Democrats: Stop Using the Intelligence Bureaucracy to Fight Trump

The circus of the 2016 election was too weird to be explained by ambition. I suspected one of three motives. Keep in mind that I may have been in a state of paranoia:

The geopolitical situation is so precarious that the oligarchs are afraid they’ll lose their hold on world domination if they give up power for four years.

The establishment planned actions on specific dates determined by numerology and astrology and they have to be in control to carry them out.

Any new president will find out what they’ve been up to and neither Party could take a chance on that new president being Bernie Sanders.

But then I learned of a forth motive. An article in the June issue of Harper’s reveals the stranglehold that un-elected individuals in the intelligence and security establishment have on international policy. Apparently, whatever may have been going on during the election, we are now witnessing a fight to the death between competing intelligence interests. Trump’s firing of James Comey was part of this fight. However, this is not a fight between Republican and Democrat. You and I are not even in the game.

This is the video that made me decide to write about this today. Before I go on it’s important to mention that this is definitely not the time to get bogged down in partisan politics, nor is it the time to demonize figures on the ‘other’ side because that will never give you a complete picture of what’s really going on. The video’s focus is an article on Circa by John Solomon and Sara A. Carter concerning the establishment’s frantic effort to hide evidence of illegal information gathering and surveillance of the American population. This activity was also revealed in George Web’s videos, but the article in Circa claims that evidence of it was presented to James Comey and that he failed to act on it. (http://circa.com/politics/accountability/james-comey-sued-by-intelligence-contractor-dennis-montgomery-over-spying-on-americans)

But the problem is much bigger than the current actors. In the Harper’s article Michael J. Glennon describes its history:

“A defacto directorate of several hundred managers, sitting atop dozens of military, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the National Reconnaissance Office, has come to dominate national security policy, displacing the authority not only of Congress but of the courts and the presidency as well. The precise sizes of the agencies’ budgets and workforces are classified in many cases, but the numbers are indisputably enormous—a total annual outlay of around $1 trillion, and employees numbering in the millions.”

It began with the policy of containment of the Soviet Union. Harry Truman centralized national security decision-making, supposedly to end the ‘internecine warfare’ between U. S. armed services after World War II. Then Congress created the modern Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and the National Security Council. Truman established the National Security Agency personally, through a secret order. Liberals generally approved of these actions, but conservatives feared it was a threat to democratic institutions and civilian control of the military. And they were right in this case.

Power has gradually been transferred from elected officials to bureaucrats. In order to maintain the legitimacy of our democratic institutions, the illusion is perpetuated that national security is controlled by our constitutionally established democratic institutions. To this end, successive presidents projected an image of unity between themselves and the security directorate. Obama is a good example of this.

“When the Pentagon advocated a troop surge in Afghanistan, Obama kept his disagreement largely out of the public eye. When NSA mass surveillance became a public embarrassment, Obama stuck with the organization. When his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, lied about it to Congress, Obama did nothing. And when the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report sparked calls to punish the torturers and their bosses, Obama came to their defense. No one was prosecuted.”

However, after the NSA’s eavesdropping on Angela Merkel the facade began to crumble: Obama’s national security advisor claimed the president knew nothing about it (Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that some of these programs were on automatic pilot); the courts used ‘ringing rule-of-law rhetoric’ in high-profile disputes about national security but not so much when it came to unlawful war-making, torture, surveillance, and kidnapping; and Congress’s role in defining national security became more and more ceremonial.

By the time Donald Trump appeared on the scene, the bureaucracy’s dominance was out in the open. Early in the campaign Trump criticized the military’s top brass and the intelligence community. Then after the election he refused to attend security briefings, which have become agenda-setting meetings where the agency lays out the framework for thinking about international developments.  (There is an activist internationalist nature of these briefings, which Glennon criticizes for taking precedence over domestic priorities, but of course domestic priorities are not high on Donald Trump’s list either.)

In response, intelligence officials have allegedly withheld sensitive information from Trump and refused to give security clearance to one of his NSC officials who reportedly had been critical of the CIA. However the leak has been the Bureaucracy’s weapon of choice.

Finally, the Democrats’ approach is not better than that of the president or the bureaucracy. The Democrats have apparently been using the security bureaucracy as their best hope ever since its disclosure of Russian interference in the election. They seem to believe that the Security directorate can act as a check on presidential policies, however this would actually represent an ‘entirely new form of government’ in which institutionalized, bureaucratic autocracy would displace democratic accountability. We have already seen the abuses of unchecked security forces in the United States. The bureaucracy was never intended to be a coequal of Congress, the courts, and the president.

Glennon warns of serious consequences as a result of both strategies–the White House and the intelligence bureaucracy–and argues that they are not really working for either side. They cast doubt on the soundness of Trump’s security decisions and undermine his authority, because regardless of what Trump thinks of the bureaucracy he needs intelligence to make good decisions. And they also hamstring the intelligence community whose credibility is derived from the public’s belief that it is controlled by elected officials.

Again, lest you think this is an argument for Donald Trump, savior, Glennon suggests an even darker scenario:

Trump’s adversaries assume the security bureaucracy will fight him to the death, but the White House does have power in such a fight. What if the result were the desertion of some factions within the bureaucracy who approve of many potential Trump initiatives, such as stepped-up drone strikes, cyberattacks, covert action, immigration bans, and mass surveillance?

“Undoubtedly, some officials will leave when faced with Trump’s sticks. But plenty, I suspect, will overcome their qualms, accept Trump’s carrots, and do his bidding. I have witnessed this dynamic firsthand. In 1978, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was interested in what steps American law enforcement and countrintelligence officials were taking (or not taking) to stop the intelligence services of repressive ‘allies,’ such as Pinochet’s Chile, the shah’s Iran, and Marcos’s Philippines, from harassing, surveilling, and intimidating opponents within the United States. In Langley, Fort Meade, and elsewhere, my colleagues and I took the (still classified) statements of dozens of security officials. Some of them described conduct they found deeply repugnant. But we encountered no one who had objected, and identified no official who had resigned in disagreement. Everyone stayed.”(Michael J. Glennon, Security Breach: Trump’s tussle with the bureaucratic state. Harper’s, June 2017)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s