Friday, August 19, 2016

Trump Disses Intelligence Community

The US Intelligence Community

For related story, click here [The Hill, Julian Hattem]

The Hill, a formerly reputable and objective journal of activities on Capitol Hill and the White House, published a piece by Julian Hattem, a very young reporter whose political zeal has seemingly tainted his reporting ability; his previous experience came as an intern on the Huffington Post and a stringer for the Japanese newspaper Ymiuri Shimbun -- notable for continuously denying the Comfort Women controversy [Journalism has plummeted in reliability in recent years as the old professionals were laid off when News Outlets ditched journalists with experience and ethics, and replaced them with children posing as adults, whose reporting would be better placed on Saturday Night Live].

This young reporter's headline appeared on Facebook as follows:

"Trump says he doesn't trust US intelligence just before classified briefing"
followed by this quote
" 'I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions' Trump claimed."

Naturally, this partial quote set the internet ablaze as lots of DNC  and GOP trolls and self-appointed national security experts jumped on this quote as evidence that Trump has no business being President if he's not going to listen to the Intelligence Community.

All the Intel that's fit to print

[Oddly, none of these critics have raised more than an eyebrow over the fact that Obama rarely takes the morning Intelligence Brief, and generally completely ignores the daily President's Briefing Book.]

But, then again, we have Hillary, who did take the morning brief from State INR [Bureau of Intelligence and Research], and then copied Top Secret Codeword material onto her emails and cell phone texts, revealing extremely sensitive intelligence information pertaining to "Sources and Methods", and in at least one documented case, outed the identity of an Iranian nuclear scientist who had been recruited to spy on Iran's nuclear capabilities.  The Iranians arrested and executed him.

Now, our stalwart young reporter would likely have been counseled had Ben Bradlee been his editor, but, Ben is no longer with us, sadly, and much of journalism's professionalism died with him.  And, we can't be sure if the headline and lead was actually Hattem's, or was created by a politically biased editor at The Hill.

So, let's examine young Hattem's story, as it unwinds beyond the headline --

"...Trump said he does not trust information coming out of US intelligence agencies and indicated he would cease relying on the bulk of the intelligence community's massive workforce."
[we added italics, underlining, and color to emphasize the nuance of Trump's statement]

Trump's more complete statement:
"Very easy to use them, but I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions"
referring to intelligence failures leading to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on the Intelligence Briefing Bush received which declared Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction!  

Notably, those WMDs never materialized, and Bush came under constant criticism from all sides, to include our allies.  Financially, the Iraq War(s) will have an estimated tab of nearly $4 Trillion, plus an expected $490 billion in benefits owed to the war veterans, a death toll of up to 189,000 security forces, insurgents, contractors, and humanitarian workers, and of course, close to 5,000 US Military casualties.

Iraq, without a strong leader to rule the myriad religious sects, many led by fanatical extremists, and now overrun with terrorist factions, is in shambles and will likely not return to its relatively quiet status of its days under the thumb of Saddam.  Currently, Iraq, once the 12th largest oil producer and exporter, can barely meet its own needs for fuel and will require close to $100 billion to rebuild its dilapidated production infrastructure.

"If we had never touched it, it would have been a lot better."

That's pretty much the conclusion that most observers have reached given the horrendous results.

Our Intelligence Community, then headed by the intellectually challenged,  professionally inexperienced, political hack  George Tenet came up with a National Intelligence Estimate [NIE] that claimed we could save the region from a possible nuclear war if we invaded and killed Saddam.

Well, we invaded, blasted the daylights out of Iraq several times, defeated their military quite readily, executed Saddam without much of a legal process, left the country leaderless [our hand-picked successor was shot and killed as he triumphantly exited the US plane in Iraq], and, emplaced a massive US Military occupation force since drawn down, but rebuilding as we speak to deal with ISIS/ISIL, an outgrowth of al Qaeda now linked, via Wikileads, to support from Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

What did we accomplish?

