Guantánamo Detainee Agrees to Drop Call for C.I.A. Testimony

WASHINGTON — A detainee at Guantánamo Bay has agreed to a deal intended to lead to his release in the next few years in return for giving up the right to question the C.I.A. in court about its torture program, United States government officials said.

The deal, negotiated by the Pentagon official who oversees the military commissions that serve as a court for some detainees, was reached in recent weeks, and comes as a number of those who have been charged at Guantánamo are seeking to cite their abuse at the hands of the C.I.A. as part of their defense.

Under the deal, the prisoner, Majid Khan, 41, who has pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda, would complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025 and then could be released to another country, assuming one will take him, according to people who have seen the terms or are familiar with its details.

In exchange, Mr. Khan will not use his sentencing proceedings to invoke a landmark war court decision that allowed him to call witnesses from the C.I.A.’s secret prison network to testify about his torture.

2014 Senate investigation. He was also sleep deprived, kept naked and hung by his wrists, and hooded, to the point of hallucinations.

Mr. Khan was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 and saw a lawyer for the first time in his fourth year of detention. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges stemming from his work for Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks, and agreed to postpone his sentencing while he cooperated with government prosecutors.

On April 16, he and his lawyers reached agreement with the overseer of military commissions for a sentence that would end sometime between early next year and March 1, 2025.

The agreement itself is under seal, at least until a judge questions Mr. Khan on whether he voluntarily entered into it. But several people, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe details of the deal, said that it has a sentencing range of 11 to 14 years, applied starting with his guilty plea in 2012.

prosecutors failed to disclose certain evidence. Colonel Watkins retires from the Army on Aug. 1 and was replaced on the case Wednesday by an Air Force judge, Col. Mark W. Milam.

The agreement is the first involving a Guantánamo detainee that the Biden administration has reached since taking office. It was made by Jeffrey D. Wood, a National Guard colonel who was appointed by the Trump administration to the civilian role of convening authority for military commissions.

had actually seen Mr. Khan in C.I.A. detention.

The issue had been simmering but had not come to a head because travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic brought most military commission hearings to a standstill for the last year.

The question of whether Mr. Khan could receive a reduction in his sentence because of his torture was also a potential model for the defense in the capital conspiracy case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. Defense lawyers for all five defendants say there is evidence that each was systematically tortured in the black sites, and they want a judge or jury to hear graphic details about it to avert a death sentence when the long-delayed case eventually proceeds.

Two contract psychologists who devised the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, have been publicly identified. But the identities of the people who interrogated Mr. Khan, and in which countries where they did it, are still classified at the court, which operates under rules that the government says are intended to balance state secrets and fair trial rights.

Prosecutors argued that anonymous, in-person testimony about Mr. Khan’s treatment, whether in a classified session or in public, risked exposing covert U.S. government employees, and said it was not possible to take them to Guantánamo Bay. That left the possibility of the judge ordering their appearances, prosecutors refusing to bring them and as a remedy, the judge reducing Mr. Khan’s sentence.

filing on April 22, Mr. Khan’s lawyers will also ask the judge after sentencing to void the June 2020 ruling that found credit for pretrial punishment is an available remedy at a military commission — undercutting its potential use in the Sept. 11 case.

Mr. Khan has been kept apart from the other former C.I.A. prisoners at Guantánamo since he pleaded guilty. At that time, he became a government informant, and has been debriefed on demand although prosecutors have yet to hold a trial where his testimony would be needed.

In pleading guilty he admitted to delivering $50,000 from Mr. Mohammed to militants in Indonesia that was used to finance the bombing of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003, killing 11 people. Three men at Guantánamo have been charged in that plot, but have yet to be arraigned and have no trial date.

During the Trump administration, Mr. Khan was also listed as a government witness in a planned federal prosecution of another Pakistani man, Uzair Paracha. Mr. Paracha was convicted in 2005 in New York of federal terrorism-related offenses, but the conviction was overturned. Rather than retry him last year, federal prosecutors dropped the case in exchange for Mr. Paracha voluntarily giving up his U.S. residency and returning to Pakistan, after 17 years of incarceration.

