We are experiencing a crisis in this nation. We are seeing a growing divide between a class of self-important imperial mandarins running our intelligence agencies and the men and women who are on the front lines, keeping America safe and fighting this seemingly endless “war on terror.” It is tearing at the fabric of the intelligence community, and it is adding fuel to the partisan divide.
You saw it in the reaction to the Khost attack in 2009 when an Al Qaida double agent, allowed into a CIA base without being searched or in any other manner screened for explosives or weapons detonated a suicide vest and killed or wounded effectively the entire complement of a key CIA installation. Despite the fact the operation was micro managed from the highest levels of the agency, a year-long internal inquiry ultimately found no one at fault and took no action against anyone. The careers, pensions and reputations of senior officers at home were far more important than the broken bodies and shattered lives resulting from the attack. Better that grieving loved ones spend the rest of their lives searching for answers as to how such a tragedy occurred than a senior officer behind a desk in Washington be disciplined for being grossly incompetent.
You saw it in the nauseating cover up engineered in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks of 2012. Four Americans died, including a US ambassador. A diplomatic compound was destroyed. The entire US defense apparatus stood impotent, and only the actions of a handful of intelligence and special operations personnel on the ground prevented an even greater disaster.
The bodies were not cold before the lies began, engineered and back stopped by some of the most senior personnel in our intelligence agencies. Political futures were at stake. There was an election to consider. What did the lives of Americans and the security of our nation count as opposed to that? Not one whit. The men who died in Libya meant nothing compared to the powerful men and women in Washington and careers that needed safeguarded.
You saw it when Sabrina de Sousa, an American citizen accused of taking part in a CIA rendition operation to capture a radical Islamic cleric on Italian soil, was abandoned to European authorities and shipped off to Italy to serve a three-year sentence of confinement. No one spoke up in her defense. The only assistance offered Sabrina as she sat in Lisbon awaiting movement to Italy came in the form of American Embassy officials who wanted to make sure she was complying with all requirements necessary to make sure that her delivery to Italian authorities went smoothly. Scarcely a word was uttered in policy circles in Washington about the shameful precedent being set by our abandonment of one of our own.
You saw it last week when twelve retired senior intelligence and military officers signed on to a letter opposing President Trump’s removal of John Brennan’s security clearance and protesting against the threat to Mr. Brennan’s freedom of speech. I know many of these men. I have had great respect for a number of them. Yet I cannot help but note that while they have stood idle in so many previous circumstances, remaining above the fray and staying outside the political realm, action against one of their own, one of the caste of bureaucrats who run our nation appears to have animated them where other matters have not.
President Trump has a statue of our seventh President, Andrew Jackson, behind his desk. There is a reason. All the Presidents who preceded Jackson were from the young nation’s caste of wealthy aristocrats and merchants. Jackson was not. He was a backwoodsman, born on the frontier and when he spoke he spoke, often coarsely, for the common man. His election said one thing loud and clear to the elite of the young republic.
We are not beholden to you. You do not speak for us.
In similar fashion I feel compelled to make this statement to those senior officers who are nowhere to be found when people are dying and abandoned on foreign shores but work themselves into a white-hot lather at the idea that Mr. Brennan no longer has access to top secret information.
On behalf of all the men and women with muddy boots, who spend their lives in the back alleys and remote mountain ranges of the world keeping the night watch so that their fellow citizens can sleep well in their beds at night. We are not beholden to you. You do not speak for us.