WASHINGTON – A former top intelligence official who signed on to a letter attacking The Post’s bombshell 2020 reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation has now admitted he knew a “significant portion” of the recovered files “had to be real” – but doesn’t regret dismissing the exposé.
Douglas Wise, a former Defense Intelligence Agency deputy director, was one of 51 erstwhile intelligence brass who issued the public letter on Oct. 19, 2020 — five days after The Post began a series of reports on the now-first son’s shady overseas business dealings.
“All of us figured that a significant portion of that content had to be real to make any Russian disinformation credible,” said Wise — who didn’t respond when The Post reached out for an explanation in March of last year, but found his tongue when he spoke to The Australian.
The Oct. 19 letter — whose signatories included former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Director of National intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan — went out of its way to cast doubt on the legitimacy of The Post’s scoop, devoting five paragraphs to explaining “factors that make us suspicious of Russian involvement” while slipping in the caveat that “we do not know if the emails … are genuine or not and … we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”
The letter was picked up by Politico, who ran a story about it under the headline: “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo, dozens of former intel officials say.”
In turn, the letter’s pronouncement that the recovered laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation” was used by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and other media outlets to quell outcry over suppression of the story by Facebook and Twitter.
Since then, the information recovered from the laptop has been belatedly confirmed by the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post and CBS News, all of whom only acknowledged the computer’s contents were authentic last year.
“The letter said it had the earmarks of Russian deceit and we should consider that as a possibility,” Wise told The Australian. “It did not say Hunter Biden was a good guy, it didn’t say what he did was right and it wasn’t exculpatory, it was just a cautionary letter.”
In fact, the letter referred to “[o]ur view that the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email issue” and concluded with the message: “It is high time that Russia stops interfering in our democracy.”
Despite the letter’s black-and-white statements, Wise — now retired from government service and listed on his LinkedIn page as the sole proprietor of New Mexico-based Southwest National Security Consultants LLC — insists that its critics, “whether they‘re members of the conservative journalist community, conservative politicians or just ultra-right wing extremists, they haven’t paid attention to the content.”
“I don’t regret signing it because the context is important,” he added. “Remember [former Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy] Giuliani had just been in Ukraine trying to dig up evidence on the Bidens and he met with a known Russian intelligence official” — an apparent reference to pro-Moscow Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach.
Wise further added speculation that the laptop’s “chain of custody” left it open to alteration.
“Russians or even ill-intended conservative elements could have planted stuff in there,” he said.
The laptop was abandoned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware repair shop in April 2019. After shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac took possession of the laptop and viewed its contents, he alerted the FBI, which seized the computer and hard drive that December.
After hearing nothing from investigators, Mac Isaac gave a copy of the hard drive to Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello. Giuliani himself turned over a copy of the laptop to The Post on Oct. 11, 2020 — three days before the first report was published.
Wise spoke out a week after the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives established the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which is expected to investigate the ordeal as part of its mission to look into inappropriate links between intelligence agencies and social media platforms in the wake of revelations that the FBI pressured Twitter to censor the Hunter Biden story.
It also came after the House Oversight Committee last week launched an investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings – an initiative partly inspired by the Post’s report.