For Mr. Khan, the path out of Guantánamo may be more complex. Successive U.S. administrations have argued that a convicted war criminal who completes his sentence may still be held at Guantánamo in the quasi-prisoner of war status of a detainee, as long as the United States considers itself to be at war with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Also, it is unclear where Mr. Khan would go. He was born in Saudi Arabia, lived as a child in Pakistan but went to high school in suburban Baltimore and had asylum in the United States before he returned to Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. By law, he cannot be sent to the United States.

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White House to Investigate Brain Injuries Within C.I.A.

WASHINGTON — Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than 130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.

The number of cases within the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Department and elsewhere spurred broad concern in the Biden administration. The initial publicly confirmed cases were concentrated in China and Cuba and numbered about 60, not including a group of injured C.I.A. officers whose total is not public.

The new total adds cases from Europe and elsewhere in Asia and reflects efforts by the administration to more thoroughly review other incidents amid concern over a spate of them in recent months.

Since December, at least three C.I.A. officers have reported serious health effects from episodes overseas. One occurred within the past two weeks, and all have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities.

a report released in December, the National Academy of Sciences said a microwave weapon probably caused the injuries. Some officials believe a microwave or directed-energy device is the most likely cause.

The severity of the brain injuries has ranged widely. But some victims have chronic, potentially irreversible symptoms and pain, suggesting potentially permanent brain injury. Physicians at Walter Reed have warned government officials that some victims are at risk for suicide.

one in 2020 that affected a National Security Council official near the Ellipse south of the White House and another in 2019 involving a woman walking her dog in Northern Virginia, have no known connection to an earlier overseas event. While many officials expressed skepticism that Russia or another power would conduct an attack in the United States, agencies are investigating.

Congress has demanded more from the C.I.A. In a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, senators accused the C.I.A. of doing too little to investigate the mysterious episodes and until recently showing skepticism about them, according to people briefed on the meeting.

During the Trump administration, some in the agency said there was little intelligence showing a foreign power was responsible and argued that it made little sense analytically for Russia or another foreign intelligence service to make unprovoked attacks on Americans. Others doubted the cause of the brain injuries.

The new C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, has tried to move aggressively to improve the agency’s response, current and former officials said. Mr. Burns has met with victims, visited doctors who have treated injured agency officers and briefed lawmakers.

He has also assigned his deputy, David Cohen, to oversee the investigation and the health care response. Mr. Cohen will meet monthly with victims and will lead regular briefings for Congress. The agency has also doubled the number of medical personnel conducting treatment and managing cases of injured officers.

In addition, the chief medical officer, who had been criticized by some former officers as too skeptical of the incidents and dismissive of some symptoms, announced his retirement. He was replaced with another doctor seen inside the C.I.A. as more focused on patient care.

another cohort of C.I.A. officers traveling in a variety of countries, including Russia, had said they were the likely victims of attacks and reported similar symptoms.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration’s National Security Council grew increasingly frustrated last year with State Department’s and the C.I.A.’s handling of the incidents.

Robert C. O’Brien, President Donald J. Trump’s last national security adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, his deputy, had already begun working in early 2020 to redouble efforts by their aides to understand the mysterious episodes and to get the Pentagon more involved.

But their staff members ran into frustration getting the C.I.A., the State Department and other agencies to share details about injured personnel, in part because of federal protections on health data. White House officials thought the investigation, in which the C.I.A. had been the lead agency, had run into a dead end.

The frustration culminated in a tense conversation Mr. Pottinger had with Vaughn Bishop, then the deputy C.I.A. director, and other officials in November. Mr. Pottinger urged the intelligence community to do more to cooperate with the Pentagon and other agencies. The next month, the National Security Council convened a deputy-level meeting across agencies to again push for further action and a broader investigation.

Mr. Pottinger declined to comment.

The Biden administration has tried to further improve coordination, including directing agencies to each name a coordinator to work on both identifying the cause of the episodes and improving health care for the injured personnel. Even some Democrats who have been briefed on the incidents called on the administration to be more aggressive.

“I don’t believe that we as a government, in general, have acted quickly enough,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who heads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. “We really need to fully understand where this is coming from, what the targeting methods are and what we can do to stop them.”

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Mysterious Ailments Are Said to Be More Widespread Among U.S. Personnel

WASHINGTON — Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than 130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.

