4-Star Generals Want China, Russia Intel Declassified U.S. Air Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond attends an event marking the establishment the U.S. Space Command, the sixth national armed service, in the Rose Garden at the White House Aug. 29, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Tuesday, 27 April 2021 12:18 PM
Top U.S. military commanders are pressing Biden administration intelligence leaders to expose the depth of China and Russia's "pernicious conduct," calling for a declassification of intelligence.
A group of 4-star generals made the request to expose our top adversaries publicly, particularly as our allies are allegedly being fed disinformation by our top rivals and the U.S. is falling behind in a veritable public relations world war, Politico reported.
"Our inability to speak publicly about the real threats coming from China and Russia means many Americans don't truly know everything we're up against," Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told Politico in a statement. "It makes it easier to argue to cut the defense budget when we can't have an honest discussion about these threats.
"I know this frustrates many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle — and we need to get better at fighting in this space. Our adversaries like to operate in the shadows, and the best way to combat them is to call out their lies."
The memo from 9 regional commanders — a document now dubbed the "36-star memo" — calls for "waging the truth in the public domain against America's 21st century challengers," according to the report.
"We request this help to better enable the U.S., and by extension its allies and partners, to win without fighting, to fight now in so-called gray zones, and to supply ammunition in the ongoing war of narratives," the commanders wrote to then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire in January 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Unfortunately, we continue to miss opportunities to clarify truth, counter distortions, puncture false narratives, and influence events in time to make a difference."
The only 4-star generals to not sign the memo were the leaders of U.S. Central Command and Cyber Command, Politico reported.
Adm. Phil Davidson organized the letter from 9 of the 11 U.S. commanders, only 1 of which is no longer active.
"The Russians and the Chinese, in particular, have weaponized information," former undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security Kari Bingen, who received the memo, told Politico. "This is a significant concern that is being raised by military commanders and intelligence professionals."
She added: "The combatant commands are out at the edge. Their forces are interacting with our allies and partners, and seeing what our adversaries are doing, on a daily basis. They need timely and relevant information to expose bad activity and to counter what they're seeing."
The behaviors the commanders want exposed include military buildups by Russia in Ukraine and incursions into Western airspace, and China's increasingly brazen acts in the South China Sea, including islands claimed by the Philippines, according to the report.
Also, the commanders warned that Russia and China are spreading disinformation about the global coronavirus pandemic, pushing anti-American conspiracy theories like the U.S. being responsible for the virus' release as a bioweapon or U.S. troops being responsible for its spread.
"I think there's meaningful movement," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, told Politico. "I can't say that it's been a change yet, because this is still evolving."