Not-so-bright in­tel­li­gence

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Dave Neese,

Don­ald Trump is catch­ing holy hell for doubt­ing the sagac­ity of our “In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity.” The in­grate pres­i­dent fails to ap­pre­ci­ate all that the CIA, NSA, DIA and so forth have done to safe­guard us from for­eign per­fidy.

Why, if the CIA hadn’t made the wise call it did on WMD in Iraq, we might have be­come bogged down in a quag­mire war there and in Afghanistan.

A bi­par­ti­san CIA chief, ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and re­tained by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, de­clared it a “slam dunk” that Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein had squir­reled away stocks of chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weaponry.

The In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity cho­rus chimed in with “high con­fi­dence” that Iraq was in­deed chock-o-block with such ne­far­i­ous ar­ma­ments.

Think what might have be­fallen our na­tion had our myr­iad in­tel­li­gence agen­cies been even a lit­tle bit less om­ni­scient than they were.

Why, heav­ens to Betsy, we might still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, even to this day! Why, hells bells, there might even have been a co­or­di­nated ter­ror­ist at­tack on New York and Wash­ing­ton!

….Uh, hold on here. Arms are wav­ing fran­ti­cally in the back of the room. What’s that you say? The In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity was wrong, dead wrong, about WMD?

And they to­tally missed those co­or­di­nated at­tacks on New York and Wash­ing­ton?

Well then, um, never mind. Let’s move on.

At least our In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity was on the ball re­gard­ing other mo­men­tous de­vel­op­ments.

They gave us a heads-up no­tice that North Korea, In­dia and Pak­istan were on the verge of be­com­ing nu­clear-armed na­tions, right?

And the agen­cies tipped us off that an Is­lamic revo­lu­tion was about to seize power in Iran and that NATO ally Turkey was trend­ing to­ward mil­i­tantly Is­lamic rule.

And they let us know in ad­vance that the Soviet Union and East­ern Bloc would soon col­lapse.

….Wait, arms are wav­ing again in the back of the room. The In­tel­li­gence agen­cies made none of those calls, you say?

Uh, um, well, let’s keep mov­ing on.

At least our crack in­tel­li­gence agen­cies were on the money re­gard­ing other trends.

They were able, were they not, to fore­see and thwart the rise of ISIS in Syria; the over­run­ning of the Amer­i­can diplo­matic com­pound in Libya, thereby sav­ing Amer­i­can lives; the chaotic Shia vs. Sunni feud­ing in post-Sad­dam Iraq, and the rise of Chav­ismo in Venezuela?

Most im­pres­sive of all, didn’t our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies act alertly on in­for­ma­tion Rus­sia pro­vided us, thereby avert­ing a bloody ter­ror­ist scene at the Bos­ton Marathon?

….There go those arms wav­ing away in the back of the room again. The my­opic car­toon char­ac­ter Mr. Ma­goo could have done a better job at de­tect­ing threats, you say?

Okay, okay. Got it. No­body’s per­fect. Even Tom Brady calls the wrong play in the hud­dle ev­ery now and then.

Be­sides, aren’t there likely other ex­am­ples where our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies coura­geously took suc­cess­ful mea­sures un­der danger­ous cir­cum­stances — ex­am­ples that can’t be di­vulged for na­tional se­cu­rity rea­sons?

Maybe so. Let’s hope, any­way.

Yet it’s surely a wise ap­proach to keep in mind that “as­sess­ments” sub­mit­ted by the CIA, NSA, DIA, etc., are not like the stone tablets Moses lugged down from Mount Si­nai. They’re some­thing short of be­ing the word of God.

The Deep State’s mis­takes, how­ever, aren’t ex­clu­sively hon­est ones. To err is hu­man, but ....

If old Dio­genes were to take up his lan­tern to­day and re­sume his search for the elu­sive hon­est man, he could skip over the likes of James Clap­per, former Na­tion In­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor, and John Bren­nan, former CIA di­rec­tor.

The two are tell­ers of gross whop­pers. And they’re in­ept pre­var­i­ca­tors in the bar­gain.

Clap­per falsely told Congress that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency was not col­lect­ing mass data on Amer­i­cans. As we now know, this was a lie, a big, fat, know­ing, will­ful, felo­nious lie. (Clap­per prefers to say that out of all the pos­si­ble lies he could have told, he told “the least un­truth­ful” one. Yes, he ac­tu­ally said that.)

