Dead Drop: May 27

VLAD’S BAD LIST: Late last week, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a list of 963 Americans who they were sanctioning by banning them from ever visiting Russia. Gosh, that’s gotta hurt. We are grateful to the folks at the Hayden Center who laboriously went through the list to examine who from the national security community made the cut – and who did not. Somewhat surprisingly, the Hayden Center founder and namesake – General Mike Hayden (who is also a Cipher Brief Expert) was not on the list. Five other former CIA directors who followed Hayden in that role did. (For those of you keeping score at home, they are: Leon Panetta, John Brennan, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and current director, Bill Burns. The only one in that era not to make the list was General David Petraeus (another Cipher Brief Expert). The current CIA Deputy, David Cohen, and former deputy, Michael Morell are also going to have to adjust their Siberian vacation plans.  John Rizzo, the long-time, well-respected CIA lawyer made the list, despite having died in August 2021. Current DNI, Avril Haines was sanctioned along with a couple of her predecessors, James Clapper (yep, you guessed it, a Cipher Brief Expert) and Dan Coats. Several current and former DIA officials were on the “not a pal of Putin” list, NSA chief General Paul Nakasone. The FBI was recognized by the presence of current director Chris Wray, former director Robert Mueller and several others.  It’s a mystery to us how the Russians decided who made the list and who didn’t. Some officials, who have been harshly critical of the Putin regime, were disappointed not to be on it.  For example, after the list came out, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis (a TCB Expert, too)  promised to try harder to say even more negative things about Putin in hopes of earning a spot the next time around.  For the record, they’re all good enough for ‘our’ list.

TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS: Russian military reporter Aleksandr “Sasha” Kots is probably mortified, if a story in Forbes is on target.  It seems Kots, who travels with the invading Russian army in Ukraine, recently filed some video of a super-sized 2S4 Tyulpan (Tulip) 240 millimeter self-propelled mortar which can chuck 288 pound shells as far as six miles. Lighter shells, some with cluster bomblets, can reach a range of 12 miles. It seems Sasha’s cheerful report regarding the damage the Tulips were raining down on Ukraine – may -and we stress *may* have enabled the Ukrainians to precisely geolocate the unit Sasha was touting. A drone apparently located the weapon and the Ukrainians released video of the massive explosion that followed their targeting the Tulip. If true, Sasha is giving a bad name to media embeds with the military.

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.