By Jeff Mason
LANGLEY, Va. – U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday thanked staff at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency for warning the world about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine, and hailed what he called the “quiet bravery” of America’s spies.
Marking the CIA’s 75th anniversary, Biden said he had been involved with the agency for 52 of those years, first as a junior senator on a 1975 committee set up to investigate mind control experiments and other abuses by the agency.
Intelligence gathered by the CIA had exposed Putin’s plans and allowed Washington to warn other countries about the war, he said.
“It was thanks to the incredible work of our intelligence professionals that we were able to forewarn the world what Vladimir Putin was planning in Ukraine,” he said. “Exposing Putin’s playbook punched a gigantic hole in the pretense, and discredited his lies about what we were doing in Ukraine.”
Before Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, as Russia massed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, Putin repeatedly accused the United States and other Western powers of deliberately creating a scenario to lure Moscow into war.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”
Biden’s speech was a stark contrast to that of former President Donald Trump, who made his first speech as president at the CIA headquarters, where he criticized the news media and his political opponents in front of the “wall of stars” memorializing dozens of CIA agents who died on duty.
Biden noted that two stars had been added to the wall this year. “Your physical health and well-being are critically important to me and to your leadership here at the CIA,” Biden said, in a possible reference to the Havana Syndrome, a series of anomalous health incidents that has affected some 200 U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers worldwide.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Langley, Va.,; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Matthew Lewis)