Tag Archives: intelligence agencies

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.

Trump must really believe he’s the smartest man on Earth


Donald J. Trump told us he knows “more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.”

I thought the president-elect was just offering us another example of rhetorical bluster on the campaign trail.

Silly me. I think he now actually believes such nonsense.

The Washington Post is reporting that Trump is forgoing the usual flood of intelligence briefings set aside for the president-elect to keep him apprised of ongoing national security threats.


The National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency — all of ’em — have helped prepare a team of briefers ready to get the next president up to speed.

He’s forgoing most of it.

The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, however, is soaking it all in. He’s meeting almost daily with briefers, getting tons of intelligence on those threats.

Maybe this is what Trump meant when he was asked during the campaign about Pence’s duties. The Republican presidential candidate said he’d assign Pence some of the nuts and bolts of governance while  concentrates on “making America great again.”

Well, I actually would prefer that the president-elect devote himself as well to some of the nitty-gritty. I mean, the guy has had zero exposure to government policymaking. He has relied on his business acumen and he managed to persuade enough voters during the campaign of that moxie to enable him to win an Electoral College victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Post reported: “Officials involved in the Trump transition team cautioned against assigning any significance to the briefing schedule that the president-elect has set so far, noting that he has been immersed in the work of forming his administration, and has made filling key national security posts his top priority.

“But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues and was dismissive of U.S. intelligence agencies’ capabilities and findings during the campaign.”

I believe the president-elect should get up to speed.


War is far from a perfect endeavor

Two aid workers — an American and an Italian — are dead because a drone strike hit a suspected terrorist compound.

U.S. intelligence did not know the men were inside the target area. Does this mean the air campaign using unmanned drones is a failure? No. It means that intelligence at times is incorrect.


President Obama expressed his support for the U.S. intelligence network during a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the melding of intelligence agencies into a single national intelligence department.

Walter Weinstein and Giovanni LoBianco were killed when a drone-launched missile hit the compound where al-Qaeda terrorists were holding them. President Obama has expressed regret and sorrow at the men’s deaths. But he stands behind the intelligence network.

Do they get everything right every single time? No. We’ve suffered through many intelligence failures over many years. Do you remember the intelligence that became the basis for launching the Iraq War in 2003? Do you remember the assurance that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was preparing to use them? It didn’t pan out that way.

Obama said: “Our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people. But there’s not a person that I talk to that’s involved in the intelligence community that also doesn’t understand that we have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals, and our laws and our constitutions, and our commitment to democracy.”

No matter the scope of the failures involved in intelligence gathering, it’s always critical to remember that human beings analyze this data and that those analysts do make mistakes. Thankfully, it’s not often.

Does that lessen the tragedy that resulted in the deaths of the aid workers? No. It does require, as the president said, that the nation “review what happened. We’re going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made.”