The number of cases within the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Department and elsewhere spurred broad concern in the Biden administration. The initial publicly confirmed cases were concentrated in China and Cuba and numbered about 60, not including a group of injured C.I.A. officers whose total is not public.

The new total adds cases from Europe and elsewhere in Asia and reflects efforts by the administration to more thoroughly review other incidents amid concern over a spate of them in recent months.

Since December, at least three C.I.A. officers have reported serious health effects from episodes overseas. One occurred within the past two weeks, and all have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities.

a report released in December, the National Academy of Sciences said a microwave weapon probably caused the injuries. Some officials believe a microwave or directed-energy device is the most likely cause.

The severity of the brain injuries has ranged widely. But some victims have chronic, potentially irreversible symptoms and pain, suggesting potentially permanent brain injury. Physicians at Walter Reed have warned government officials that some victims are at risk for suicide.

one in 2020 that affected a National Security Council official near the Ellipse south of the White House and another in 2019 involving a woman walking her dog in Northern Virginia, have no known connection to an earlier overseas event. While many officials expressed skepticism that Russia or another power would conduct an attack in the United States, agencies are investigating.

Congress has demanded more from the C.I.A. In a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, senators accused the C.I.A. of doing too little to investigate the mysterious episodes and until recently showing skepticism about them, according to people briefed on the meeting.

During the Trump administration, some in the agency said there was little intelligence showing a foreign power was responsible and argued that it made little sense analytically for Russia or another foreign intelligence service to make unprovoked attacks on Americans. Others doubted the cause of the brain injuries.

The new C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, has tried to move aggressively to improve the agency’s response, current and former officials said. Mr. Burns has met with victims, visited doctors who have treated injured agency officers and briefed lawmakers.

He has also assigned his deputy, David Cohen, to oversee the investigation and the health care response. Mr. Cohen will meet monthly with victims and will lead regular briefings for Congress. The agency has also doubled the number of medical personnel conducting treatment and managing cases of injured officers.

In addition, the chief medical officer, who had been criticized by some former officers as too skeptical of the incidents and dismissive of some symptoms, announced his retirement. He was replaced with another doctor seen inside the C.I.A. as more focused on patient care.

another cohort of C.I.A. officers traveling in a variety of countries, including Russia, had said they were the likely victims of attacks and reported similar symptoms.

Lawmakers and the Trump administration’s National Security Council grew increasingly frustrated last year with State Department’s and the C.I.A.’s handling of the incidents.

Robert C. O’Brien, President Donald J. Trump’s last national security adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, his deputy, had already begun working in early 2020 to redouble efforts by their aides to understand the mysterious episodes and to get the Pentagon more involved.

But their staff members ran into frustration getting the C.I.A., the State Department and other agencies to share details about injured personnel, in part because of federal protections on health data. White House officials thought the investigation, in which the C.I.A. had been the lead agency, had run into a dead end.

The frustration culminated in a tense conversation Mr. Pottinger had with Vaughn Bishop, then the deputy C.I.A. director, and other officials in November. Mr. Pottinger urged the intelligence community to do more to cooperate with the Pentagon and other agencies. The next month, the National Security Council convened a deputy-level meeting across agencies to again push for further action and a broader investigation.

Mr. Pottinger declined to comment.

The Biden administration has tried to further improve coordination, including directing agencies to each name a coordinator to work on both identifying the cause of the episodes and improving health care for the injured personnel. Even some Democrats who have been briefed on the incidents called on the administration to be more aggressive.

“I don’t believe that we as a government, in general, have acted quickly enough,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who heads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. “We really need to fully understand where this is coming from, what the targeting methods are and what we can do to stop them.”

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Colombia Protests: Police Force, Built for War, Finds a New One

At the time, the government hoped to professionalize and depoliticize the job by consolidating a fragmented system into a national force, said Juan Carlos Ruíz, a professor and security expert at Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario.

By the 2000s, the police had become a critical player in a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at rooting out the FARC, in which the military cleared rebels from territory and the police held that ground. The strategy worked, forcing the rebels to negotiate. And it earned the police “very high levels of citizen trust,” said Paul Angelo, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But since the peace deal, little has changed within the police department.

