NSA Differed From CIA, Others on Russia Bounty Intelligence

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The National Security Agency strongly dissented from other intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia paid bounties for the killing of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the matter.
© Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—

The disclosure of the dissent by the NSA, which specializes in electronic eavesdropping, comes as the White House has played down the revelations, saying that the information wasn't verified and that intelligence officials didn't agree on it.

Because of that, President Trump was never personally briefed on the threat, the White House said, although a key lawmaker said the information apparently was included in written intelligence materials prepared for Mr. Trump.

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The people familiar with the dissent by the NSA either declined or were unable to say why the agency differed from others—including the Central Intelligence Agency—about the strength of the intelligence showing operatives with Russia's GRU intelligence agency paid bounties to the insurgent Taliban movement to kill Americans.

In the nuanced practice of intelligence analysis, which involves piecing together sometimes incomplete and ambiguous bits of data, such disagreements aren't unusual, and sometimes stem from institutional differences, experts and former officials have said.

The NSA focuses on electronic eavesdropping, mining intercepted phone conversations, texts and emails, and other electronic signals. The CIA's role is human intelligence, which on battlefields such as Afghanistan often means interrogation of enemy detainees.

The NSA in the past has been more conservative than other U.S. intelligence agencies in its analysis of high-profile intelligence matters involving Russia. A January 2017 intelligence…
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