President Trump’s purge of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence now extends to a larger assault on the inspectors general of the U.S. government. Trump has installed loyalist Richard Grenell as the Acting Director of the Office of National Intelligence but he is not seeking to purge the CIA or FBI, the “deep state” agencies he demonizes. Trump is targetting. the enforcers of federal government rules against discrimination, self-dealing, and misadministration.
Trump’s remaking of the Office of Director of National Intelligence is “is part of a broader degradation of accountability and oversight mechanisms across government,” says David Ignatius in the The Washington Post.
An invidious part of Trump’s campaign is his attempt to undermine the inspector general system itself. These officials serve in 73 agencies across the government and are supposed to provide independent, nonpartisan reporting of abuses to Congress and the executive branch. Fourteen IG positions are vacant, including those at the CIA, Defense, Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services. On Friday, Trump nominated officials to fill five of these open positions, but many of his nominees have administration political ties. For example, Brian Miller, his choice for a special inspector general post to audit the pandemic recovery program, serves in the White House counsel’s office and helped manage document releases during the impeachment probe.
Trump’s purge has rattled the national security establishment. But does it make us less safe?
The chiefs of Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad, have long been public figures in Israel. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo made headlines by saying Israel’s security would be enhanced by some kind of deal.
When the Obama and administration and five world powers were negotiating the Iran deal, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy made headlines by supporting the agreement.
But, until now, no Mossad chief has ever moved on to become the country’s prime minister. That could change with the growing political profile of Yossie Cohen, the current Mossad chief. Cohen is not shy about sharing his covert exploits (he spoke with pride recently about Mossad’s assassination program). He does not deny his political ambitions.
Cohen is one of the two people directly suggested by Prime Minister Netanyahu as his successors in the future – the other being Ron Dermer, who is now Ambassador to US. Cohen is playing it smooth: “People tell me that I can step into Netanyahu’s shoes. I certainly see myself in the Israeli leadership also in the future. But I have not yet decided.” Cohen is likely to continue his job for a couple of years, to end up with a five-year term like his predecessor Tamir Pardo, and then he would have to be on a three-year “cooling-down” period before entering politics. Benny Gantz went into politics right after his period was over, after he was army Chief of Staff.
Its seems like spy chiefs are growing into political roles everywhere. Vladimir Putin was a KGB intelligence officer. Former intel chiefs John Brennan, James Clapper and Michael Hayden are leading critics of Trump. Yossi Cohen follows in their footsteps.
A new Reuters story, published by Ha’aretz in Israel, says the CIA does not spy on the United Arab Emirates, a key Middle Eastern ally that is pulling out of the U.S.-backed war in Yemen. If true, its a blind spot at a time when the region is on the brink of war and U.S. allies are turning on Washington in response to Israeli attacks.
And yet, in a highly unusual practice, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) does not spy on the UAE’s government, three former CIA officials familiar with the matter told Reuters, creating what some critics call a dangerous blind spot in U.S. intelligence. The CIA’s posture isn’t new. What’s changed is the nature of the tiny but influential OPEC nation’s intervention across the Middle East and Africa – fighting wars, running covert operations and using its financial clout to reshape regional politics in ways that often run counter to U.S. interests, according to the sources and foreign policy experts.