Tag Archives: CIA

CIA to get a professional spook to lead it

Donald Trump has made an unusual and potentially excellent personnel decision at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The president has nominated Gina Haspel to be the CIA’s new director, replacing Mike Pompeo, who’s moving from that job to become the next secretary of state.

Why is this such an important selection? Some recent CIA heads have come from the political arena. I think of Pompeo (former congressman), Leon Panetta (another former congressman), Porter Goss (still another ex-congressman); others have come from he military, such as Michael Hayden (Air Force general), David Petraeus (Army general) and Stansfield Turner (Navy admiral). They all had varying degrees of success and failure.

Haspel is a career spook. She spent many of her three decades in the CIA as a undercover agent, a spy.

Haspel — the agency’s deputy director — knows the CIA culture. She has lived it.

This nominee isn’t without some problem. She reportedly has been involved in the torture of terror suspects held captive. U.S. Sen. John McCain — a former Vietnam War prisoner who knows a thing or two about torture — has called on Senate committee questioners to probe deeply into Haspel’s involvement in that practice.

That all said, I believe Haspel’s nomination is a potentially huge selection for the CIA.

I like the idea that she has field experience as a deep-cover agent. She knows the business of intelligence-gathering and counter-intelligence. None of this experience has anything to do with her being the first woman ever nominated to lead the CIA.

We’re still in the midst of open warfare against terrorist organizations. We need a well-run CIA to operate at full throttle in this effort.

Moreover, and make no mistake about this issue, we need a CIA director who is willing to speak independently and candidly about issues that well might run counter to the issues put forward by the individual who nominated her.

Pompeo has challenged Donald Trump’s apparent belief that Russia didn’t meddle in our 2016 presidential election. My sincere hope is that Gina Haspel will endorse the view expressed by the entire array of intelligence officials who have reached the same conclusion as Mike Pompeo.

It’s vital that our intelligence community work overtime to seek ways to prevent Russians — or any other foreign adversary with similar capability — from future meddling.

Spooks say it again: Russia meddled in 2016!

The nation’s leading intelligence agency heads all sat in a row in front of a congressional committee.

Then they all said the same thing: Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election and they intend to do the same thing during our 2018 midterm election.

There you have it.

Except that the men’s boss, the president of the United States, isn’t buying it. Donald John Trump continues to insist that it’s not yet proven that Russia meddled. The president, moreover, says that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, told him he had no hand in the meddling. Trump apparently has bought into Putin’s denial … as if the Russian strongman is going to say a single thing different.

The Hill reports: “There should be no doubt that Russia perceived its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during his opening remarks at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

He also warned lawmakers that Moscow is “likely to pursue even more aggressive cyberattacks” against future elections in an effort to undermine U.S. democracy.

I don’t need to remind anyone — but I guess I will anyhow — that Coats is no squishy Democratic liberal. He’s a former Republican senator from Indiana, whom Trump appointed to lead the national intelligence team.

I think I’ll accept Coats’ version of what he and the others — including the director of the FBI and the CIA — are saying about Russia’s acknowledged effort to subvert the U.S. electoral process.

If only the president himself would admit the obvious.

If only …

Tillerson bucks Trump again … this time on Russia


You mean to say that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election?

Why, I thought the president of the United States has called it “fake news,” that the Russians wouldn’t do such a thing, that their president, Vladimir Putin, told him they didn’t do it — and that Donald Trump believes him!

Isn’t that what we’ve been told by the Liar in Chief?

Tillerson reportedly made his feelings known privately. But I guess they aren’t quite so private these days now that the world knows what the secretary of state believes about the Russian hanky-panky.

The secretary is on thin ice as it is with the president, who’s reportedly working on an exit strategy to remove Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson opposed Trump’s decision to de-certify the Iran nuclear deal, and the withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord.

He called the president a “moron” and then pointedly declined to take it back when he was asked about it.

Now we have this item in which Tillerson bucks the Big Man yet again on the Russian interference matter. Actually, Tillerson is far from alone in believing the Russians sought to meddle in the election. If anything, it’s Trump who’s singing solo in his refusal to sign on to what intelligence analysts all have said happened.

However, Trump is the president. Tillerson works at his “pleasure.” My guess is that the president is not feeling too pleased with this latest sign of diplomatic mutiny.

Clock is ticking on Rex T at State

I guess the die was cast when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the president of the United States a “f****** moron” and then pointedly refused to deny he said it.

The word is out that the White House is working on an ouster strategy that would send Tillerson packing and would install CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the next top diplomat.

Change is on its way … allegedly

It’s probably good that Tillerson will be replaced. He hasn’t been a particularly effective secretary of state. I mean, the guy seeks to open direct talks with North Korean leaders in connection with their foolish plans to develop a nuclear arsenal and then is told — via Twitter — that the president believes he is “wasting his time.”

The head of the State Department cannot function when he is being undermined so publicly by the president who appointed him to this highly important and sensitive job.

The word, too, has been Trump and Tillerson are not close. They never had met before Trump asked Tillerson to become secretary of state. That’s no surprise, though, given that Trump had virtually zero contact with anyone outside his own circle of business associates.

Would a Secretary Pompeo — a former congressman from Kansas — fare better than Secretary Tillerson? Well, the way I see it, the bar has been set so low with the Trump-Tillerson non-relationship that it cannot possibly be much worse.

‘Political hacks’ strike back at Trump

Donald John Trump showed his stripes yet again over the weekend.

So help me, the president sickens me constantly.

He met with Vladimir Putin in Da Nang, Vietnam. They shook hands. Trump and Putin had a brief meeting. Putin said he didn’t interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump said that he accepted Putin’s denial on its face.

Then the idiot in chief called former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “political hacks” because they have asserted that the Russians did interfere with our electoral process.

Can you imagine how Republicans would react if, say, Barack Obama had called two distinguished American intelligence officers “political hacks”?

Brennan and Clapper, of course, weren’t taking the president’s disparagement lightly. They have scolded him seriously, suggesting that Putin is “playing” Trump like a fiddle.

Trump did attempt to walk back his comments about Putin’s phony denial, but he managed to botch that as well, saying he backs the U.S. intelligence community, while continuing to suggest that Putin is “sincere” in his denial of election interference.


Oh, so very sad.

Are we clear now? POTUS backs intel agencies

That’s as clear as mud, isn’t it?

Donald John Trump says in one breath that Vladimir Putin is sincere when he says Russia didn’t meddle in our nation’s 2016 presidential election.

In virtually the next breath — actually it was the next day — the president says he backs the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that, yep, the Russians meddled, they interfered, they sought to influence the election outcome.

The question now is this: Which is it, Mr. President? Who do you believe?

This kind of stumble-bum rhetoric is driving many of us utterly bananas.

POTUS back tracks

Trump had been “on script” for most of his 12-day trip to Asia. Then he shook hands with the Russian president; the men met privately for a brief period in Da Nang, Vietnam. Putin told Trump he has been “offended” by assertions that Russia meddled in our election. Trump seemed to side with the bad guy while dismissing the assessments of the good guys, the men and women who work for our intelligence agencies.

For the life of me, I don’t understand — let alone accept — Trump’s belief that Putin can be trusted as far as he can throw him. The man is a former KGB hot shot. He is trained to lie.

Forgive me for quoting former Fox TV commentator Bill O’Reilly, but O’Reilly did assert correctly during an interview with Trump that “Putin is a killer”; Trump responded by saying, essentially, “So are we.”

Good … grief. Dude! Get an ever-lovin’ grip!

Oh, but now he backs U.S. intelligence analysts, who’ve been saying all along that Russian hackers meddled in our election — and they did so on orders from Vladimir Putin. One of them who stands by our analysis of Russian meddling happens to be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump appointed.

My head is spinning.

Trump demonstrates his ‘gift’ at U.N.

Donald John Trump has an extraordinary “gift,” which is all I can think of to call it at this moment.

The president of the United States’ gift enables him to stand before audiences and say the most inappropriate things at the most inopportune times in the most unlikely venues.

For example:

* The day after his inauguration as president, Trump went to the CIA, stood before a wall honoring the agents who’ve fallen in the line of duty and then proclaimed his joy at winning such a “historic” presidential election.

* Earlier this summer, he went to the annual Boy Scout Jamboree and proceeded to excoriate his predecessor, Barack Obama, for this and that and said — incorrectly, I should add — that the former president had never addressed the Jamboree. Trump’s speech prompted the Boy Scouts of America to issue an official statement of apology.

* Then this week, the president stood in the hall at the United Nations — a place founded on the principle of peaceful resolution to international crises — and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the communist nation threatens the United States or our allies. Oh, there’s more: He scolded the U.N. member nations for not paying their fair share and opened his speech by boasting about the state of the U.S. economy — during the eight months of his presidency.

