OAN’s Brooke Mallory
4:33 PM – Tuesday, May 16, 2023
The Central Intelligence Agency published a produced recruitment video online on Monday night as part of a new initiative to take advantage of what U.S. officials believe to be an “unprecedented” opportunity to persuade Russians disenchanted with the Ukraine war and Russian culture to share their secrets.
The campaign involves the launch of a new CIA channel on Telegram, a popular platform for uncensored news in Russia. The first published video on the channel concludes with information regarding how to contact the agency securely and privately.
The CIA’s official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube had posted the video as well.
Russians can now come to the agency and deliver war-related information that the U.S. desires, according to CIA officers participating in the effort. Additionally, it followed a prior recruitment effort that was conducted when the invasion began.
According to one official, the whole idea is that they want Russians who work in critical industries and who have access to important information to come forward.
“We understand you, maybe better than you think… We wanted to convey to Russians in their own language we know what they’re going through,” said the official, who asked to stay anonymous in order to discuss the sensitive project.
The official emphasized that the video was “absolutely not” intended to incite unrest among the general populace, where Russian President Vladimir Putin still maintains a high level of support, but rather, it is intended to reach out to people who may be on the fence, and to “demystify” the procedure for contacting the CIA. The agency contended that it draws on “timeless” themes that have long persuaded disillusioned Russians to contact the CIA. However, it does not specifically address Putin or the conflict in Ukraine, in part because it would be “redundant.”
“Ukraine is top of mind but that’s more or less a symptom of something larger,” an official said. “There are always individuals in Russia who identify with what we have to say here.”
The intelligence agency feels that doubt, a lack of direction, and persecution are what Russians are going through and what could persuade Russians to become assets for U.S. sources.
“We will live with dignity, thanks to my actions,” the video narrator says in Russian as a woman uses her phone to contact the CIA, then the contact information and agency logo appear.
The two-minute video depicted several Russians going about their daily lives while appearing to be debating important decisions. A young child is shown in a hospital bed with a woman who appears to be her mother. A woman works on (what looks like) a government computer, and a man enters a government building, flashes his ID card, and then sits down at a desk covered in paperwork.
Last year, the CIA made a more direct social media outreach two months into the Ukrainian conflict that is also mirrored in the new video released on Monday. Similar step-by-step instructions were provided in those efforts for prospective Russian informants on how to communicate with the agency anonymously and securely on the dark web, without being discovered by Russia’s security agencies.
The CIA officials noted the suppression of opposing voices, independent media, and the mobilization of tens of thousands more Russian soldiers who were sent to the front lines, as only a few of the many events that had occurred in the war’s first year.
“[Putin’s] military continues to suffer heavy losses and manpower and materiel. When he undertook a partial mobilization late last year far more Russians of military age fled the country than the Kremlin managed to round up and send to the front as cannon fodder,” said CIA Director William Burns. “Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practiced repression.”
The group of Russians that the CIA estimated to number in the hundreds or even tens of thousands, both inside and outside of Russia, and who may have important information to contribute, is the target demographic. They are trying to reach Russians who work in industries like cybersecurity, tech, banking, the military, and diplomacy, who are not emotionally involved in the ongoing rivalry between the U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies, according to the officials.
They argued that many of those individuals might not know how to contact the CIA or might not be aware that their knowledge is relevant. The intelligence agency was encouraged to make a more aggressive push with this recent video after seeing some success last year with their initial effort in trying to connect with potential Russian informants.
“If it were unsuccessful we would not be attempting a similar endeavor,” an official said, while refusing to give anymore specifics regarding informants they had previously managed to recruit.
According to David Marlowe, the CIA’s director of operations, the U.S. intelligence community had been “open for business” since Russia started its conflict with Ukraine in February of last year.
“We’re looking around the world for Russians who are as disgusted with that as we are,” Marlowe said.
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