FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—U.S. tax dollars are going to the employers of former intelligence officials who signed a misleading open letter in 2020 claiming that emails, photos, and other content on Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop likely amounted to a “Russian information operation.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project determined that research organizations, think tanks that take government funds, and federal contractors all hired former intelligence officials who signed the public letter regarding Democrat Joe Biden’s son just weeks before the elder Biden defeated incumbent Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Organizations employing one or more signers of the letter about Hunter Biden’s laptop include the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Mitre Corp., and the Telemus Group, all of which get at least some federal dollars, according to research by the Heritage Oversight Project.
“The signatories of the [Hunter Biden] letter abused their prior positions of power to interfere in an election and have contributed to the politicization of national security,” Kyle Bosnan, chief counsel to Heritage’s Oversight Project, told The Daily Signal. (The Heritage Foundation, which doesn’t accept government funding, is the parent organization of The Daily Signal.)
“It’s deeply disturbing that a number of these purveyors of campaign propaganda continue to draw taxpayer funds for their expertise,” Bosnan said in an email. “These individuals have lost the public’s trust on matters of national security, and Congress should revisit whether they should continue to receive federal tax dollars.”
The open letter suggesting that the younger Biden’s laptop was likely Russian disinformation, released, attracted a total of 51 signatories before its release Oct. 19, 2020.
High-profile signers include James Clapper, director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, who has been a paid contributor to CNN. John Brennan, Obama’s former CIA director, was a paid contributor to MSNBC.
Also signing was Rick Ledgett, former deputy director of the National Security Agency and now a senior visiting fellow at the Mitre Corp., a national security organization, according to the Oversight Project.
Over the years, Mitre has gotten payments from federal agencies ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to over $2 million. The government agencies include the U.S. Army and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Chertoff Group, Hayden Center
Several organizations employ multiple signatories of the letter casting doubt on the Hunter Biden laptop, suggesting how the idea of its being Russian disinformation was spread.
Other employees are private companies or organizations with some interaction with government agencies, but not directly funded. These include the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy and national security think tank, and The Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm founded by Michael Chertoff, who was homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush.
Three signers of the statement on the Biden laptop work for the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security—including Hayden, the retired four-star Air Force general who founded it. The Hayden Center is part of George Mason University, a public university, so it could receive government funding indirectly.
Hayden also was CIA director under Bush. Though Hayden worked for a Republican administration, he was a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s policies on illegal immigration.
Also signing was Hayden Center Director Larry Pfeiffer, who is a former senior director of the White House Situation Room and was Hayden’s chief of staff at the CIA.
The third was Michael Morell, acting director and deputy director of the CIA in the Obama administration, now a senior fellow at the Hayden Center.
Morell testified that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who in 2020 was a senior adviser to the Biden presidential campaign, “played a role in the inception” of the October 2020 letter signed by 51 former intelligence officials suggesting that Hunter Biden’s laptop was part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Morell also is a senior counselor with Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in international affairs and defense policy. Beacon doesn’t get federal funding, according to the Oversight Project.
Former Obama Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, also a signatory to the letter, is a senior counselor for Beacon.
Beacon was founded by Jeremy Bash, Panetta’s chief of staff at both the CIA and Pentagon.
‘No Longer Associated’
Both Hayden and Pfeiffer have done work for The Chertoff Group, according to the Oversight Project. However, a spokesperson for the company said neither are employees.
“The Chertoff Group does not employ any individuals who signed the 2020 letter,” spokeswoman Ellen Murray told The Daily Signal in an email. “General Hayden is no longer associated with The Chertoff Group and Larry Pfeiffer is a ‘senior adviser,’ not an employee, so we do not comment on his behalf.”
Only a small amount of the company’s profits comes from federal funding, Murray said.
“The Chertoff Group is an advisory firm of highly qualified experts that uses proven frameworks to help commercial companies achieve their business and security objectives in a complex risk environment,” Murray said, adding: “A very small portion of our work involves contracts funded with federal funds.”
Hayden is also a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS. The organization reports that it gets at least $250,000 of its budget from the U.S. government and those of allied countries.
Other signatories to the Biden letter who work for CSIS are Glenn Gerstell, former general counsel for the National Security Agency, whose service overlapped the Obama and Trump administrations, as well as Greg Treverton, former chairman of the National Security Council.
The Daily Signal contacted every firm or organization that employs more than one signer of the Hunter Biden letter in 2020. Some replied, but only The Chertoff Group provided an on-the-record response.
The House is considering the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which could provide some of the funding to groups such as these.
The claim that Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation has been discredited as left-leaning publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post belatedly authenticated the laptop as belonging to the president’s son.
The New York Post, a conservative-leaning newspaper, broke the story about the laptop and its contents, which included details of Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings as well as photos and video in which he is seen smoking crack and consorting with prostitutes.
Some of the emails and other documents saved on the laptop indicated that Biden’s father, now the president, profited from his son’s foreign dealings using his name in countries such as China and Ukraine, the Post first reported.
‘All the Earmarks’
Twitter, Facebook, and other social media companies censored users who tried to share the news, vastly limiting the number of Americans who learned about the contents of the laptop in the days before the election in which Biden, a senator for 36 years and vice president for eight years, challenged Trump.
The letter signed by the former intelligence officials, asserting that the Biden laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” was released less than three weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
The wording did hedge, asserting that the signers “do not have evidence of Russian involvement,” but concluding that “our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”
The FBI verified the authenticity of the younger Biden’s laptop a year earlier, in October 2019, after obtaining it from a Delaware repair shop owner, according to the recent testimony of an IRS whistleblower to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The FBI’s determination that the laptop is authentic came a full year before the former intelligence officials signed on to the partisan letter dismissing the laptop as Russian election tampering.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which is developing and may be updated.
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