We disrupted Iraq, opening it to strife amongst all its tribes and religious sects who have all been competing for power; and, we have created tens of thousands of new enemies there who were previously our friends, but are now our bitter enemies.  We've converted our allies there to what we call "terrorists", i.e., those who hate us and wish to do us harm.  [For an in-depth read on this conversion, we recommend serious students read Rick Francona's book Ally to Adversary.]

But wait!  There's more!
Our Intelligence Community, still led by George Tenet, failed to recognize the threat to the US which came in the form of the attack on the World Trade Center [WTC] on 9/11/2001.

Oddly, the FBI was provided a Philippine Police report which provided accurate details of the plan to attack the WTC -- which was completely ignored at the FBI and the DCI.

It was Tenet's job to coordinate the efforts of all the US Intelligence agencies as well as to work with the foreign intelligence agencies of our friends and allies.  A post-mortem of our intelligence failures leading to 9/11 indicated pure stove-piping of intelligence reports, disruptive competition, and, ultimately, failure to share information of intelligence value.  Astoundingly, Bush did not fire Tenet, but kept him on to create the WMD fiasco leading us into the perpetual Iraq War, and even more devastating, the war in Afghanistan -- home to al Qaeda, which Osama bin Laden reportedly led.

Beginning in 2001, a Military response was created to find Osama bin Laden, reportedly the mastermind of the 9/11 attack -- although that notion was questioned early on, and remains in question.  But, we dispatched Special Forces troops who were quite adept at finding anyone, anywhere [recall they tracked down Che Guevera in South America], particularly since they had worked closely with the Taliban and could have tracked down Osama, had the Intelligence Community been functional; but it wasn't, and the US declared war on Afghanistan as our new official enemy; so we bombed them, and attacked them because our Tenet's Intelligence Community declared them the enemy.

And, by Gawd, they became our enemy, and created terrorist cells, and fought back against the US onslaught which grew into a massive war, with a new regional headquarters known as CENTCOM, which created Military and Intelligence reports of limited to no value in conducting the war.

As time went on, and ISIS grew from a cell of al Qaeda-Iraq, and it has now come to light that "US Military leaders altered intelligence reports 'to paint a rosier picture' of the US-led fight against ISIS than Intelligence analysts believed was warranted."

According to Brigadier General Tata, he was directed by
"an individual from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who conducts the President's Daily Brief, to stop producing 'products of record' that did not fit the Administration's narrative of a defeated al Qaeda and a non-threatening enemy in ISIS."

SecDef MacNamara Briefs Bogus Intel
 Well, having been an Intelligence analyst for a number of years, we can assure you that such directives are not unusual.  We recall seeing Intelligence estimates briefed at the Five O'Clock Follies as press briefings in Vietnam restructured to validate General Westmoreland's bogus body counts and "victories" which never occurred, and his assurances that we had "... won the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people" -- which was absolute drivel since the South Vietnamese distrusted and hated us almost as much as the North Vietnamese. Interestingly, most of the Viet Cong were South Vietnamese soldiers whom we had equipped.

At the Pentagon, in the Carter Administration, our colleague who managed the Korea desk, was pressed to portray North Korea as a burgeoning threat capable of overrunning South Korea; this followed Major General Singlaub's personal views of the North Korean threat.  Carter was advised that Singlaub was an idiot, and fired him.

Notably, North Korea is repeatedly being touted as a major threat, and we have been pleased to describe in detail why it is not a threat in a blog post a while back.

US Forces Moved into Honduras
We were also pressed by the Deputy Chief of Staff for [Army] Intelligence [Lt General Odom] to tout the Central American insurgents as a major threat to the region, thus justifying the deployment of a brigade from the 82d Airborne Division to El Salvador, plus a massive build up of US forces in Honduras to engage Nicaragua.

[In reality, we assessed Nicaragua as the most dangerous threat, particularly as it spawned the Liberation Theology [Maryknoll Missionary] Communist movement to engage the region.

