were involved.

While Ukraine has launched attacks against military and economic targets in Russia, it goes to great lengths to minimize any civilian casualties. Ukrainians are not terror bombing Russian cities, even as Russia terror bombs theirs. Not only does this cut against the grain of how democratic Ukraine wages its war of resistance, but Ukraine is smart enough to know that any such attack would undercut the support it gets from the West.

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This may be exactly why American supporters of Putin and opponents of Ukraine are spreading Putin’s lies.

“If the Ukrainian government was behind the terrorist attack, as looks increasingly likely, the U.S. must renounce it, else we become complicit,” David Sacks, the former PayPal entrepreneur, posted on X. His feed is filled with other conspiracy theory promoters hysterically blaming Ukraine.

The anti-Ukraine MAGA movement is similarly claiming this was a Ukrainian/U.S. “false flag” operation.

Far-right commentator Jack Posobiec told Steve Bannon that the four captured terrorists now being tortured by Russia say they were “hired.” That they couldn’t be ISIS because they would have killed themselves. He ludicrously cites a recent statement by former Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland that new U.S. aid would help Ukraine “accelerate the asymmetrical warfare that has been the most effective” and that “Putin faces some nasty surprises” as proof of Ukrainian involvement. “When Victoria Nuland promises some nasty surprises,” he claims, “you get stuff like this.”

All of these breathless revelations are spun with conjecture, guesswork, and outright fabrication. All of this aids Putin’s efforts to shift blame from his stunning intelligence failure. All of this helps Putin deflect from his inability to protect Russians from the true threats they face and force-feeds the ISIS attack into his existing paradigm.

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To be sure, he wouldn’t be the first leader to do so. President George W. Bush ignored intelligence briefings in August 2001 entitled, '“Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.” The Pentagon was still smoldering on September 11 when then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he was certain that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was behind the attack, not al Qaeda, and began planning to attack Iraq.

But Putin’s motives for shifting blame are clear. He wants to avoid responsibility, preserve his image as a strongman, and rally the nation around his leadership, not his failure. After all, it worked for Bush. It is working—for the moment—for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Putin is using the same playbook. He appears to be already intensifying his terror bombing of Ukraine and his state-controlled media are working overtime to spin the attack into a fear narrative starring Ukraine.

What is less clear is why any American would help him. All of us have a duty to warn of the danger represented by the American arm of Russia’s propaganda machine.

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