Juan Manuel Santos, who was president when the deal was signed, had long supported moving the police out of the defense ministry. But the idea had been unpopular with the armed forces, in part because the police bring money and manpower into the ministry, Mr. Angelo said. By the time Mr. Santos had signed the peace deal, he had little time left in office, and even less political capital. The change was never made.

Now, police reform advocates are again pushing to move the 140,000-officer force from the defense department into the interior ministry — and to prioritize human rights training, limit weaponry, and try officers who commit crimes in ordinary courts instead of military ones.

In an interview, the head of the national police, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, said he had presented a reform plan to the country earlier this year. But the police should not be moved out of the defense ministry, he said.

“The situation of drug trafficking and illegal groups at this time does not allow it,” he said, calling these issues “the main problem in Colombia.”

The protests began in late April, when Mr. Duque proposed a tax overhaul meant to help close a fiscal hole exacerbated by the pandemic. Already, the country was on edge: After a year of Covid-related restrictions, the outbreak was only getting worse, along with poverty, inequality and joblessness.

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Colombia’s Police Force, Built for War, Finds a New One

At the time, the government hoped to professionalize and depoliticize the job by consolidating a fragmented system into a national force, said Juan Carlos Ruíz, a professor and security expert at Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario.

By the 2000s, the police had become a critical player in a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at rooting out the FARC, in which the military cleared rebels from territory and the police held that ground. The strategy worked, forcing the rebels to negotiate. And it earned the police “very high levels of citizen trust,” said Paul Angelo, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But since the peace deal, little has changed within the police department.

Juan Manuel Santos, who was president when the deal was signed, had long supported moving the police out of the defense ministry. But the idea had been unpopular with the armed forces, in part because the police bring money and manpower into the ministry, Mr. Angelo said. By the time Mr. Santos had signed the peace deal, he had little time left in office, and even less political capital. The change was never made.

Now, police reform advocates are again pushing to move the 140,000-officer force from the defense department into the interior ministry — and to prioritize human rights training, limit weaponry, and try officers who commit crimes in ordinary courts instead of military ones.

In an interview, the head of the national police, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, said he had presented a reform plan to the country earlier this year. But the police should not be moved out of the defense ministry, he said.

“The situation of drug trafficking and illegal groups at this time does not allow it,” he said, calling these issues “the main problem in Colombia.”

The protests began in late April, when Mr. Duque proposed a tax overhaul meant to help close a fiscal hole exacerbated by the pandemic. Already, the country was on edge: After a year of Covid-related restrictions, the outbreak was only getting worse, along with poverty, inequality and joblessness.

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US Defends Detention of Afghan at Guantánamo Despite Pullout

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department lawyer said in federal court on Monday that, even as the Pentagon is withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, the United States has the authority to continue to detain a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, because of his past association with members of Al Qaeda.

“We remain at war with Al Qaeda,” the lawyer, Stephen M. Elliott, said at the start of hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington in a case brought by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. military since 2007.

The hearing was the first in a Guantánamo habeas corpus case since the Biden administration took office, and its defense of his detention appeared identical to the positions taken by previous administrations, despite President Biden’s order to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and his stated ambition to close the Guantánamo detention operation.

Mr. Elliott said Al Qaeda is “morphing and evolving” and that the U.S. “war on terrorism” continues.

when the militia made peace with the U.S.-allied Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. The foreign ministry of Afghanistan has filed a brief in the case seeking his return.

Most of the hearing, expected to last five to eight days, is closed to both the public and the detainee because the substance is considered classified. Mr. Haroon was permitted to listen in on the opening arguments via a phone line from Guantánamo that broke at least once, requiring a lengthy recess.

Before holding a session in open court on Monday, Judge Amit P. Mehta left his bench in Washington, D.C., to preside in a closed portion of the hearing at a secure facility in Virginia, with Mr. Haroon addressing the judge by video.

“I am not a terrorist,” he said in a statement released by his lawyers. “I am an Afghan.”

In the closed portion of the hearings, government lawyers intend to use U.S. intelligence accounts of Mr. Haroon’s interrogations to defend his continuing detention. Mr. Elliott said U.S. intelligence reports linked him to three Qaeda leaders now held at Guantánamo, starting with his attendance at a young age, apparently in the early 1990s, at seminars sponsored by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Judge Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Under the current timetable, the court could reopen the hearing for unclassified closing arguments on May 28.

