Trump vindicated as intelligence community undermines its credibility
The writing was on the wall, and President-elect Donald Trump was the only one able to read it: At least some members of the U.S. intelligence community are placing partisan, political interests above America's interest.
It’s unacceptable. It’s wrong. And Trump has rightfully sounded the alarm over the last few weeks.
Donald Trump’s questioning of the intelligence community was prompted by a series of leaks by “anonymous sources” concerning confidential intelligence investigations. The first “anonymous source” told The Washington Post in early December that the CIA had discerned that the motive of Russian hackers in the Democratic National Committee leak was to help Trump win the presidency.
The leak came just days before the intelligence community officially confirmed its unified opinion of Russia’s motive. At the same time, another “anonymous source” leaked to The New York Times the false information that the Republican National Committee’s computer systems had also been hacked.
As recently as this week, several news organizations had reported that the intelligence community had given Trump a two-page summary of a baseless, unsubstantiated report gathered by a private security firm on behalf of Trump’s electoral opponents. The source of this information? Once again, “unnamed sources.”
Given that these leaks all concerned confidential intelligence investigations, it is by no means a far cry for the president-elect to presume that the leakers were intelligence officials.
Moreover, the intelligence branches have a documented history of leaking.
Let’s not forget Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s remarks in 2010 during the Obama administration: "I was in a meeting yesterday with the president, and I was ashamed to have to sit there and listen to the president express his great angst about the leaking that's going on here in this town. … And particularly when it's widely quoted amorphous, anonymous senior intelligence officials, who for whatever reason get their jollies from blabbing to the media.”
But what does Trump get for merely stating his obvious suspicion of leaks originating from intelligence officials? A barrage of criticism from the left and lame accusations that he is undermining the integrity of the intelligence community.
On the contrary, Trump has repeatedly expressed his “tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women” of the intelligence community, both on Friday and again yesterday in his phone call with Clapper.
What the apoplectic left fails to understand is that Trump is not disrespecting the intelligence community: he is merely holding them accountable. After a stream of leaks — which, to be clear, is unlawful — and the intelligence community stonewalling Republicans in Congress who sought information on the Russian hacking, Trump merely called for documented evidence before he accepted the conclusion.
In truth, the outrage is misplaced. Perhaps critics ought to redirect their outrage — not at Trump’s questioning of the intelligence community but at the intelligence community itself. Not only are the leaks of high concern, also of concern is why the intelligence community chose to memorialize false, salacious rumors in an official intelligence report. The information was more suited for the front pages of a supermarket tabloid, not a certified government document.
Remarking on the unprecedented nature of this course of action, former CIA analyst Bryan Dean Wright states, “You don’t do that. We are trained never to do those kinds of things … it’s inappropriate. Until you have the verified information that this is happening … you don’t brief it. You don’t brief rumors.”
Instead of critiquing Trump’s approach to the intelligence community, commentators should be applauding his cautious approach to analyzing intelligence.
It’s undeniable that the U.S. should have been more cautious in acting on the CIA’s “slam dunk case” — in their words — that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. And how about the intelligence community’s 2007 assessment that Iran had halted its nuclear program? These were honest intelligence assessments that just got the facts wrong.
But then there was the dishonest one we learned about in early August from a congressional panel: U.S. Central Command had falsely changed reports to give President Obama “a more positive depiction” of progress against ISIS “than was warranted by facts on the ground.” This was nothing short of an egregious politicization of U.S. intelligence aimed to give Obama the ammo he needed to mislead the American public into a false sense of safety.
Like President-elect Trump, I have deep respect for the men and women in our intelligence community despite these noted flaws. In fact, I have given the intelligence community the benefit of the doubt throughout its investigation into the Russian hacks. But the most recent reported memorialization of sick gossip into a government document proves that Trump’s measured skepticism of intelligence product was merited all along.
Trump simply questioned the intelligence community, for which he was publicly flogged. But, as is so often the case, he was proven right, and the public flogging he received was yet another politicized attempt to discredit the incoming president.
Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN political commentator who recently received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and also studied politics at Oxford University.
The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill