Last week the heads of the United States Intelligence Community delivered to Congress their annual assessment of the threats facing the United States. As part of that assessment, the agency chiefs informed Congress “we continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions.” That assessment places the Intelligence Community in direct opposition to the President of the United States, who has made it clear on many occasions that that he believes the ongoing negotiations with North Korea, in which he is personally taking the lead, are moving along nicely in the direction of full nuclear disarmament by Kim Jong-un.
The hastily arranged White House meeting, after the fact, and the announcement that the media had simply mischaracterized what had been said, only confirmed the lack of prior coordination and the White House’s anger at being blind-sided.
The Intelligence Community works for the Executive Branch
To understand just how radical and damaging the action by the Intelligence Community leadership was, let’s take a moment and review how the process works in Washington with regard to assessments like that delivered last week.
The DNI serves as the head of the Intelligence Community. The U.S. Intelligence Community is a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations, including the ODNI, within the Executive Branch that work both independently and collaboratively to gather and analyze the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities.https://www.dni.gov/index.php/what-we-do
The Intelligence Community works for the Executive Branch. That means it works for President Donald Trump. That is true for the lowest guy or gal in an organization. It is no less true for the heads of the agencies that form the Intelligence Community.
An assessment like that delivered last week is not simply delivered to Congress without prior coordination and review by the White House. When such an assessment includes a judgment that the President is being played by the North Koreans and wasting his time on a fool’s errand that is doubly true. One would reasonably expect that the comments regarding North Korea in the threat assessment would have been the subject of direct, personal conversations between the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Advisor. This would not be the kind of issue resolved at junior levels. It would have gone directly to the top.
In the course of that coordination process every effort would normally be made to massage language and scrutinize assessments to avoid ever putting the heads of the Intelligence Community in the position of going to Congress and directly contradicting a sitting President. When the language in question, as in this case, concerned a speculative assessment as to what the North Koreans might or might not intend to do at some future date, the pressure to modify or “word smith” language would be intense.
Undermining national security?
When and if the Intelligence Community did, in fact, come to a point where it believed that it could not in good conscience, and consistent with professional ethics, change an assessment to avoid a head on collision with the President, then that assessment would most certainly be delivered behind closed doors to Congress in a classified setting. Everyone involved would be fully cognizant that a public display of division and disagreement at the highest levels of the federal government could be extremely damaging to ongoing negotiations and might hand North Korea a decisive advantage.
An assessment that the President of the United States is wrong, he is wasting time on negotiations and that North Korea is simply playing a game to extract concessions from the United States would never, under any normal circumstances be delivered in an open session before Congress nor included in an unclassified document released to the entire world.
Yet, that is exactly what happened. In fact, to all appearances, given the reaction of the President after the report was made public, this threat assessment was never coordinated in any fashion with the President or with his National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Instead, the heads of the Intelligence Community apparently bypassed the White House entirely and delivered of their own accord to Congress a report that makes the President out to be a fool and may, in fact torpedo ongoing, sensitive talks that appear to be our best chance ever for real progress with Pyongyang.
This did not happen by accident. This was not an oversight. This can only have been a deliberate effort to undercut a sitting President, to sabotage his foreign policy and to impact domestic politics. We have seen many examples over the past several years of senior members of federal agencies acting in a partisan fashion. That has been particularly true of senior executives with connections to the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party. The ongoing Mueller witch hunt is the outgrowth of just such efforts on the part of civil servants who should be acting in an impartial manner on behalf of the American people – not taking sides and attempting to dictate or overturn electoral results.
The actions of the Intelligence Community chiefs in regard to the North Korea assessment are, if anything, even more disturbing. This report was not delivered to Congress by John Brennan, mouthpiece for “Clinton, Inc.” and a known Democratic shill. This report was delivered to Congress by men and women serving this President. The essence of the North Korea assessment, in fact, could only have come from the Central Intelligence Agency, headed by Gina Haspel, who was appointed to her post by President Trump only eight months ago.
This was not an attack from outside. This was a brazen attack on this President from inside what should be his inner circle. Perhaps not since Caesar’s assassination on the floor of the Roman Senate has there been such betrayal.
Et tu Gina?