Senior Pentagon officials have denied involvement in the Biden administration’s reported decision to share intelligence with the Chinese Communist Party during the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley both said that they did not advise such action or know about it.
The revelation came amid questioning from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in an April 7 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the current defense budget request.
The Senator’s questions referred to a report from the New York Times that senior Biden administration officials met and shared intelligence with their Chinese officials on at least six separate occasions in the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. During these meetings, U.S. officials delivered reports on Russian troop movements, which Chinese leaders then reportedly passed on to Moscow.
When asked if he agreed that giving intelligence to the nation’s adversaries was a poor decision, Austin responded affirmatively.
“I think that’s something that we absolutely work to avoid,” Austin said.
When asked why senior Biden officials held meetings with top Chinese officials specifically for that purpose, Austin said he was not aware of the situation.
“I don’t have insights on any occurrences like that,” Austin said to Blackburn.
“I am unfamiliar with the issue that you raised, but you are right [not to support giving intel to adversaries].”
When Blackburn asked Milley how often he had advised sharing intelligence with China’s communist regime, he said that he had never advised the president to take such action.
“Zero,” Milley said. “Never.”
Milley drew widespread criticism last year after a book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa stated that Milley held two secret phone calls with his counterpart in the Chinese Communist Party during the Trump administration. The book alleged that Milley believed then-President Donald Trump was unstable and that he made the calls to China to assure the regime that the United States would not attack them.
Miller said at the time that, if true, the calls presented a “disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination by the Nation’s top military officer.”
After Thursday’s hearing, Blackburn appeared to question whether Austin and Milley actually did not know about the reports of U.S. intelligence sharing in a statement in which she also alleged that the passing of such information would have aided in Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
“It is astonishing that neither General Milley nor Secretary Austin were aware of a widely reported story that the Biden administration shared intelligence with Chinese officials,” Blackburn said.
“DNI Director Avril Haines, NSA Advisor Jake Sullivan, and CIA Director William Burns need to come before this Committee and explain why they thought it was appropriate to give our intelligence to the Chinese, who then gave it to the Russians. We should not be giving American secrets to Beijing or helping Putin commit war crimes.”
When asked what course of action U.S. leadership should take when presented with similar circumstances in the future, Milley’s response was simple:
“I don’t think you should give intelligence to your adversary,” Milley said. “Period.”