Jade Helm military controversy fueled by Russians, ex-NSA chief says


Ex-NSA director says in an interview that hysteria around military exercise Jade Helm was fueled by Russians.

Jade Helm started in Bastrop County in June 2015.

Some conspiracy theorists believed the exercise was an Obama plot to institute martial law.

The former head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency said Wednesday that conspiracy theories surrounding a military exercise in Bastrop County in 2015 were fueled by a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at dividing the American public.

Michael Hayden, who led the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and the CIA from 2006 through 2009, made the comments during an interview to promote his new book on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

“I won’t belabor it here, but there was an exercise in Texas called Jade Helm 15 that Russian bots and the American alt-right media convinced most — many — Texans was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents,” Hayden said. “It got so much traction that the governor of Texas had to call out the National Guard to observe the federal exercise to keep the population calm.”

The military exercise, Jade Helm 15, began in July 2015 and was meant to study human behavior in conflict zones. However, some conspiracy theorists speculated it was an effort by the government to institute martial law, unleashing some hysteria in the county east of Austin.

Gov. Greg Abbott actually called the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise, not the National Guard. His aides said at the time that he wasn’t buying into the conspiracy theories, adding that he “deeply trusts and respects the United States military.”

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, who was the top elected official in the county at the time, said Thursday the military exercise went off without a hitch, despite the hysteria that surrounded it.

VIEWPOINTS: Jade Helm takeover was #FakeNews but plans for this counterattack were real

In the TV interview, Hayden said the Russian success stirring up controversy during Jade Helm served as a template for its eventual interference in 2016 election.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’ and at that point I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process,’” Hayden said.

Abbott spokeswoman Ciara Matthews said Thursday the governor’s office would not comment on Hayden’s remarks, nor would Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson, whose district includes Bastrop County.

After learning that Hayden made the comments during a book tour, Pape said he would not entertain the ex-NSA director’s characterization of what happened during Jade Helm.

“I am not going to help him sell books,” he said. “He has something to sell … to continue the discussion and the conspiracy theories and keep talking about something that was not only yesterday’s news but forgotten news.”

Pape said the hype about the training was mostly concentrated from a few individuals — not many, as Hayden claimed.

“I got the sense that it was a lot more of an ideological difference between private citizens and our federal government,” he said. “I certainly didn’t sense anything like that at the time or have any reason to believe that there might be something more nefarious going on. The military came to Bastrop County, did their training and left without incident.”

READ MORE: In Jade Helm operation, Texas gives early lessons on the ‘human domain’

After Hayden’s comments, though, some Democrats unleashed criticism against Abbott and his actions during Jade Helm.

The Texas Democratic Party called the governor’s decision to keep watch over the military operation “downright idiocy.”

“Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was a Russian pawn and a useful idiot for Russian efforts to turn gullible Texas Republicans against the United States,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “Abbott still owes the men and women of our armed forces, and every single Texan, an apology.”

One of Abbott’s Democratic opponents, Lupe Valdez, said the governor had been “duped by Russian bots.”

“He indulged in awful conspiracy theories against our own men and women in uniform,” Valdez said. “He was a puppet in a Russian infowar that sowed distrust amongst Americans and paved the way for foreign intervention in our elections.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Gov. Greg Abbott says he can support modest gun safety regulations
Gov. Greg Abbott says he can support modest gun safety regulations

Concluding his second day of roundtable discussions on gun violence, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that there are several modest gun regulations he could support, including stronger requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms. Abbott also supported requiring judges to more quickly report court orders that deny people access to guns for safety...
Ahead of speaker election, moderates hold strong in Texas GOP runoffs
Ahead of speaker election, moderates hold strong in Texas GOP runoffs

At the end of last summer’s special legislative session, an angry Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick vowed that the Texas House members who blocked his agenda — especially the so-called bathroom bill and a measure restricting property tax increases — “are going to have to explain that to the voters.” But in Tuesday’s runoff elections...
Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next
Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next

Lupe Valdez was beaming Tuesday night as she accepted the cheers of supporters at a downtown Dallas restaurant in her hometown for making history as the first Latina and the first lesbian to become the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas. “I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle,” said Valdez, elected four...
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46

With name recognition and a push to mobilize African-American and white women working to her advantage, Sheryl Cole narrowly defeated immigration attorney Jose “Chito” Vela III in the Texas House District 46 Democratic runoff Tuesday. Cole, a former Austin City Council member, earned 4,967 votes, or 50.9 percent, on Tuesday, 173...
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin

Bird, once again, is the early bird. The Venice, Calif.-based scooter-rental company, which released its electric vehicles onto Austin streets in early April without city permission, scattered them about Central Austin on Wednesday after being granted a city license to operate. The company, and its chief competitor, Lime, had taken their stand-up electric...
More Stories