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US Vessel Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Patrol Boats

WASHINGTON — A United States Coast Guard cutter fired 30 warning shots after 13 Iranian fast patrol boats menaced a group of American Navy ships sailing in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The incident marked the third time in little more than a month that vessels from Iran and the United States have come dangerously close in or near the Persian Gulf, escalating tensions between the two nations as their negotiators have resumed talks toward renewing the 2015 nuclear deal.

In the latest incident, the Coast Guard cutter Maui fired the warning shots after the attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps “conducted unsafe and unprofessional maneuvers” while operating close to six Navy ships and one submarine sailing through the Strait into the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, told reporters.

Two Coast Guard cutters, including the Maui, were escorting the Navy ships through the relatively narrow Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, Pentagon officials said. The American vessels blew warning whistles, and then the Maui fired warning shots from a .50 caliber machine gun as the Iranian vessels roared within 150 yards before breaking off, American officials said.

After months of relative maritime calm between Iran and the United States, Tehran has stepped up aggressive behavior at sea, returning to a pattern that for several years was common.

On April 26, three fast-attack craft from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps sailed as close as 68 yards to a Navy coastal patrol ship and a Coast Guard patrol boat — the Firebolt and the Baranoff — as the two American vessels were patrolling international waters in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, the Navy said.

On April 2, a Revolutionary Guards Corps ship, the Harth 55, accompanied by three fast-attack vessels, harassed two Coast Guard cutters, the Wrangell and the Monomoy, as they were conducting routine security patrols in the international waters of the southern Persian Gulf, the Navy said. After about three hours of the American ships issuing warnings and conducting defensive maneuvers to avoid collisions, the Iranian vessels moved away.

That interaction was the first “unsafe and unprofessional” episode involving Iran since April 15, 2020, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Fifth Fleet spokeswoman. In 2017, the Navy recorded 14 such harassing interactions with Iranian forces, compared with 35 in 2016 and 23 in 2015.

In 2016, Iranian forces captured and held overnight 10 U.S. sailors who strayed into the Islamic republic’s territorial waters.

However, such incidents had mostly stopped in 2018 and for nearly all of 2019, Commander Rebarich said. The episodes at sea have almost always involved the Revolutionary Guards, who report only to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

American military analysts said that in the two encounters in April, the Iranian warships targeted some of the smallest and most lightly armed Navy and Coast Guard ships in the region, indicating the Iranians perhaps wanted to make a statement without a high risk of getting their people killed.

Navy cruisers and destroyers, which are far larger than the ships that were harassed and carry a much deadlier complement of weapons, have special 5-inch shells — developed after the deadly attack in 2000 on the destroyer Cole in Yemen — devised to take out small fast-attack craft like those from the Iranians. But the American vessels targeted recently have no such weaponry aboard.

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Russian Spy Team Left Traces That Bolstered C.I.A.’s Bounty Judgment

WASHINGTON — In early 2020, members of a Taliban-linked criminal network in Afghanistan detained in raids told interrogators that they had heard that Russians were offering money to reward killings of American and coalition troops.

The claim, that Russia was trying to pay to generate more frequent attacks on Western forces, was stunning, particularly because the United States was trying at the same time to negotiate a deal with the Taliban to end the long-running war in Afghanistan. C.I.A. analysts set out to see whether they could corroborate or debunk the detainees’ accounts.

Ultimately, newly declassified information shows, those analysts discovered a significant reason to believe the claim was accurate: Other members of the same Taliban-linked network had been working closely with operatives from a notorious unit of the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence service, known for assassination operations.

“The involvement of this G.R.U. unit is consistent with Russia encouraging attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan given its leading role in such lethal and destabilizing operations abroad,” the National Security Council said in a statement provided to The New York Times.

U.S. sanctions and other punishments against Russia. The White House took diplomatic action — delivering a warning and demanding an explanation for suspicious activities — about the bounty issue, but did not base sanctions on it. The Biden administration did impose sanctions for Russia’s SolarWinds hacking and election interference.

