Tag Archives: Director of National Intelligence

Acting DNI set to jump into the fire

At first blush, it appears that Donald Trump has selected a grownup, a mature counterintelligence official to become the acting director of national intelligence.

He is Joseph Maguire, head of the National Counterintelligence Center. He succeeds Dan Coats, who is leaving his DNI post on Aug. 15. Coats’s deputy DNI, Sue Gordon, also is leaving on the same day.

My major concern about Joseph Maguire, though, centers on something I have noted already in the wake of Coats’s decision to leave the post.

Will the next DNI, whether acting or permanent, be allowed to tell the commander in chief the truth about threats to this country? Will the president of the United States actually listen to what he says and will he act on recommendations that come from the DNI?

Trump has demonstrated an inability to do that during Coats’s tenure as the nation’s top spook. Indeed, it appears that resistance led to Coats’s decision to leave.

What’s next? If only the president would heed the opinions offered by the nation’s intelligence network. You know, such as: The Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016 and are doing so again … and we need to respond to it aggressively.

Donald Trump isn’t listening. He needs to pay attention.

DNI Coats on the bubble?

This just in: Donald J. Trump is so angry at Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats that he wants to fire him.

Coats sat through that extraordinary interview Thursday with NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell in which he challenged the way the president handled Vladimir Putin and the allegation that the Russians attacked the U.S. electoral system in 2016.

Trump reportedly is furious. He is outraged. He doesn’t like being criticized, let alone in public.

He’d fire Coats except for this tidbit: Coats, a two-time U.S. Republican senator from Indiana, is a good friend of Vice President Mike Pence, who’s also from Indiana; were the president to fire Coats, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis likely would follow him out the door.

Message to the president? It’s nice to have friends in high places.

It keeps getting deeper and darker for POTUS

The hits just keep on piling up on Donald John Trump.

The latest batch of them involves more media reporting that the president asked intelligence officials to push back on the FBI investigation into that “Russia thing.” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said, um, “No can do.”

The FBI is looking into allegations that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who were hacking into our electoral system, seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome — in Trump’s favor!

Trump keeps denying any collusion. Yet these reports keep piling up suggesting something quite different.

The Washington Post has reported this latest live grenade to blow up in the president’s face as he travels through the Middle East and Europe on his first overseas venture as leader of the free world.

A special counsel, Robert Mueller, already is on the job. Senate and House intelligence committees are at work as well in the hunt for the truth.

And, yes, so are the media — the scorned “enemy of the American people” and purveyors of “fake news.”

I am not going to predict with — as the late PBS talking head John McLaughlin would say — any “metaphysical certitude” that the president is heading straight for impeachment. But certain elements of the progression of events keep suggesting something such as that might occur.

Michael Flynn is going to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination as the FBI looks into the former national security adviser’s Russia involvement; former FBI director James Comey is going to talk publicly with congressional committees about memos he wrote chronicling some alleged attempts by Trump to obstruct justice; and Mueller is going to talk to a current senior White House aide who has been deemed a “person of interest” in this ongoing investigation.

Just think: Donald Trump’s time in the only political office he ever sought is just beginning.

Steve Bannon … national security expert? C’mon!

I’m still trying to catch my breath over the news of how Donald J. Trump has revamped his — I mean our — National Security Council.

He has rolled back the emphasis of two key players: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

These two individuals no longer will take part in what is called the “principals committee,” the panel that meets regularly with the president to assess national security threats and to deliver critical advice on how to handle those threats.

Who, though, is going to sit in? Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com — the right-wing website that has for some time spewed white nationalist rhetoric.

Steve “Bleeping” Bannon! This guy has taken a job as senior adviser to the president. He became the chairman of the campaign that resulted in Trump’s election.

His national security chops? His expertise on how to fight the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram? What knowledge does this guy bring to developing a strategy to rein in Kim Jong Un, or the ayatollahs who run Iran?

As near as I can tell, Bannon is unqualified to sit on the principals committee. He is no more suited to have access to the nation’s top security secrets than, oh, I am.

I keep wondering whether Bannon is going to advise the president in purely political terms about national security strategy. Aren’t these issues above and beyond partisan political concerns?

Trump’s unconventional presidency keeps taking strange and bizarre turns. The very idea that he would kick the Joint Chiefs chairman and the DNI to the curb — to make room for the likes of a political hack — is, as former national security adviser Susan Rice described it, “stone cold crazy.”

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.”