The Real Reason for Flynn's First Firing

Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

The Department of Justice has requested, with prejudice, to withdraw the case former Obama administration officials built against retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Americans now need to investigate why outgoing President Obama told incoming President Trump that after Kim Jong-un, the only other issue he had to worry about was General Flynn. The answers will lead us to intelligence reform.


We don’t have a fully coherent explanation in the public discussion for why Director Comey’s FBI targeted General Flynn in a perjury trap. The dominant media narrative asserts attacking General Flynn was a stepping-stone to weakening President Trump’s administration by targeting his appointed officials. However, the Washington establishment’s fear and animus toward Mr. Trump only partially explains the FBI’s extraordinarily corrupt conspiracy targeting and trapping the retired war veteran general.

There’s more. The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC), of which the FBI is a member, deeply feared General Flynn because of his attempted reforms as director of the underperforming Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which for $22 billion dollars per year was not able to recognize Islamic terrorism, assess the People’s Republic of China (PRC) being engaged in expansionism, or warn of other threats to the United States, even as those issues were discussed in newspapers around the world. 

General Flynn served in an age of wonder. ISIS was burning pilots in cages, mass-raping Yazidi cities, and pushing homosexuals off buildings. Russian green men with heavy weapons invaded Ukraine. The president of the PRC stood next to the president of the United States in the Rose Garden and declared to the world that China would not militarize the South China Sea even though the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had already begun building artillery emplacements at its military occupations. American leaders proclaimed admiration for the Venezuelan dictator, who was dragging his nation toward famine. Castro schooled Obama at a baseball game while the Cuban dictator’s regime sonically attacked U.S. diplomats. The International Monetary Fund broke its own rules to extend special withdrawal rights to China’s RMB, which only stays stable by communist fiat. Washington brokered an agreement which had Beijing anticipating reaping tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars from the UN Climate Fund. The U.S. Air Force flew planeloads of gold and booty to Iranian leaders, who immediately funneled the treasure to General Soleimani’s terrorists. PLA Navy officers were toasted by U.S. Navy leaders in Hawaii while the Chinese communists simultaneously aggressed Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam in East Asia. 


Throughout this period DIA remained gobsmacked, spinning events to fit Ben Rhodes’ narratives of U.S. leadership and control even as U.S. influence plummeted and instability exploded. The Obama administration had elevated senior intelligence executives whose core competence was alignment of intelligence assessments to political narratives rather than objective assessment of the real world. Twenty-two billion dollars per year is a lot to pay for wrong answers that were too biased to serve any purpose in the defense of the United States. The assessments were kept secret, in any case, except to our closest allies, which began to lose faith in us.

General Flynn attempted to rationalize the mess DIA had become but he came under attack from above and below. The well-paid and privileged leadership team he inherited at DIA had a white-hot hatred of him. They slandered him as a loose cannon, called him a “dumpster fire,” and undercut him at every opportunity

Retired Lieutenant General James Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence, senior to General Flynn who at the time was still on active duty. While DIA leaders undercut General Flynn from below, Mr. Clapper attacked General Flynn from above because General Flynn was committing the ultimate sin of the Obama administration: he was telling the truth rather than repeating Ben Rhodes’ narratives. (Full disclosure: I am not unbiased. I gave a speech in 2014 which discussed PRC maritime expansionism in the South China Sea which the Obama administration and DIA at the time denied was happening. I was warned immediately afterward and fired later in that year.)


When President Trump was elected, General Flynn posed an existential threat to the secret mandarins of the USIC. Americans had a sense that the federal government had spun out of control, and General Flynn as national security advisor would help President Trump end the corruption and rebuild the IC.

General Flynn had already established credibility in the field in Afghanistan as a change agent who could strategically outwit terrorists, and next as director of DIA where he challenged the entrenched status quo of expensive fabrication of endless politically correct assessments. 

The nation is correctly focused on the lawlessness of the Obama administration, but Americans should not forget that the reason General Flynn was fired the first time by the Obama administration was because of his honesty, not because he lied. The FBI’s carefully constructed perjury trap came later in a Soviet-style attempt to slander Mr. Flynn with the antonym of his chief virtue.

A second Trump administration must make intelligence community reform across all 17 agencies a top priority, because the very essence of useful intelligence assessments is to accept the truth as it exists in front of us, not the party line.


Captain James Fanell (retired) is the former Director for Intelligence for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet in Honolulu.


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