Trump’s Intelligence Purge Rattles National Security Establishment

John Brennan
John Brennan’s crisis (Credit: Jefferson Morley)

Former CIA director John Brennan calls it a “full blown national security crisis.”

Soon to be ex-acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire says Congress that Russia is seeking to influence in the 2020 presidential election on behalf of President Trump.

Trump is replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, a former spokesman for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Grenell, now serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany, has no intelligence experience. In Germany, he mostly ingratiated himself with Germany’s far-right Afd party.

Other major changes at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are coming, according to the Daily Beast.

According to several sources, including one former high-ranking intelligence official, ODNI Principal Executive Andrew Hallman is departing, as is ODNI General Counsel Jason Klitenic. Klitenic’s last day is March 2, a DNI spokesperson said.

Klitenic offended the White House last September when he favored sending the complaint of a CIA whistleblower about Trump’s Ukraine policy to Congress. Bill Barr’s Justice Department sought to block the complaint, a decision denounced by dozens of inspectors general in the federal government.

The DNI, created in 2004, is not an intelligence agency itself but it oversees the work of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, whose collective budgets amount to $75 billion annually.

With CIA director Gina Haspel cheering his State of the Union address, Trump seems closer to gaining control of the U.S. intelligence community that he was a month ago.

The problem facing Brennan and other critics from the intelligence community is that Trump has weaponized official secrecy and policy failures to demonize them in the eyes of his supporters. Conservative Republicans who long supported the CIA and other secret agencies now fear them as a “deep state cabal” out to get the president.

Brennan charges “Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow’s interests, not America’s.” There’s evidence this is true but the key pieces of CIA’s reporting remains secret, making it difficult to confirm the allegation. The latest Senate intelligence Committee report still redacts the details of the 2016 finding that led to the investigation of Trump, Mueller’s probe, and impeachment.

Brennan, personally, has credibility problems. His role in the CIA’s breaking into the offices of the Senate Intelligence Committee during its investigation of the CIA’s torture regime rankled Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the intelligence committee at the time. (The story of the burglary and Brennan’s role in it is accurately dramatized in the movie, “The Report,” starring Annette Bening as Feinstein.).

Brennan’s bullying still bothers Democrats uncomfortable with a former spy intervening in presidential politics. If Brennan and friends savage Trump, what will they do to President Bernie Sanders or President Elizabeth Warren who promise to break with 70 years of national security dogma?

As a cable news pundit, Brennan overstated the case for Trump’s collusion with Russian state actors, which Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller concluded did not involve a criminal conspiracy. Brennan’s criticisms of Trump’s ignorance and mendacity were accurate enough (and his shoutout to Colin Kaepernick showed his wokeness). But he never proved “treason.”

The larger problem for Brennan and Co. is that “national security” has lost its power to mobilize public opinion. The national security arguments driving the House passed articles of impeachment were the weakest link in a case that persuaded only one Republican senator to vote for Trump’s removal.

In the era of endless war, the public has become skeptical of national security claims–from Iraq’s non-existent WMD, to the notion that torture “works,” to “progress” in Afghanistan, to the supreme importance of Ukraine–because they have so often turned out to be more self-serving than true.

The prospect of a Trump gaining control of the U.S. intelligence community is scary. The awesome power of the CIA in the hands of an authoritarian executive with foreign patrons is a frightening prospect. The ongoing, unacknowledged failures of U.S. national security doctrine are paving his way.

One Reply to “Trump’s Intelligence Purge Rattles National Security Establishment”

  1. Waking up and smelling the Roses.

    Well this is very disturbing.

    Though not nearly as disturbing as this I write about below. We do seem to be speaking about similar issues though wouldn’t you say?

    From the Mint Press by Whitney Webb, “With Grenell Appointment, the Israeli Lobby’s Foothold on US Intelligence Grows Even Stronger”.

    This after criticism of the appointment from both sides of the aisle.

    In addition NSA Director of Cyber Security, Anne Neuberger is married to Yehuder Neuberger who serves as chair of AIPAC’s Executive Council in Baltimore.

    Anne Neuberger is also chair head and deputy chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, PIAB.

    PIAB (this is taken word for word from the Webb article) “PIAB is chaired by Stephen Feinberg, billionaire owner of Cerberus capitol management which owns the scandal ridden U.S. military and intelligence contractor Dyncorp.”

    Mr. Feinbuerg is a good friend of Jared Kushner.

    Ms. Webb continues naming names and telling all. I’ll stop here because of my pledge to cease and desist and the list of names just grows and grows. Trust me Jeff you may want to read this effort of Webb’s, she seems to confirm what I have been saying about a takeover of our government from the inside by billionaires behaving very badly.

    In eight months if trump gets beat and willingly leaves office I suspect he will take flight to Israel our great ally who have no extradition treaty with the U.S.

    I would also like to address Trumps winnowing of staff in his search to eliminate all but boot licking lackey Nazis.

    Like all authoritarian rulers he is reducing the number of individuals not known to be loyal to him to consolidate power. You should be able to see this considering your experience in this area.

    I’ll give you some wholesome advice read this article and educate your self about the enemy within.

    Trump has dug a hole for himself now. Anyone with half a brain knows this guy is unfit to run the country. I suppose we can continue to let him run rough shod over the constitution and DOJ but at what cost to the country.

    By the way, Putin is still winning.

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