The Times had reported last summer that different intelligence agencies, while agreeing on the assessment itself, disagreed on whether to put medium or lower confidence in it. The evidence available to analysts — both alarming facts and frustrating gaps — essentially remains the same.

The release of the full talking points as a statement is the government’s most detailed public explanation yet about how the C.I.A. came to the judgment that Russia had most likely offered financial incentives to reward attacks on American and allied troops. It also sheds new light on the gaps in the evidence that raised greater concerns among other analysts.

not intercepted any smoking-gun electronic communication about a bounty plot. (The Defense Intelligence Agency shares that view, while the National Counterterrorism Center agrees with the C.I.A.’s “moderate” level, officials have said.)

But the statement reveals that despite that disagreement over how to rate the quality of available information underlying the core assessment, the intelligence community also had “high confidence” — meaning the judgment is based on high-quality information from multiple sources — in the key circumstantial evidence: Strong ties existed between Russian operatives and the Afghan network where the bounty claims arose.

“We have independently verified the ties of several individuals in this network to Russia,” the National Security Council statement said. It added, “Multiple sources have confirmed that elements of this criminal network worked for Russian intelligence for over a decade and traveled to Moscow in April 2019.”

The declassified statement also opened a window into American officials’ understanding of the Russian operatives, known as Unit 29155 of the G.R.U. The government has previously resisted talking openly about group, although a Times investigation in 2019 linked it to various operations, citing Western security officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

By contrast, the National Security Council statement identified other “nefarious operations” around the world that the government thought the squad had carried out — to explain why the discovery of its involvement with the Afghan network was seen as bolstering the credibility of the detainees’ claims about Russian bounties.

the 2018 poisoning of a former G.R.U. officer, Sergei V. Skripal, in Salisbury, England, and of “assassinations across Europe.”

Unit 29155 was involved in two explosions at ammunition depots that killed two Czechs in 2014. He said the government would expel nearly 80 Russian diplomats.

Days later, the prosecutor general’s office in Bulgaria announced that it was investigating a possible connection between Unit 29155 and four explosions at ammunition depots over the past decade. At least two happened while members of the unit were frequently traveling in and out of Bulgaria, the office said.

Some of the destroyed arms in both countries, according to officials, belonged to Emilian Gebrev, a Bulgarian arms manufacturer who was poisoned in 2015 along with his son and an executive in his company. Officials have previously accused Unit 29155 in that attempted assassination.

While most previous reports about Unit 29155’s activities have centered in Europe, its leader, Maj. Gen. Andrei V. Averyanov, has experience in Central Asia. He graduated in 1988 from the Tashkent Military Academy in what was then the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, a year before the Soviet pullout from bordering Afghanistan.

The government apparently did not declassify everything. The White House statement described but did not detail certain evidence, keeping its sources and methods of information-gathering secret. It did not specify the G.R.U. unit’s number, but officials have said it was Unit 29155, and the two prior operations the statement mentioned have been attributed to it elsewhere.

as a middleman for the Russian spies, and Habib Muradi. Both escaped capture and are said to have fled to Russia.

And it made no mention of other circumstantial evidence officials have previously described, like the discovery that money was transferred from a G.R.U. account to the Afghan network.

In an interview published April 30 in a Russian newspaper, Nikolai Patrushev, the chairman of Russia’s Security Council, again said it was false that Russia had covertly offered bounties for killing American troops in Afghanistan, adding that there was no evidence that it had done so.

The White House statement also brought into sharper focus two gaps in the available evidence that analysts saw as a reason to be cautious.

Military leaders have repeatedly pointed to one in public: The intelligence community lacks proof tying any specific attack to a bounty payment. “We cannot confirm that the operation resulted in any attacks on U.S. or coalition forces,” the National Security Council said.

The other reason for caution is an absence of information showing that a Kremlin leader authorized Unit 29155 to offer bounties to Afghan militants. “We do not have evidence that the Kremlin directed this operation,” the statement said.

The Biden administration’s briefing to reporters last month reignited a debate over the political implications of the C.I.A.’s assessment — and the Trump White House’s handling of it — that unfolded last year and dwelled in part on confidence levels.

reported last June on the existence of the C.I.A. assessment and that the White House had led an interagency effort to come up with options to respond but then authorized none.

