CIA Director Entry Number 2: Mike Morell, Fabulist

As Eli Lake wrote the other day, there are three men angling to be CIA Director under President Hillary: John Brennan, Mike Morell, and Mike Vickers.

I’ve already explained what is terrifying about Vickers’ audition to be CIA Director: after laying out the Hillary as Commander-in-Chief case (which appears to be mandatory for these things), Vickers then talks about how we need to escalate our wars and belligerence.

To be sure, we will need more aggressive counterterrorism strategies, stronger support for the Syrian opposition as the only plausible counterweight to authoritarianism and extremism within Syria, more effective counters to Iranian and Russian expansion, and better strategies for deterring and competing with China over the long term.

Henceforth, I will refer to Vickers as The Escalationist.

Today, Mike Morell submitted his audition to be CIA Director.

As Vickers did (these do seem to be formulaic), Morell lays out his extensive bipartisan past (Vickers claims service under 4 Republican and 2 Democratic Presidents, Morell claims 3 of each), then talks about how serving with Hillary convinced him she has the temperament to be Commander-in-Chief.

I spent four years working with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, most often in the White House Situation Room. In these critically important meetings, I found her to be prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument.

Like Vickers, Morell lauds Hillary’s courage in pushing for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Mrs. Clinton was an early advocate of the raid that brought Bin Laden to justice, in opposition to some of her most important colleagues on the National Security Council.

[snip]

I never saw her bring politics into the Situation Room. In fact, I saw the opposite. When some wanted to delay the Bin Laden raid by one day because the White House Correspondents Dinner might be disrupted, she said, “Screw the White House Correspondents Dinner.”

Disrupting White House Correspondents Dinner to kill someone would count as politics? Really?

Also like Vickers, Morell then lays out Trump’s lack of qualification for the job, both in terms of background and temperament.

But Morell’s gimmick — the brand that sets him apart on this quest to be CIA Director — is not an explicit call for escalation, but instead the specific gloss he puts on Trump’s soft spot for Putin. After portraying Trump’s careless claims as full endorsements of Putin, Morell claims Trump has been recruited by the old KGB officer, albeit unwittingly.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor in making political hay out of Trump’s call on Putin to hack Hillary, especially coming as it does from someone (unlike Jake Sullivan and Leon Panetta) without a known history of mishandling classified information.

But that line? “recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”? That’s all about the clicks, and it has been serving splendidly. Just like “Slam Dunk” was a nifty line.

In a piece auditioning to be CIA Director, I’d prefer someone stick more rigorously to the truth. Trump is an apologist for Putin, undoubtedly, but there’s no more evidence Putin has recruited Trump (unwittingly) than there is, say, the Saudis have recruited Hillary. They’re all just picking the assholes they champion, with Hillary picking the assholes we’ve long championed.

Then again, this is not the first time Morell has stretched the truth a bit — up to and including on torture, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the tactic.

So there you have it: The Escalationist versus The Fabulist, your first two contestants on the Price is Right CIA nomination competition.

Sadly, we probably won’t see something quite so explicit from Brennan (though it would be amusing to see if a third endorsement hewed so closely to the same script as the other two), so we’ll just have to accept Lake’s “drone warrior” brand for him.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

24 replies
  1. tryggth says:

    “has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin”

    Not clear to me which of these he sees as the greater crime.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not to mention it’s outside forces, as much as anyone else, driving Russian economy to ruins, including Saudi games with oil prices.
      .
      That’s all part of love and geopolitics, but let’s be clear what’s going on.

    • bevin says:

      “Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin….”

      Jailed journalists? Look around you, at the whistleblowers and journalists, jailed, driven into exile and, in some cases. killed. The evidence against the last two US Presidents is stronger than that against Putin.
      The media has been showing in recent days how they can hold politicians and their claims to account-if allowed to do so- by treating Trump the way that perhaps all candidates should be treated. But claims such as these- against Putin-will be unchallenged.
      Did Russia invade two neighbours? Not that I know of. But the lie is familiar: in 2008 Georgia launched a sudden attack, on the eve of the Olympics on two of the former provinces of the SSR. Russia restored the status quo after being appealed to by the governments of the embattled communities. The other “invasion” I suppose is the Ukraine. And this is a flagrant lie all the more flagrant in view of the CIA support given to the coup there against which the Russian speakers, anticipating persecution by the Galician fascists threatening them, resisted.

      Among the countries Russia and Putin have not invaded are Libya, Iraq and Syria.
      Nobody expects these warmongers looking for warmongering jobs to tell the truth. Unfortunately nobody expects the media, faced with flagrant lies and double standards, to call them on it.
      And that is a pity because-win or lose- nuclear wars should be resisted by sentient creatures. They are much worse than the temporary embarrassment of not joining in with the lynch mob and pretending not to realise that the potential CIA director is full of shit.

