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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump v. the CIA

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of ethical laxity and carelessness about state secrets. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger at NYT:
President Trump’s order allowing Attorney General William P. Barr to declassify any intelligence that led to the Russia investigation sets up a potential confrontation with the C.I.A. It effectively strips the agency of its most critical power: choosing which secrets it shares and which ones remain hidden.

Mr. Trump said on Friday that he wanted Mr. Barr to “get to the bottom” of what the intelligence agencies knew about the investigation into his campaign. He promised, “We’re exposing everything.”
...
Traditionally, the C.I.A. has been effective at intramural governmental fights, in large measure because its power comes from its information and its closely guarded secrets. By taking that power from the intelligence agencies, Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr may have weakened the C.I.A.

Sonam Sheth at Business Insider:
"There's a reason why the CIA is so vigilant about guarding its sources," one former CIA covert operative, who requested anonymity to freely discuss how the agency handles sensitive information, told INSIDER. "It's because lives are on the line. The AG is either ignorant of that fact, or he doesn't care. Either way, it's horrifying."
The politicization of sources and methods could also have far-reaching effects on agencies' ability to gather intelligence in the first place.
"Why would a source want to cooperate with us if we cannot protect his or her identity?" former FBI agent Frank Montoya Jr., who retired in 2016, told INSIDER. "Or, just as importantly, the information they share with us? It will endanger the lives of sources if their identities or that information becomes public."
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent, largely agreed.
"Make no mistake: If Barr discloses the identities of CIA and [counterintelligence] sources providing information on Russia he is disabling our intelligence capacities to Russia's advantage," Rangappa wrote. "It puts sources providing intelligence in danger and cripples the [intelligence community's] ability to recruit new sources."