There has been considerable controversy since Jeremy Corbell published video and photos associated with the 2019 USS Kidd incident earlier this month. In an unusual departure from a fairly tight-lipped public affairs strategy, the Department of Defense authenticated the video and photos but provided few other details in a statement to FOIA researcher John Greenewald.
Since then, the partial confirmation amid otherwise hazy details has prompted concerns about intentional misdirection. In a recent piece, Greenewald wrote:
The Black Vault has speculated since the leak of the “Batman Balloon” photo in early December of 2020, that this could all potentially be a game of intentional misdirection and even disinformation, with the objective of confusing the public. The exchange outlined above, seems to add more evidence to that theory.
Tonight, Department of Defense spokesperson Susan Gough responded to my initial questions about these concerns. I asked:
1. Did anyone associated with UAPTF or the public affairs team leak the material published by Corbell?
2. Is there an investigation into the leak? If so, what is its status? If not, why not?
3. Did Jeremy Corbell or George Knapp contact you or anyone in the Department of Defense in advance to determine if releasing this material would be harmful to US interests?
She responded as follows:
Notably, her response denies that the Navy or Department of Defense released the photos or video. However, it goes on to state that the information was "provided" to "web news outlets" without following proper procedures. She further explains that the partial confirmation was intended to reduce public misperception, and that no formal investigation has been initiated regarding the release of the photos or video.
Her response did not immediately address the growing issue of alleged classified briefings. Jeremy Corbell and George Knapp have claimed that their knowledge of secret briefing slides support their claims that the video depict a remarkable transmedium vehicle and not a conventional drone:
The issue came up earlier in the week when I pointed out to the UAPTF that without a statement from them, there is no way for journalists to independently fact check claims about the briefings. You can see my questions and background here:
She replied: "I have nothing for you on that."
Apart from the issue of the slides, it is also unclear who provided the material – or which "web news outlets" received them. It is also unclear why an investigation has not been conducted, despite apparently sensitive materials being improperly distributed. I have sought clarification on these points and will provide updates when available.
A special note – I am working on an update to my piece with Marc Cecotti on the USS Kidd incident. Given recent concerns about misinformation, I wanted to quickly get this small update out without waiting for publication of a larger piece. Expect that and other pieces in coming weeks at The War Zone.