As for Bren­nan, when con­fronted with ev­i­dence the agency had spied on a Se­nate com­mit­tee with CIA over­sight author­ity, he ly­ingly replied: “Let me as­sure you” the CIA “in no way” did any such thing.

The CIA IG con­cluded other­wise. Bren­nan told a big, fat, know­ing, will­ful, felo­nious lie.

Yet the Clap­per/Bren­nan whop­pers go un­pros­e­cuted, even as Robert Mueller’s in­qui­si­tion in­dicts oth­ers for far less egre­gious false­hoods in­volv­ing far less sig­nif­i­cant matters.

Mean­while, the Swamp con­tin­ues to be pretty much ruled by a leakoc­racy — es­pe­cially that por­tion of the Swamp where the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity dwells.

The leak­ers and lea­kees tend to move in the same Swamp so­cial cir­cles, tend to be habitues of the same Ge­orge­town sa­lons and soirees, tend to col­lect fees for be­ing talk­ing heads on the same ca­ble shows.

Leaks can be ei­ther a bless­ing or a curse. They can ex­pose and thwart abuses of power. Or they can help ad­vance abuses of power, of­ten — as with the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity — by mis­di­rect­ing at­ten­tion away from du­bi­ous ac­tiv­ity and redi­rect­ing at­ten­tion to­ward vaguely de­fined “threats.”

As has long been well known around the Swamp, there are no leak­ers more adroitly self-serv­ing than those of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity. They can and do ad­vance the pol­icy they pre­fer with a well placed whis­per here, a well placed whis­per there. The New York Times, the Wash­ing­ton Post, as of­ten as not.

Ju­dith Miller, then at the Times, and Jef­fery Gold­berg, then at the New Yorker mag­a­zine, were among the Big­foot jour­nal­ists gulled, or per­suaded, into pur­vey­ing the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity’s line in fa­vor of an all-out U.S. plunge into Iraq.

The In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to fa­vor end­less U.S. in­ter­ven­tions in such re­mote hell­holes as Afghanistan and Syria, con­tin­ues to fa­vor in­ter­pos­ing Amer­i­can troops be­tween cut­throat fac­tions in dis­tant Is­lamic civil wars.

The Deep State delu­sion — now backed by an odd-cou­ple al­liance of stickin-the-mud neo­con Repub­li­cans and anti-Trump Demo­cratic par­ti­san sim­ple­tons — is that squab­bling Mus­lims, fe­ro­ciously in­tol­er­ant of any views but their own, can one day be brought around to think­ing like James Madi­son and Alexan­der Hamil­ton. All that’s needed is the ex­pen­di­ture of a few hun­dred bil­lion more tax dol­lars and few thou­sand more dead or crip­pled Amer­i­cans.

If Trump re­sists em­brac­ing this on­go­ing delu­sion, well, then, he’d better brace him­self for a tidal wave of Deep State leaks.

If the Deep State knows one thing, it’s how to pro­tect its turf. Its out-of­bounds ac­tiv­i­ties were ex­posed and chron­i­cled in vo­lu­mi­nous de­tail by the Se­nate’s Church Com­mit­tee in the 1970s.

Yet here the Deep State is to­day more pow­er­ful and less ac­count­able than ever.

The me­dia play a game of whis­per down the lane with the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity. For the two the rou­tine brings to mind the bi­o­log­i­cal term sym­bio­sis — mu­tual ex­is­tence based on in­ter­de­pen­dency.

In this role it’s dif­fi­cult for the me­dia to main­tain its sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with the In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity yet also ful­fill its obli­ga­tions of skep­ti­cism and non­par­ti­san­ship to the pub­lic.

Sharyl At­tkisson, Emmy Award-win­ning in­ves­tiga­tive re­porter, au­thor and host of the “Full Mea­sure” pro­gram, noted this dis­com­fort­ing truth in a re­cent ar­ti­cle in The Hill.

She pointed out a me­dia ten­dency to “du­ti­fully par­rot” In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity views “in one-sided ac­counts with no coun­ter­points.”

In­tel­li­gence Com­mu­nity me­dia leaks of­ten make it seem, she added, that in­tel of­fi­cials are “beyond ques­tion,” that they couldn’t pos­si­bly be ca­pa­ble of of­fer­ing flawed as­sess­ments or views com­pro­mised by political mo­ti­va­tions.

Cyn­i­cism may not be the rec­om­mended an­ti­dote, but a lit­tle more skep­ti­cism surely wouldn’t hurt.

—david­[email protected]­i­


In this photo, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to the me­dia be­fore board­ing the Ma­rine One he­li­copter on the South Lawn of the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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