Monday, December 19, 2016

Why Trump's View on Intelligence Will Leave America Blind, Deaf and Dumb to its Enemies

by Nomad


Trump's Wilful Ignorance

On Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) pointed out that President-elect Trump's denial that Russia interfered with the elections was "deeply damaging."
That denial flies in the face of the verdicts of all 16 government intelligence agencies and at least three private security firms which have independently investigated the security breaches.

Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”
“For the president-elect to continue to give the Russians deniability is deeply damaging to the country.”
Here we have a President-elect rejecting the findings of a majority of government intelligence agencies which have suggested that his victory owes a lot to  illegal interference from a foreign government.

As of last week, U.S. intelligence officials stood by their allegation of Russian tampering. In fact, senior U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence reportedly came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Trump is adamantly refusing to accept that.

Only a decade ago (or perhaps less) these events would have been unthinkable. Today, the people who have long considered themselves red-blooded patriots and loyal Americans are numbly silent when it comes to the Manchurian candidacy of Donald Trump.
Who'd have thought it possible?

Schiff, the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said  
“By attacking the intelligence community basically, it’s going to make it that much more difficult for the current president to make attribution, for the American people to understand what they really need to about Russian involvement in our elections.
There's another dilemma facing the incoming president. By repudiating the work of intelligence agencies, charged with gathering, collating and analyzing vital information in defense of the nation, Trump has essentially shot himself in the foot. 
In times of crisis, President Trump will have to rely on the findings of these very same agencies that he has declared incompetent and untrustworthy.

Mr. Trump compared the report of Russian interference with the 2002 assessment that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He has portrayed American spies as "bumbling and biased." 
He dismissed the report apparently without looking into the details.
"I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.”
 According to the logic of Trump's denial, the CIA and the FBI are no longer credible sources of intelligence. That's a view which will inevitably come back to haunt him during his tenure.

The Blinding of the President 

Already, there's talk of a mass exodus from the  National Security Council (NSC). The council plays an essential role as a kind of presidential discussion group between the president's senior national security advisors and cabinet officials on national security and foreign policy matters. It's how the president receives his information and it is where the matters are discussed.

As soon as Trump announce his decision to appoint Gen. Michael Flynn,  more junior officials began to pack their bags.

To be clear, in any transition, there are turnovers. The top level in the NSC are political appointees and will relinquish their posts when a new president takes over. However, the rest of the 400 NSC staff are career civil servants who have transferred from other departments. These members of staff ensure the smooth running of government.

According to sources, an unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.

One official quoted in a UK Guardian report said:
“Career people are looking get out and go back to their agencies and pressure is being put on them to get them to stay. There is a concern there will be a half-empty NSC by the time the new administration arrives, which no one wants.”
Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to vice-president Joe Biden said:
“Many of them are starting to look at other options, some of the younger people are looking to switch careers, return to graduate school, try and go abroad. I have seen and met with a lot of these people and there does seem to be an unusual level of worry and concern and fear.”
Apparently, the problem is so bad that the Obama administration has been forced to step in. The current NSC staff is offering the incoming team "in-person briefings and discussions" in an attempt to pass along vital information.
In addition, Obama has attempted to resolve the problem by
coordinating statutorily-required interagency homeland security exercises that will include both incoming and outgoing national security leadership from departments and agencies, as well as senior career public servants who will provide continuity through the transition.”
It is not even clear whether Trump officials are interested in taking up the Obama administration on this offer. Ms. Smith observed that they have little or no interaction with these teams to date.
“There are very important substantive hand-offs that need to be occurring, that are in fact not happening. That is creating added concern about the career civil servants who are in these agencies, wondering what they are in for.”

The Vulnerable Mr.Trump

When we look at the big picture what do we have?

A president who, despite assuring voters during his campaign that he would surround himself with the most qualified experts, has chosen some of the least qualified cabinet picks in history. We have a president whose cabinet pick for security advisor has caused a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers.
We have a president more willing to defend Russia than to accept the findings of US government agencies.

No doubt, this, in turn, will have a chilling effect on the kind of information President Trump will receive. Moreover, his expressed public doubts about the work of the CIA and the FBI regarding Russian interference will have a negative effect the public credibility of those agencies. The icing on the cake, we have a mass exodus of key officials in the president's most important national security agency.

To put it in another way, the Trump administration's position on intelligence has already left the nation blind, deaf and dumb. Even before he assumes, it is clear that President Trump's flawed logic will leave the nation extraordinarily vulnerable in a very dangerous world.