“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984.
As we approach inauguration day the Lefty meltdown has morphed into a strategy that Orwell would recognize. It is to embed in the psyche of the body politic the narrative that the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the U.S. was so deeply flawed as to make his impending Presidency illegitimate. Civil Rights icon John Lewis was explicit on the point. He said: “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. ”
That is the type of casuistry that politicians routinely, if dishonorably, employ. However it is unusual in the United States to take it to the point of questioning the legitimacy of a Presidential election. And so Mr. Lewis should be prepared to answer a few questions. For instance: Who, if not Donald Trump, is the legitimate President? And if not Donald Trump, are his actions ipso facto illegal? If not, why not? Should citizens feel free to ignore any regulatory rules promulgated and implemented under a Trump Administration? If not, why not?
I doubt that the Congressman will consider, much less address, these points.
The Intelligence Community
The intelligence community—really the intelligence bureaucracy—is in the middle of the scrimmage. They are, after all, the source of most of the leaks about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election cycle. And they continue to pretend to be surprised about Russia’s behavior. The critical question is: What possible motivation could the intelligence bureaucracy have in leaking all this stuff?
The answer is that the intelligence bureaucracy, like all bureaucracies, is a bureaucracy that is first and foremost interested in protecting its hide. And the President-elect has made his disdain for the intelligence services clear. He has a point in his criticism. The intelligence bureaucracy has been caught flat-footed on key national security events more than once, to put it mildly. What better way to protect the bureaucracy than to change the subject by attacking the messenger?
A History of Missed Signals
The CIA’s history of screw-ups is long and colorful. For instance, there were the comic opera attempts to assassinate Castro, not to mention the disastrous invasion at the Bay of Pigs, led by the CIA. The Berlin wall came down in 1989 catching the CIA in its usual position—asleep at the switch. Likewise the intelligence services did not have a clue that Saddam was going to invade Kuwait until he was at the doorstep.
In 1983 terrorists bombed a Marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 American Marines. In 1996 terrorists blew up Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, which was being used by coalition forces who were enforcing a no-fly zone in Southern Iraq. In 1998 U.S. embassies were simultaneously bombed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. There is no evidence that the CIA was even vaguely aware of an imminent threat. And obviously, the terrorist plots succeeded.
The intelligence community was surprised by the nuclear tests conducted by Pakistan in May 1998 code named Chagai-1. And on the subject of nukes, CIA chief George Tenet famously declared it a “slam dunk” that Iraq had nukes. Most famously, the U.S. was blindsided by both World Trade Center bombings—the one in 1993 and 9/11. Students of the game will remember that immediately after the attack, the CIA went it CYA mode, proclaiming the method of attack to be unprecedented and therefore unpredictable. Which conveniently enough, let the CIA off the hook.
But the CIA claim was a lie. Back in 1996, Robin Wright, an expert on Islam and Middle East politics published a book on Islamic militancy called Sacred Rage. Note the date. (An updated version was re-published in 2001, but the original was published in 1996). In the book Wright recounted the story of an unusual style of civilian jet take off at an airport in the Middle East not too far from an American base. That incident started a scramble by the Americans because officials at the time were afraid that the plane might be used as a weapon to attack them. So the U.S. government was well aware as early as 1996 that civilian jets could be hijacked and used as weapons against U.S. targets.
The observation “Never ascribe to malice that which is easily explained by incompetence” is usually and probably incorrectly attributed to Napoleon. Rather than malice in the case of the intelligence agencies, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that self-interest has played a part in their piling on Trump. Consider the role of Mike Morrell, former acting CIA Director.
Over the summer of 2016 Morrell (having already stepped down as acting CIA Director) penned an op-ed, published by the New York Times, in which he endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Having a top former CIA executive, one who is privy to the secrets, come out as a political partisan is extraordinary. What he said is even more astonishing. He wrote: “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
As it turns out, that is the same Mike Morrell who was accused by six Republican Senators of lying under oath in testimony to Congress over his role in the Benghazi affair. Two of the topics that drew interest according to the Weekly Standard were: (1) Morrell (according to the Senators) obfuscated his role in rewriting Benghazi talking points, and (2)he falsely claimed that the talking points were provided to the White House as a heads-up, not for co-ordination purposes.
