US intelligence intercepted communications between Syrian military and chemical experts
The US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week, a senior US official tells CNN.
The intercepts were part of an immediate review of all intelligence in the hours after the attack to confirm responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in an attack in northwestern Syria, which killed at least 70 people. US officials have said that there is "no doubt" that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the attack.
The US did not know prior to the attack it was going to happen, the official emphasized. The US scoops up such a large volume of communications intercepts in areas like Syria and Iraq, the material often is not processed unless there is a particular event that requires analysts to go back and look for supporting intelligence material.
So far there are no intelligence intercepts that have been found directly confirming that Russian military or intelligence officials communicated about the attack. The official said the likelihood is the Russians are more careful in their communications to avoid being intercepted.
The Russian and Syrian governments have both denied involvement in the chemical attack.
President Donald Trump told a White House news conference Wednesday that the Pentagon is looking into the question of Russian complicity in the chemical attack. "I would like to think that they didn't know, but certainly they could have," Trump said. "(Defense Secretary) Gen. (James) Mattis is looking into it with the entire Pentagon group that does that kind of work."
The US now assesses that Syria has re-established a unit of personnel associated with chemical weapons that existed before the 2013 agreement in which the Syrian government pledged to give up its weapons inventory. And there is some indication they are getting outside help.
"We know they have the expertise. And we suspect that they have help," a US military official told reporters at a background briefing Friday.
At that briefing, the official also noted, "We know the Russians have chemical expertise in-country. We cannot talk about openly any complicity between the Russians and the Syrian regime in this -- in this case, but we're carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with the Syrian capability."
But even if there is a definitive finding of Russian complicity, it's not clear the Pentagon or the White House would make that information public, a senior US official said.
First, it would have to be ironclad proof, which could be difficult to determine. But also, the US feels right now that it has made the case that Russian support for Assad must end.
For now, the official said the most specific evidence of Russian involvement remains a Russian drone that flew over the hospital that was treating people injured in the attack. The US has specific intelligence showing it was a Russian drone. While the drone operator may not have known why the aerial vehicle was flying in the area, it was a Russian-controlled asset.
Related news releases
- 23.07.2017Trump says he has ‘Complete Power’ to pardon
- 23.07.2017Venezuelan opposition announces new anti-Maduro strike
- 23.07.2017UN Security Council to hold urgent meeting on Jerusalem
- 22.07.2017US congress proposes $250mln for allies to counter Russian influence
- 22.07.2017Trump warns Iran over detained Americans: White House
- 22.07.2017US Defense Secretary says Daesh chief likely alive
- 21.07.2017US to prohibit citizens from traveling to North Korea
- 21.07.2017Sean Spicer resigns as White House spokesman
- 21.07.2017Brazil to raise taxes, freeze spending to meet target
- 21.07.2017UN treaty on nuclear arms ban may hinder IAEA work - Russian Foreign Ministry
- 21.07.2017Millions heed anti-Maduro shutdown in Venezuela
- 20.07.2017Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington commits suicide in his 41
- 20.07.2017Trump's son, close associates to appear before Senate
- 20.07.2017Trump cancels military support for Syrian rebels
- 20.07.2017Senator McCain diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer
- 20.07.2017U.S., Canada, Mexico agree on fast-paced NAFTA talks
- 19.07.2017U.S. Supreme Court partly rejects Trump in latest travel ban fight
- 19.07.2017Number of terrorist attacks globally dropped in 2016: U.S. government
- 19.07.2017Mexico concerned with US desire to cut trade deficits
- 19.07.2017Trump, Putin met for nearly an hour in second G20 meeting
- 19.07.2017U.S. prepares sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials
- 19.07.2017US Senate to Hold Hearings on Individual Health Insurance Market
- 18.07.2017U.S. puts new sanctions on Iran over ballistic missile program
- 18.07.2017Strong earthquake strikes off Peru, no tsunami risk seen
- 18.07.2017Tillerson Recertifies Iran's compliance to nuclear agreement
- 18.07.2017US Navy tests laser weapons system in Persian Gulf
- 18.07.2017US to maintain dialogue with Israel on halting Iranian ambitions in Syria
- 18.07.2017Oil prices ease on signs of steady output from some producers
- 16.07.2017US Navy commissions new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer at Pearl Harbor base
- 16.07.2017Turks in Germany mark anniversary of defeated coup
- 16.07.2017Cat killer jailed for 16 years in San Jose, California
- 15.07.2017Russian-American lobbyist attended Trump Jr. controversial meeting
- 15.07.2017Oil up 1 percent, posts weekly gain of 5 percent
- 15.07.2017US cannot confirm Daesh leader Baghdadi’s death
- 15.07.2017Trump, Saudi king discuss resolution of Qatar row
- 14.07.2017Mexico gun attack on children's party in Tizayuca kills 11
- 14.07.2017Trump says he would invite Putin to White House, but not now
- 14.07.2017US: Qatar crisis may take long time to resolve despite subtle Progress
- 13.07.2017Yellen says 3 percent U.S. growth 'quite challenging' in coming years
- 13.07.2017Ex-US president Jimmy Carter hospitalized in Canada - Carter Center
- 21.10.2016Venezuela Joins International Charter on Space, Major Disasters
- 21.10.2016World Bank raises 2017 crude price forecast
- 21.10.2016Obama calls Trump's election rhetoric dangerous
- 20.10.2016U.S. vows all-out defense against 'grave' North Korean threat
- 19.10.2016Man dies after exploding pipe bomb outside California health clinic
- 19.10.2016Oil rises on reported US crude inventory draw, expected OPEC cut