Interestingly, we found that the sister [a Maryknoll nun and political advisor to Daniel Ortega] of Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil received a phone call on Ortega's office phone disclosing a Top Secret briefing we had just delivered to him.
[We subsequently met with O'Neil and recommended he end his political career rather than facing charges of Treason, and he complied.]

82d Airborne Division

To inflict reason on the engagement of US troops in El Salvador, we dismissed the concept of deploying an airborne brigade of blond haired, blue eyed gringos who would become targets of all four guerrilla organizations, but also any of the roving gangs terrorizing San Salvador.

In its place, we recommended an advisory unit of 55 trainers in each military specialty; Congress agreed, and authorized that deployment, limiting it permanently to 55 US advisors.

Even with these precautions, one of the advisors was assassinated within months of the arrival of the 55 advisors.

While we were the Editor of the Black Book [content was Top Secret Codeword] at the Pentagon  - which was distributed to the Intelligence Community [IC] executives and to the White House, we gained positive recognition as the most accurate publisher of unbiased Intelligence in the Community; and it was not unusual for disgruntled analysts from other agencies in the IC  to visit us carrying intelligence reports and analysis which their superiors had suppressed for political reasons.  Once we checked out the validity of the reports, we then added them to our Black Book, bringing these issues to attention of the entire Community -- and the National Security Council, forcing the issue back to the disgruntled analyst, now in elevated status, for detailed clarification.

Forgotten POWs
[At that time, the Defense Intelligence Agency was led by an array of Leftists left over from the Carter Administration whose acolytes remained in the shadows, but later rose to senior executive positions; it was DIA which suppressed intelligence on the post-war existence and location of US prisoners of war for political reasons, leading the North Vietnamese to execute hundreds of US POWs as they no longer served the purpose of bargaining chips.]

Later, our analyst colleagues were pressed to suppress intelligence information on Osama bin Laden, lest he be removed as s potential threat under President Clinton -- which resulted in multiple missed opportunities to capture him.  But, under George W Bush,  the NeoCons led his National Security Council to persuade him to invade Iraq, over the protests of the Intelligence Community.

And, of course, in the Obama Administration, the IC has pretty much been left alone to do its own thing, with Obama pretty much ignoring everything they have to say.  That of course, has not prevented NSA and the DNI from expanding their operations to target US citizens as potential terrorists, as pointed out by Fast Eddie Snowden, but, we've already discussed those issues.

Bottom Line:

Trump has been advised of, and recognizes that the assessments of the US Intelligence Community are generally inaccurate and corrupted by politically motivated executives.  That's not to say that the analysts are not excellent, but that, instead, the superb analytical products of the dedicated professionals at the base of the Intelligence Community are corrupted by senior staff to match the political statement of the day.

So, for him to advise that he will not accept most of what they produce and brief him on is to say that he recognizes that the IC leadership has consistently abused its status, and that its products are all too often suspect as politically motivated.

Trump was correct in his assessment of Intelligence Community estimates:

I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions!
[As a businessman, Trump has had to rely on trusted advisors; we don't think he can trust the IC]

[Disclaimer: The author is no longer involved in, or engaged with the Intelligence Community.  
He served, in succession, as desk officer/analyst at the Pentagon  East Europe, Middle East North Africa, and then Latin America, subsequently becoming the editor of the Black Book, after which he was assigned to the State Department Bureau of Intelligence & Research [INR] assessing threats in developing countries and providing special assessments for two Secretaries of State and as special advisor to Ambassador at Large, Vernon Walters.  He was Special Intelligence Advisor to the CINC Southern Command, and authored the 25-year HUMINT regional strategy.  His Master's degree is in International Economics having completed studies at Oxford and Georgetown Universities and the National Intelligence University.  His operational activities were in developing countries around the world, and he played a key role in the creation of the Defense Clandestine Service as operations officer from 1984-1990.  His Military service included  command of three intelligence units he formed.  His professional citations include The Director of Central Intelligence Exceptional Intelligence Analyst Award, a variety of military awards from the Army and DOD, and special recognition for excellence from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.]