Do you remember Jade Helm? It was a 2015 military training exercise held in several Texas locations. Though it was described by the Pentagon as routine, conspiracy theories quickly arose, alleging that Jade Helm was an attempt by the Obama administration to test the launch of martial law across the U.S.
Fast forward to May 4, 2018, and now former CIA director Michael Hayden tells MSNBC that the hysteria over Jade Helm was a test run for a Russian disinformation campaign, and the ensuing mania was evidence that the American public was ripe for manipulation in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
Fred Burton is chief security officer for the private intelligence group Stratfor. He says it’s only in hindsight that Hayden’s claim can be evaluated.
“My gut would tell me that the U.S. intelligence community perhaps had received some sort of intelligence that that was the case,” Burton says “but I think what was publicly known was very minimal.”
Burton says using Jade Helm exercises in this way is consistent with Russia’s goals.
“Their strategic mission is destabilization of the West, and an effort to tie up resources, to send the U.S. intelligence community down various rat holes,” he says. “The more we can focus on ourselves internally, the less time we have to focus on Russia and its intelligence apparatus.”
Burton says all nations make attempts to influence other countries’ politics, but he says Russia has been particularly aggressive and effective. He says they’re winning the disinformation war right now.
“I think they’ve taken advantage of our lovely freedom of speech, our 24/7 news cycle, [and] social media,” he says.
Burton says the idea of Russian jinning up Jade Helm hysteria as a test run for 2016 isn’t proven, nor is it out of the question.
“The term in the espionage business is ‘walking back the cat.’ If you walk back the cat on this, and you sequence up what took place, it certainly comes together now,” he says. “And sometimes, when you look at these kinds of cases, you have to look back at them from a historical perspective.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.