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Biden Lauds CIA for Punching ‘Gigantic Hole’ in Putin’s Playbook
- Trip to Langley headquarters marks agency’s 75th anniversary
- President’s tone contrasts sharply with Trump visit in 2017
President Joe Biden praised the Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to expose Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine, telling the staff that they had “punched a gigantic hole” in President Vladimir Putin’s objectives.
“It was thanks to the incredible work of our intelligence professionals that we were able to forewarn the world what Vladimir Putin was planning in Ukraine,” Biden said during his first visit as president to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “We saw what he was doing. You saw it, the forces he was amassing, the plans he was making.”
Biden has sought to restore ties with the CIA and the intelligence community that were damaged under President Donald Trump, who routinely cast doubt on the agencies’ findings and accused them of being part of a “deep state” determined to undermine him.
The president said when he was out of office he “missed waking up every morning and seeing the PDB,” referring to the high-level national security briefing materials produced by the intelligence community for the president and other top US officials.
In the prelude to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Biden and administration officials publicized the typically secretive work of the CIA, in an effort to warn Kyiv and the rest of the world of Putin’s intentions.
Biden authorized the declassification of information regarding Russian troop movements and even Putin’s thinking before the assault began. The information was credited with robbing the Kremlin of the element of surprise, as well as building international support for sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine.
The visit commemorated the 75th anniversary of the CIA, founded in the years after World War II, and thank officers for their work.
“So often you have to keep your identity secret, sometimes even in death, that we don’t get a chance to thank you enough for all that you do,” Biden said. “For 75 years, our nation’s intelligence professionals have worked unceasingly and sacrificed willingly to make our country safer.”
“Exposing Putin’s playbook punched a gigantic hole in the pretense and discredited his lies about what we were doing in Ukraine,” he added.
The successful disclosures helped bolster the credibility of US intelligence that had been damaged during the Iraq War, and at a time when officials are warning of grave threats posed by Russia and China.
US officials, however, have admitted that they underestimated Ukraine’s ability to defend itself even after they accurately predicted an invasion.
The Ukraine crisis unfolded after the CIA had been caught up in Washington finger-pointing following last summer’s Taliban victory of Afghanistan and the disastrous US withdrawal following two decades of war.
Intelligence agencies are conducting internal reviews after the US predicted that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would hold on to power for months. Instead, he fled the country as the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul.
Biden’s appearance on Friday contrasted sharply with Trump’s first presidential visit to CIA headquarters in January 2017, right after he took office, an event that encapsulated his tense relationship with the intelligence services.
Standing in front of a wall of stars commemorating agency officers who died in service to their country, Trump delivered a rambling speech in which he lashed out at the news media, mused on the crowd size at his inauguration the day before and suggested he would loosen rules on torture put in place by President Barack Obama.
He rejected the notion that he had been in a “feud” with the intelligence community over its investigation into Russian hacking of Democratic Party officials’ email accounts during the 2016 campaign. After winning election, Trump had repeatedly questioned the community’s findings.