The Mercury News
Pentagon blocks sharing evidence of possible Russian war crimes
The Pentagon is blocking the Biden administration from sharing evidence with the International Criminal Court in The Hague gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies about Russian atrocities in Ukraine, according to current and former officials briefed on the matter.
U.S. military leaders oppose helping the court investigate Russians because they fear setting a precedent that might help pave the way for it to prosecute Americans. The rest of the administration, including intelligence agencies and the State and Justice departments, favors sharing the evidence with the court, the officials said.
President Joe Biden has yet to resolve the impasse, officials said.
The evidence is said to include details relevant to an investigation that the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, began after Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago. The information reportedly includes material about decisions by Russian officials to deliberately target civilian infrastructure and to abduct thousands of Ukrainian children from occupied territory.
In December, Congress modified longstanding legal restrictions on American help to the court, allowing the United States to assist with its investigations and eventual prosecutions related to the war in Ukraine. But inside the Biden administration, a policy dispute over whether to do so continues to play out behind closed doors.
The National Security Council convened a Cabinet-level “principals committee” meeting Feb. 3 in an attempt to resolve the dispute, the officials said, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin continued to object. Biden has not yet made a decision, the officials said.
Most of the people who described the internal dispute did so on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., confirmed the parameters of the dispute and blamed the Defense Department for its reluctance.