  2. Andrew Sprung says:

    Picking the Saudis’ assholes (and the Israelis’) stinks, to be sure, but it’s not on a par with greenlighting Putin’s reconquest of ex-Soviet territories.

    • emptywheel says:

      Just noting that your structure here is very interesting. You’re suggesting Trump greenlit Putin’s reconquest of ex-Soviet territories (arguably true, though Trump has wavered there). You’re not saying what siding with the Saudis entails, which includes the overthrow of Qaddafi and Assad (noble causes, surely, but also ones that have created havoc in the ME), the invasion of Yemen, the backing for Bahrain’s crackdown on protestors, not to mention the soft-peddling of ongoing fostering of (and past support for) terrorism (again, more havoc, including in our own country).
      .

      Some of which Hillary has been actively involved in, of course.
      .
      Again, I find both pretty shitty. Let’s not downplay how awful our Saudi assholes are.

      • Andrew Sprung says:

        Pretty shitty, yes. Our complicity in the destruction of Yemen is particularly disgusting. And it’s not pleasant to rank crimes or depravities. But I think the distinction you made sarcastically, between US’s current catering to the Saudis (and again, the Israelis) and Trump’s malleability to Putin reflects a real difference in danger: destabilizing Europe and NATO is worse than the devils we know. And Trump would probably also be more destructive in the Middle East than Hillary. More generally, I don’t think qualms about Hillary’s judgment, which I share, are anywhere near comparable to worries about WTF Trump would do.

        • emptywheel says:

          I don’t necessarily disagree.

          Tho I will say the coup in Ukraine and willful destabilization of the ME have done a lot towards destabilizing Europe already.

        • Ken Hoop says:

          Not really. A Paris-Berlin-Moscow bloc would have been better for Europe in just about every way except creating a runaway materialist lifestyle had it been effectuated decades ago.

    • Ken Hoop says:

      Really. Not if consider the theft of Palestine by non-Semites worse than the re-acquisition of part of the continual without 2,000 years of separation Russian world.

  3. wayoutwest says:

    I think this is unprecedented for these wannabe quislings to be campaigning for a candidate while they compete to be the bloodiest reflection of HRC’s planned aggressions long before the election is decided.

    Trump seems to be striking fear of loss of their positions and power deep into the manager class of the bloody reapers of empire. It also shows how vocal and emboldened the Clintonite interventionists have become and if HRC is selected she and her minions may make Obama look as if he deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.

    • John Casper says:

      “I think this is unprecedented…wannabe quislings to be campaigning for a candidate while they compete to be the bloodiest reflection of,” Trump’s, “planned aggressions long before the election is decided.”
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_LjFIU87ss
      .
      From Trump’s last 15-seconds, “I would be very, very firm with families. Frankly, that will make people think, because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”
      .
      HRC, “seems to be striking fear of loss of their positions and power deep into the manager class of the bloody reapers of(sic)empire. It also shows how vocal and emboldened the,” Trump, “interventionists have become and if, Trump, “is selected,” he and his, “minions may make Obama look as if he deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.”

      FIFY

      • wayoutwest says:

        JC, I thought for a fleeting moment that you had produced a rational serious response to my comment with actual research but your wordplay ended that assumption. However I will do as I promised and dismantle your assumptions and hand you back the pieces to ponder over.

        Trump made this statement in response to the IS inspired San Bernardino killings and his threatening the families of IS leaders and fighters doesn’t actually call for a change in US policy where under Obama we already target their families and other civilians even if it’s cleverly called collateral damage. We also have the example of Anwar al-Awlaki a non combatant US citizen and his 16 year old son who was hunted down and murdered for being no more than his son. No new policy or intervention here just an emotional response to this mass killing.

        The Red Queen has much larger and more dangerous intervention plans that the benign sounding No fly Zone in Syria she publicly calls for. The fifty cosigners of the published/leaked State Department memo, most if not all Clinton appointees, is much more clear about the plans for directly intervening to remove Assad and the much more dangerous need to directly militarily confront Putin’s air forces there. along with these people she now has many of the worst neocon interventionists supporting and encouraging her. Even her little VP has been busy pushing for a Congressional Declaration of War in the ME so they can move past Obamas limited involvement under legal protection.

        • martin says:

          quote”However I will do as I promised and dismantle your assumptions and hand you back the pieces to ponder over. “unquote

          Says the pompous dickhead who couldn’t dismantle a tea cup from it’s plate unless throwing both against the floor in a display of personal vengeance against that which he can’t figure out. Most human beings would LOL.

