Intelligence: Back to the Shadows

There was a time not too long ago when intelligence – the covert gathering and synthesis of information on the nation’s enemies and potential enemies – was conducted in the shadows. The public didn’t want to know. The intelligence community liked anonymity. Senior political leaders talked about what they were doing with the information, not how it was collected. The Good Old Days.

Several things changed to get to the point where President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave the “least untruthful” answer that he could think of when asked in a Senate hearing whether the NSA was collecting information on millions of Americans, and where Obama’s Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and National Security Director Susan Rice orchestrated a program of NSA spying on the Trump team by targeting selected foreigners for wiretaps, “unmasking” the Americans in intercepted conversations, and encouraging wide dissemination and leaks of their identities. Some milestones on the downward journey:

1. The intelligence community – with it’s conclusion that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction” – became a convenient politicized target for opponents of the Iraq War. The broader expansion of the intelligence component is clearly explained in Gen. Michael Hayden’s “Playing to the Edge”, which pridefully explains the most extensive legal rationalizations of data collection on foreigners and Americans, rendition of prisoners to Black Sites overseas, and the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.

2. Massive breaches of electronic data became commonplace. Edward Snowden “outed” the NSA’s extensive global eavesdropping network in 2013 before seeking sanctuary in Russia. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning provided over 700,000 Department of Defense and State Department memoranda to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange who published them all in 2010. Snowden remains in Moscow, the frequent subject of laudatory articles in publications such as Vanity Fair. Manning, after a sex change operation, was popular enough on the Left to have his sentence commuted by President Obama.

3. Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal became as famous for its blatant disregard for the protection of classified information as for the substance of her advocacy of “open borders”, or the corruption of the Clinton Foundation. Half of the political establishment spent 2015 and 2016 minimizing the importance of keeping secret stuff secret.

But there is hope. While James Comey has spent the past two years giving press conferences to explain the status of FBI investigations and his perspective on leading politicians, and Clapper and Brennan have become regulars on the Sunday talk shows to talk about the mis-deeds of the Trump administration, the new Director of National Intelligence and the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency have chosen to retreat back into the shadows, doing the mundane, detailed work of rebuilding the strongest intelligence capabilities in the world. Little has been heard from DNI Dan Coates, a highly respected former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, or CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former Tea Party Congressman from Kansas. And that is good.

Hobbes was right – life in the state of nature is “solitary, nasty, brutish and short”. It is important that our leaders know if Iran is violating the terms of their nuclear development program. It is important that our leaders know whether there is any hope of political change in North Korea. It is important that our leaders know how ISIS will evolve after it has lost the territory of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. It is important that our leaders understand the operations of the cartels which reach from Central America into the United States. It is important that our leaders understand global military, political, economic, and ideological trends. Getting the leadership of the intelligence community out of the Washington’s political quagmire and back to their oath to “defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic” would be one of the major achievements of the early Trump years.
www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 6/1/17

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