Mike Morrell is now a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a firm close to Hillary Clinton whose founders include Philippe Reines, who also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton from 2009—2013. Prior to that he served as Senator Clinton’s Senior Advisor and Press Secretary from 2002 – 2009. So let’s dispense with the idea that Michael Morrell is like Jimmy Stewart, speaking truth to power in a modern day Mr. Smith goes to Washington.
Michael Morrell is hardly alone in his characterization of Trump. Michael Hayden, director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, and Director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009 said, in the Washington Post,
that the term he prefers to describe Trump is “polezni durak, [which refers to a] useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
John Brennan, the outgoing CIA Director, saw fit to give Trump a public lecture on the dangers posed by the Soviet Union on the Sunday talkies. He said, among other things, that Trump lacked a full understanding of the threats Moscow poses to the U.S.
Then there is the Buzz Feed story about the “dossier” containing all sorts of unverified accusations against Trump. At this stage of the game you have to wonder what anybody could have that would make any difference anyway. Be that as it may, reputable news organizations have had copies of this dossier, which originated as Republican oppo research, for months. They didn’t publish it, because they couldn’t verify it. But in the wake of the Buzz Feed story, somehow or other the story got out that President-elect Trump would be briefed on its contents. That made it front-page news, an utterly predictable event, that any leaker would have to know.
James Clapper, who has acknowledged he lied under oath to Congress, assures us that he doesn’t believe that the Intelligence Community leaked the story. In discussing a recent meeting with Trump, Clapper said “We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress, and Congressional staff even before the [Intelligence Community] became aware of it. I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC”.
Great. So we have a spy telling us that he doesn’t think any of his agencies leaked a particular document. Well that settles that.
It is entirely possible, in fact it is probable, that assessments by former and soon-to-be former intelligence officials about Trump’s understanding of world politics are entirely accurate if not understated. Trump continues to act like a belligerant adolescent when challenged. He has yet to demonstrate any sense of nuance, much less intellectual curiosity. Whether it’s all just an act is anybody’s guess. That aside, it is way beyond the pale for the intelligence agencies to be acting the way they are acting. They are supposed to be independent providers of information to elected officials and certain appointees. They are not supposed to be policy advocates, much less in public.
Keep in mind that this sort of public hand wringing by intelligence officials was nowhere to be seen when Obama got caught on an open mike telling Putin that he could be more accommodative after the 2012 election. Nor were the alarmists anywhere to be found when Obama derided Romney during the 2012 election cycle when Romney pointed to Russia as our greatest geo-political threat. All of which suggests that the motives here are less than pure.
It ought to be crystal clear that there is an ongoing attempt to delegitimize the 2016 election, and its results. A bitter opposition party is in denial of its loss—not just of the White House, but also both Houses of Congress, and a majority of governorships and state legislatures. And it is working hard to convince its base that the election was stolen by Trump with the help of Russia. Recent polling data suggests that fully half of Hillary Clinton voters believe that Russia’s hacking changed votes on Election Day. For that matter something like 60% of Trump voters are convinced that millions of illegal votes were cast. There is zero evidence of either proposition.
It isn’t just elected opposition officials who are trying to gin this up. The permanent bureaucracy is threatened by the election result and is in semi-open revolt. The intelligence agencies are leading the pack, egged on by the elected opposition. The intelligence agencies have set about undermining the incoming Administration, by sowing doubt about the election result—which, by the way, is exactly what they were accusing Vladimir Putin of doing when they assumed Hillary Clinton would win.
Count on other agencies with their own agendas to do the same thing when they can.
It is especially disturbing, but not surprising, to see the permanent government, which is to say, the bureaucracy, at war with elected officials. It is an unmistakable sign that the bureaucracy’s first priority is self-protection. And it is a telling indication of how arrogant and dangerously unaccountable the permanent government has become. Note too that it is Progressives who are working with, and providing cover for, the permanent bureaucracy in order to achieve political goals.
A thorough housecleaning is in order. The sooner the better.