Facing bipartisan criticism, the Trump administration defended its inaction by playing down the assessment as too weak to take seriously, falsely denying that it had been briefed to President Donald J. Trump. In fact, it had been included in his written presidential daily briefing in late February, two officials have said.

In congressional testimony, military leaders based in the United States who regularly interacted with the Trump White House said they would be outraged if it were true, but they had not seen proof that any attack resulted from bounties. But some military officials based in Afghanistan, as well as some other senior Pentagon and State Department officials, thought the C.I.A. was right, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations at the time.

Among those who found the evidence and analysis persuasive was Nathan Sales, the State Department’s politically appointed top counterterrorism official during the Trump administration.

“The reporting that Russia was placing bounties on American soldiers’ heads was so serious that it warranted a robust diplomatic response,” Mr. Sales said this week in an email.

A top Pentagon official and the secretary of state at the time, Mike Pompeo, later delivered warnings over the issue to their Russian counterparts, effectively breaking with the White House.

After the briefing last month, some Trump supporters — as well as some left-wing critics of the C.I.A. and military interventions — argued that the C.I.A.’s bounty assessment had been debunked as evidence-free “fake news,” vindicating Mr. Trump’s dismissal of the issue last year as a “hoax.” Russian propaganda outlets echoed and amplified those assertions.

Michael J. Morell, a former acting director of the C.I.A., said another factor had fostered confusion. When analysts assess something with low confidence, he said, that does not mean they think the conclusion is wrong. Rather, they are expressing greater concerns about the sourcing limitations, while still judging that the assessment is the best explanation of the available facts.

“A judgment at any confidence level is a judgment that the analysts believe to be true,” he said. “Even when you have a judgment that is low confidence, the analysts believe that judgment is correct. So in this case, the analysts believe that the Russians were offering bounties.”

Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Michael Schwirtz from New York. Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting from Washington.

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Two Spanish Journalists Are Killed in Burkina Faso

At least two European journalists were killed in the Western African nation of Burkina Faso after being kidnapped on Monday, according to the Spanish authorities, amid reports that a third was also abducted and killed.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of two Spanish journalists, whom he identified on Twitter as David Beriain and Roberto Fraile. Both were from northern Spain and were working on a documentary about anti-poaching efforts in Burkina Faso, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said earlier at a news conference.

Ms. González paid respect to the families and to journalists.

“As the situation of these two journalists reminds us, your profession is one of great risk in so many areas around the world,” she told reporters.

The two journalists were part of a group of 40 people who were ambushed on Monday in a nature reserve in southern Burkina Faso near the border with Benin, Ms. González said. The fate of the others in the group was unclear, but Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, said that a third journalist had been killed.

said in a statement. Three soldiers were injured and a fourth was abducted, the statement said.

In recent years, Burkina Faso has faced increasing violence from armed groups, several of them linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Attackers on motorbikes have stormed countless villages and hamlets, forcing villagers to convert to Islam and sometimes killing them even when they do. Others have ambushed military patrols and killed members of the armed forces, and hundreds of schools have been forced to close because of the violence.

But the violence has also come from the military itself, which has killed growing numbers of civilians, sometimes in proportions similar to those killed by Islamic insurgents, according to rights groups and analysts.

In July, the bodies of at least 180 men thought to have been killed by security forces in the preceding eight months were found in the country, according to witnesses’ testimonies collected by human rights researchers.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence and protests.

Last year was also the deadliest for militant Islamist violence in the region, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Defense Department research institution. About 4,250 people were killed, according to the think tank — a 60 percent increase over 2019 — with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara linked to more than half of the deaths.

In Burkina Faso, violence has fueled a fast-growing displacement crisis, with more than one million people fleeing their homes since 2019, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs body. Three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, in a country of 20 million population.

Several foreigners have also been taken hostage in recent years. In 2016, an Australian couple were kidnapped in the north of the country on the day that armed fighters killed dozens of people in the capital, Ouagadougou. In 2018, a Canadian woman and an Italian man were abducted in the country, not released until 15 months later in neighboring Mali. In 2019, a Spanish Catholic missionary was killed, and a few months later two French soldiers were killed in a raid to rescue four hostages — two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean citizen.

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