Trump Raises the Axe over the Intelligence Community, Again

The Intelligence Community is finishing its report on the intelligence regarding Russia’s influence in our elections. The report is expected to be delivered to President Obama tomorrow and briefed to President Elect Trump on Friday.

That’s the context for — and surely at least part of the explanation for — this WSJ story reporting that Trump plans to reorganize the intelligence community.

[A]dvisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment on the plan.

“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition operation. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”

[snip]

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was established in 2004 in large part to boost coordination between intelligence agencies following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Many Republicans have proposed cutting the ODNI before, but this has proven hard to do in part because its mission centers are focused on core national security issues, such as counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, and counterintelligence.

“The management and integration that DNI focuses on allows agencies like the CIA to better hone in on its own important work,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who believes dismantling the ODNI could lead to national security problems.

Mr. Trump’s advisers say he has long been skeptical of the CIA’s accuracy, and the president-elect often mentions faulty intelligence in 2002 and 2003 concerning Iraq’s weapons programs. But he has focused his skepticism of the agencies squarely on their Russia assessments, which has jarred analysts who are accustomed to more cohesion with the White House.

The report repeats earlier reporting — in part from some of the same WSJ reporters — that Trump planned this briefing. Back then, in mid-November, Trump was merely disdainful of the IC and much of the reorganization appeared to be a mix of vengeance on the part of Mike Flynn and, frankly, some reasonable ideas (things like splitting NSA and reversing some of the questionable changes John Brennan made). At the center of it all was a plan to make Admiral Mike Rogers Director of National Intelligence.

The day after that reporting, however, outlets reported that Ash Carter and James Clapper had been planning to fire Rogers, partly because the NSA had remained a leaky sieve under his tenure and partly because he had delayed cyber-bombing ISIS (perhaps to preserve intelligence collection). And that’s before it became public that the NSA hadn’t adopted four security measures recommended after the Snowden leaks.

After that, of course, Democrats and the CIA started leaking that Russia hacked the DNC with the purpose of electing Trump, which gave Trump the entrée to suggest this discussion is all politicized, which has escalated to this week. Trump seems to have orchestrated the Sean Hannity interview at which Julian Assange said what he has long said — that he didn’t get the DNC files from Russia.

Reuters is now reporting that after the election the IC determined that third parties had gotten the files from Russian entities to Wikileaks, which means Assange likely has no idea where the files came from.

But the timing of this story, sourced significantly to the Trump camp, seems to be a warning to those who will brief Trump on Friday. While Clapper and Brennan are on their way out (the fate of Comey and Rogers is still undecided), they certainly will want to protect their agencies.

Which should make for an interesting briefing Friday.

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.

7 replies
  1. bevin says:

    Never mind the flimsy basis on which this superstructure of allegations is based- in the real world solid facts are emerging
    “Late on the evening of December 23, …President Obama signed into law the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Like the other NDAAs that President Obama signed into law during his administration, this one further strengthened the repressive capacities of the state.

    “Buried deep in the provisions of the NDAA was language from a bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman ostensibly to protect the public from the effects of “foreign propaganda.” As previously reported by Black Agenda Report, the bill, originally introduced last March, was passed by the Senate on December 8 as the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” and then inserted into the NDAA.

    “..the intent of the law is to “…improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an inter-agency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government.”

    Just what we need: another complex of propagandists, employed by the state to brainwash the minds of the innocent public into supporting war, regime changes, sanctions and, above all, constantly escalating military expenditures.
    And all this because the media and ‘sensible people’ compete with each other to descant upon the rich colours, sensual textures and exquisite design of the Emperor’s new clothes.

  2. lefty665 says:

    Getting shed of Carter and Brennan are significant steps in the right direction. Every unemployed neocon is a good neocon. Wonder how things will sort out with Rogers?

    CIA has had a pretty shaky record since Cheney abused their analysts to get the propaganda he wanted after 9/11. He and “Scooter” made multiple trips to Langley to browbeat and threaten the them. Trump may actually be on solid ground there.

    Going from what happened on the hacks to intent is a big step. It will be interesting to get a factual exposition, if we ever get any straight stuff from the IC.  I’m not holding my breath.

  3. difficultlogic says:

    At today’s Senate hearing on the Russian hacks, Lindsay Graham said that President Obama has thrown a pebble when he should have thrown a rock. That is, deporting 35 Russian intelligence operatives, closing two facilities and upping sanctions was not a strong enough response. (Of course, we don’t know that Obama will not throw a brick covertly. Or that he hasn’t already.)

    You say here that Trump was planning (or is planning) to promote the current head of the NSA, Admiral Rodgers, to Director of National Intelligence, but that the current DNI and Director of CIA have been contemplating firing Rodgers for bad security management at the NSA and intransigence in fighting ISIS.

    Does this mean that John McCain, who also wants a strong response, and Lindsay Graham will probably not like to see Admiral Rodgers named to DNI? As the DNI would Rodgers be less likely to advocate for a strong response?

    • difficultlogic says:

      The Intercept report is ridiculing the U.S. Government’s reporting of the IP addresses used by the TOR network and because those same addresses would be in use by anyone using TOR. If the government had reported that spies were exchanging information in the Main Street Diner, would The Intercept call it absurd because they and people they know eat at the same diner?

      Is the government supposed to consider the name of the diner (IP addresses) irrelevant? Shouldn’t the people hosting TOR nodes consider the implications of unwittingly facilitating Russian cyber attacks?

      • Tom in AZ says:

        difficultlogic

        So, people using Tor for their own privacy needs should forego those needs because it might help the Russians? Seems like that lets our people off the hook for not securing their systems, and just facilitates less and less truth from our own government.

        Tom in AZ

        • difficultlogic says:

          When I asked the question, I genuinely didn’t have an answer. Now, I think TOR users should do as they please—within the law of course. I don’t think the TOR network should close up any more than the Main Street Diner.
          I also don’t know much about how TOR works. But it seems to me that somehow within the TOR network a user’s ultimate path has to be preserved long enough for a message to reach it’s destination and return to the user. It seems to me that TOR cannot perfectly protect users’ activity from organizations with the computing power of the NSA.
           
          If the Russians really want anonymity, I think they have to create their own TOR-like network with their own nodes, shutting everything down at the end.

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