            • John Casper says:

              Nope. That’s not the definition of, “dismantle.”
              .
              It’s more calumny, “the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander,” something at which you excel.

            • bmaz says:

              I’m going to, AGAIN, warn all THREE of you to knock it off. The schticht of sniping and insulting each other needs to stop. NOW. That goes for WOW, John Casper and Martin (who has actually been noticeably better, and thus more productive, lately, and that is much appreciated).
              .
              This stuff is not only unproductive for discussion threads, it really fouls the joint up with a stench. And it seriously pisses your hosts here off. Every one of you has something to say or you would not be at a blog like this one. I will suggest that all three of you to stop and think before pressing the “Post Comment” button:

              1) Is this meaningful and productive content?
              .
              2) Even, if so, am I unnecessarily pissing backwards to another commenter as opposed to advancing my own thoughts?
              .
              3) Am I unnecessarily buggering up this thread?

              Now, it is fully understood these are imperfect guidelines, and there may be minor transgressions. But, if the major relentless sniping and demeaning behavior continues, you will not like the remedy. John Casper has been around long enough to know there is a point where commenters magically disappear. So has been Martin, though he kind of interloped into this one, but, WayOutWest you need to understand there is a point of no return, and you and John Casper are approaching it at your current rate.
              .
              You may think these are hollow threats, I assure you they are not. You can hate on me all you want, call me the bad sheriff, whatever. Honestly, I don’t give a damn.
              .
              But this nonsense is going to stop. Healthy dialogue and discussion is encouraged, the useless and repetitive sniping and demeaning (including spell checking people, just stop with that shit unless you are helping a host poster with something they screwed up, and, even then, if it is not particularly material, give it a rest) is going to stop, or some of you will be gone. Trust me, we will be able to carry on just fine without you, we always have. And the barrel of “requests” as opposed to the full box of “see ya’s” is about empty.

              • Evangelista says:

                bmaz,

                I have to say, ‘Well said.’ to your 12:33 pm supers post. sniping, especially extended sniping, does clutter up a comment board and can make it a pain to wade through to sift the solid comments from.

                On the other hand, sometimes snipe-fests can be funny. And, I imagine, snipers may sometimes get their teeth in such an itch they might do something awful, like kick their real dog, if they can’t sink a snark into some counterpart’s virtual backside and chew the virtual opponent up and spit out the bits (and bytes).

                I wonder if it might be a public service to set up a “Snipe-Board”? A comment board like an email Trash folder, where the trashing can go, that maybe flushes automatically at the end of thirty days? Snipers could then do a variation on the ancient and honored custom of ‘Pistols at Dawn’, with challenges like, “To learn the abysmal depths of the ignorance you have just demonstrated, see my exposition under the topic on the Snipe-Board.”

                Then, on days when news might be slow, if Hillary’s suppliers provide her only truths so she can’t speak, or Donald sprains his thumbs and can’t tweet, readers might swing over to the Snipe-Board to see what’s new in spit-and-venom.

                ? (to quote Victor Hugo)

        • John Casper says:

          Back on July 29, you wrote, you were going to, “dismantle,” an “a-r-g-u-m-e-n-t.”

          https://www.emptywheel.net/2016/07/28/on-responsible-sourcing-for-dnc-hack-stories/
          .
          45. Do you know the difference between an “argument” and an “assumption?”
          .
          After you made that claim back on July 29, I asked you about it on that thread.
          .
          “37.9 Do you have an example at this blog where you, dismantled someone’s argument?
          .
          37.9.1 If so, can you quote it and link to it?”
          .
          You have commented frequently since July 29.
          .
          45.1 Why haven’t any of those included a response to questions 37.9 and and 37.9.1?
          .
          I never “thought for a fleeting moment that you” would “dismantle” anything except your credibility.
          .
          45.2 Maybe you don’t know what “dismantle” means?
          .
          45.3 Could you define “dismantle?”

  4. Evangelista says:

    Marcy,

    One: Isn’t “Morell” the name of a mushroom that looks like a brain, but isn’t one?

    and

    Two: “recruited ________________ as an unwitting agent of the _____________________” is a classic standard from the McCarthy Era, where it appeared in both denunciations and exculpations.

    Do you suppose it might be possible that Mike Morell has been boning up on mid-twentieth century history, and let it slip in an accidental phrasing?

    Can you imagine, do you suppose, or do you think it possible that Mike Morell might be looking beyond becoming CIA Director, using the position as a stepping-stone to introducing a new twenty-first century American Political Purge Era, like that which began with J. Edgar Hoover ascending to FBI Director, that soared from trying Sacco and Vanzetti to culminate in the McCarthy Hearings and the launches of Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s political careers?

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