Since Trump took office, of course.
Was there ever a time when Americans had unquestioning faith in federal law-enforcement agencies? Maybe in the days before Vietnam and Watergate, most citizens did believe that those in charge of the nation’s fate could be trusted. Before World War II, the FBI’s formidable public-relations machine actually produced a popular radio and television program lauding its efforts “in peace and war.” After the war, when the CIA became the country’s first full-time foreign-intelligence agency, few Americans understood much about what it was doing, and what little they did know was colored by the government’s propaganda efforts.
But ever since the upheaval of the late 1960s and early 1970s seemed to make cynicism about government our new national pastime, the notion that the intelligence community is above politics has been as outdated as the adulation once accorded to J. Edgar Hoover. It’s in that context that we should understand the recent debate about whether it’s appropriate to scrutinize the CIA and FBI’s role in the origins of the Russia probe. Though Democrats are now treating criticism of federal law enforcement as beyond the pale, their newfound faith is every bit as partisan as Republicans’ newfound skepticism. A sober look at the history of the past few decades reveals that, to paraphrase Clausewitz, in Washington, intelligence has always been a matter of politics by other means.
Attorney General William Barr’s decision to launch an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation has caused some predicable anger among Democrats and other Trump-administration critics. This discomfort stems from what they regard as an attempt to flip the narrative from Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia to a dubious decision by the FBI to begin spying on the political opponents of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.
Given the failure of the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to prove the collusion allegations, Barr’s attempt to determine whether the unprecedented probe of a presidential campaign was an abuse of power seems reasonable. But Barr’s decision is a huge problem for Democrats who are hoping to pursue the impeachment of Trump by picking up the case that Mueller failed to make after two years of effort.
So we saw CNN crime-and-justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz this week telling host Don Lemon that it is “troubling” that the Department of Justice is questioning the work of CIA agents. “You don’t do this,” Prokupecz said. “The CIA kind of operates in their own world.” Indeed the CIA does, but that never stopped Democrats or the press from going all out to probe its activities as long as said activities were perceived to further their opponents’ political agenda.
Prokupecz and the House Democrats who are rushing to the barricades to defend the actions of former CIA director John Brennan at the beginning of the Mueller probe are acting as if the agency’s reputation has never before been called into question. Some of them may be too young to have experienced the political ferment of the 1970s and’80s, in which congressional committees led by Democrats such as Frank Church and Otis Pike conducted far-reaching investigations that embarrassed the intelligence establishment. But surely they have some memory of the debates about intelligence after the 9/11 attacks and the heated run-up to George W. Bush’s Iraq War. The only difference between those episodes and this one is that the political parties have switched sides.
In the past, it was Republicans defending the FBI and the CIA against Democrats’ charges that these agencies were out of control. But since the summer of 2016, when the intelligence establishment seemed to join forces to raise alarms about Russian meddling in the presidential election and, more important, to raise concerns about untrue allegations of Trump-campaign collusion in that meddling, Democrats have acted as if Langley and Quantico are beyond reproach.
Once Trump started criticizing the intelligence agencies’ consensus about Russians’ election interference, and then after it became known that the FBI and CIA had begun probing his campaign in the summer of 2016, Democrats became unstinting in their defense of the agencies. By contrast, Republicans who had been stalwart CIA and FBI defenders suddenly became bitter critics, demanding transparency and sometimes floating the same sort of conspiracy theories about the intelligence community’s activities that used to be the province of the Left.
Sensible people of either party will always seek to mix deference to the intelligence community’s mission, which often requires a fair degree of secrecy, with an understanding that all government officials and agencies must be kept on a tight leash lest they abuse the awesome power vested in them.
To those who have followed past controversies involving the FBI and CIA, it should seem entirely plausible that some federal law-enforcement agents could let their distaste for Trump get the better of them. That Democrats no longer care and Republicans suddenly do testifies to the fact that in Washington, most things always boil down to politics.
Nation’s Secrets: Democrats and spy agency bureaucrats squealed with rage after President Trump pulled former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. Why are they upset? Brennan clearly abused his privileged security clearance by using it for political purposes and profit.
“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading a statement.
There’s no question that Brennan lied, both to Congress and the American people, more than once and under oath.
And for someone with continued privileged access to the nation’s secrets to call the president “treasonous” merely for speaking to Vladimir Putin isn’t an exercise of freedom of speech — it verges on a threat.
By Andrew C McCarthy • National Review
The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations.
Why is that so important in the context of explosive revelations that Susan Rice, President Obama’s national-security adviser, confidant, and chief dissembler, called for the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials whose identities and communications were captured in the collection of U.S. intelligence on foreign targets? Continue reading
by Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
Europe serves as a “launching pad” for ISIS jihadists to initiate attacks against the United States due to the absence of a cohesive information-sharing strategy among Western nations, former acting CIA director John McLaughlin said Wednesday.
McLaughlin, a 30-year CIA employee who served as acting director under the George W. Bush administration, warned that the absence of effective coordination between European intelligence agencies exposes the United States to greater risk of attack.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, McLaughlin said the Trump administration must work with European allies to establish an intelligence-sharing platform that coordinates Europe’s extensive network of security services. Continue reading
by Marc A. Thiessen • Washington Post
So why is it wrong for Rolling Stone to do this, but okay for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)?
Feinstein and Senate intelligence committee Democrats just spent six years and $40 million investigating the CIA’s rendition and interrogation program. Surely they took the time to sit down with the CIA officials who ran the program, present the committee’s findings and ask officials to explain their version of events, right?
Wrong. Continue reading
by Charles Krauthammer • Washington Post
The report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding CIA interrogation essentially accuses the agency under George W. Bush of war criminality. Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein appears to offer some extenuation when she reminds us in the report’s preamble of the shock and “pervasive fear” felt after 9/11.
It’s a common theme (often echoed by President Obama): Amid panic and disorientation, we lost our moral compass and made awful judgments. The results are documented in the committee report. They must never happen again. Continue reading
We don’t have all the details of former CIA Director David Petraeus’ testimony to congressional Intelligence Committees on Friday, but it looks like the American people were grossly misled about the Benghazi attack.
Is anyone surprised? You shouldn’t be.
The last thing the Obama administration wanted to tell the American public during a tight presidential campaign was that al Qaeda had attacked a US consulate on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, killing four brave Americans. Continue reading