A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee is calling on the nation’s intelligence agencies to ramp up their work with “Ukrainian and international partners” to document possible Russian military war crimes as the invasion of Ukraine nears the one-month mark.
In a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Tuesday, committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, and ranking Republican Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio lead a group of panel members calling on the nation’s intelligence services to “lean forward in helping protect the lives of civilians and prevent even greater humanitarian suffering,” while protecting closely-held sources and methods.
“As Russia intensifies its indiscriminate killing of Ukrainians, we believe it is vital the [intelligence community] continues maximizing intelligence-sharing with our Ukrainian and international partners and declassifying intelligence that reveals Russia’s malign intentions and actions, including potential war crimes,” the lawmakers wrote Tuesday.
The lawmakers said timely declassification of information “might deter Russia from continuing down this path or further demonstrate to the world Russia’s callous disregard for the lives of civilians, and the indiscriminate assault that has killed thousands of Ukrainians, and displaced millions more.”
“Such transparency is particularly urgent in light of the Administration’s publicly stated concerns that Russia could use chemical weapons in the conflict, potentially as part of a “false flag” operation,” the lawmakers wrote.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that U.S. officials are already “documenting and evaluating” evidence of potential war crimes by Russia and President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine to assist international investigations and “hold those responsible accountable.”
Mr. Blinken said the administration was working with private groups to build a possible case of war crimes against the Kremlin.
Members of the committee said the intelligence community is uniquely situated to document and analyze evidence of war crimes and has a long history of documenting human rights violations.
“Taken as a whole, the [intelligence community] possesses unparalleled resources and insights into the ground truth in Ukraine, which would be critically important in any potential war crimes proceeding,” they wrote. “Though the possibility of accountability appears distant today, we have a responsibility to bear witness.”