The essence of the president’s gift lies in his ability to get away with this nonsense. His “base” of supporters loves hearing the president “tell it like it is.” They cheer him on. They chide those of us who oppose this kind of behavior as being “losers” who are bitter at having lost an election they should have won.

He, of course, knows how the base is going to act and react. That’s why he continues to demonstrate this strange behavior.

Will it ever catch up with him? I am never, ever going to say out loud that it will. Only that it should. This guy has been defying the laws of political gravity since the day he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and declared his candidacy for the first political office he’s ever sought.

Go … figure.

Trump trashes yet another tradition

I know quite a few Boy Scouts. Some of them are proud Eagle Scouts. And some of them likely have attended the annual Scout Jamboree, which is a huuuge deal in the world of scouting.

I was a Boy Scout once myself, although I didn’t climb too far up the ladder of achievement.

Have any of my scouting pals ever heard a presidential speech like the one delivered this week by Donald John Trump? Ohhh, I doubt it — bigly!

The president took the occasion to launch into a political riff likes of which have been avoided for the eight decades that presidents have been speaking to the Boy Scouts.

He attacked “fake news,” he attacked his predecessor Barack Obama, he attacked the candidate he defeated in 2016.

How much time did the president spend during his 35-minute speech saluting the values of “reverence” and “obedience” pushed by the Scouts? Damn little! Did he talk about the need to always “be prepared”?

Trump meandered through a litany of tales about his business career and his still-young political career. “Who the hell wants to talk politics” at the Jamboree? Trump asked.

I guess he did.

Trump set the stage for this kind of ridiculousness almost from the beginning of his presidency. Recall the day after his inauguration when he went to the CIA, stood before the wall honoring those who have fallen in service to their country and then extolled the size of his “massive” political victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tradition, decorum, dignity of the office mean nothing to the clown who now occupies it. He demonstrated it yet again.

I am shaking my head … in disgust.

CIA: former foe of the left becomes its friend

An interesting Internet meme is making the rounds. It says that “real patriots” don’t question when the Central Intelligence Agency says that Russians hacked into our electoral system in 2016.

Now, those of us who are old enough to have lived through a good bit of U.S. history remember something quite different about American attitudes toward the CIA.

The meme to which I referred is intended to take a swipe at conservatives who are siding with Donald J. Trump’s view that the CIA’s intelligence-gathering capability isn’t up to snuff. Think about that for a moment: Liberals are siding with the spooks.

It wasn’t always this way.

Let’s flash back for a moment to the 1970s. The Vietnam War was still raging; a Republican president was about to be re-elected; the CIA was allegedly helping the president develop an “enemies list” that targeted left-wing protesters; then came that burglary at the Watergate office complex; the president then told the CIA to instruct the FBI to back off its probe of the break-in.

The crap hit the fan. The CIA was caught doing something wrong. Liberals cheered; conservatives moaned. The president resigned and it took years for the CIA to wipe its face clean.

More than four decades later, the CIA is still on the job. It is conducting intelligence operations around the world. It is well-run. Indeed, the CIA played a huge role in the mission that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011, an event that brought liberals and conservatives together to cheer the success of that endeavor.

Politics, though, does have this way of ebbing and flowing. We are the point today where the CIA is seen as a valuable watchdog against those who would do harm to our political system.

The CIA — and a few other agencies — have concluded that Russian meddled in our 2016 presidential election. Whether they actually swung the election in Donald Trump’s favor is one of the questions of the moment; I tend to think Trump would have won regardless. That’s not the point.

The point is that they meddled. The CIA has determined they have meddled. A lot of political hands across the spectrum — and that includes progressives/liberals — believe in the CIA analysis. The most prominent denier of all this happens to the Republican president of the United States, the current darling of the conservative movement, the guy who says he wants to “put America first” and to make this country “great again.”

Oh, the winds of change do have this curious way of blowing away old thoughts and bias.

Brennan drops another bomb

Former CIA Director John Brennan spent some time today testifying before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Then he said something that didn’t get a lot of attention during the 2016 presidential election. It was that the CIA knew this past summer of contacts between the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, which Brennan said was “brazenly” acting to influence the outcome of the election.

This revelation produces a key question: Why didn’t the public know of these contacts in real time?

Brennan told committee members that he was concerned enough about the news about Trump-Russia contacts that he passed the information on to the FBI.


Gosh. Do you think there just might have been a different electoral outcome had we known about this as it was occurring?

And the drama continues to expand. To what conclusion remains anyone’s guess.