Ron Radosh

Donald Trump's Inexplicable Attack on Our Intelligence Agencies

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In today’s Senate hearings on cyber-security, Sen. Lindsey Graham stated his view clearly that an attack on the Democratic Party was an attack on both parties and the country:

Could it be Republicans next election? It’s not like we’re so much better at cyber-security than Democrats.

Like James Clapper, whom he was interrogating, Graham believes that the judgment of our combined intelligence agencies must be taken seriously; that it was the Russian government at its highest levels — meaning Vladimir Putin — ordering the cyber intrusion into our political system.

Like Presidents Bush and Obama and Secretary Clinton, Trump is under the illusion that he will be able to reset our relations with Putin and tame the Russian Bear. Putin must be having a good laugh.

In a misguided attempt to push American foreign policy in the direction of an alliance with Russia against radical Islam — despite Russia’s support of both Assad’s genocide in Syria and its alliance with Iran — Trump has chosen to publicly undermine our intelligence agencies in a series of tweets. He has also endorsed the words of Julian Assange, a man who in past years has released files that harmed American troops abroad. Assange is taking asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to avoid being transferred to Sweden to be tried for rape.

There are certainly many valid questions to be raised about the CIA’s effectiveness and reliability in the past, as Reuel Marc Gerecht argues in a recent article. But examining how to make the Agency and the other intelligence organizations more effective by candidly acknowledging their failures is quite a different thing from undermining them and accepting the words of one of America’s most fierce and discredited opponents, Julian Assange.

If you doubt who he is, read British journalist Nick Cohen’s evaluation of him in a 2011 column:

David Leigh and Luke Harding’s history of WikiLeaks describes how journalists took Assange to Moro’s, a classy Spanish restaurant in central London. A reporter worried that Assange would risk killing Afghans who had co-operated with American forces if he put U.S. secrets online without taking the basic precaution of removing their names. “Well, they’re informants,” Assange replied. “So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.”

A silence fell on the table as the reporters realised that the man the gullible hailed as the pioneer of a new age of transparency was willing to hand death lists to psychopaths. They persuaded Assange to remove names before publishing the State Department Afghanistan cables. But Assange’s disillusioned associates suggest that the failure to expose “informants” niggled in his mind.

Assange’s leaks, for example, were used by the Taliban to hunt down those he named in WikiLeaks releases. Daniel Yates, a former British military intelligence officer, stated:

Julian Assange has seriously endangered the lives of Afghan civilians.

Noting how many leftists back Assange because he is anti-American and works with neo-fascist opponents of Israel, Cohen writes of the wealthy ones:

Bianca Jagger, Jemima Khan, John Pilger, Ken Loach and their like are fond of the egotistical slogan “not in my name.” They are well-heeled men and women who lead safe and lives, yet are happy to let their names be used by Assange as he brings fear into the lives of others.

Now, sadly and strangely, it seems that President-elect Trump is joining that list of far-left celebrities.

Assange is clearly anti-American and is willing to jeopardize the lives of those fighting our enemies. His words are unreliable. Why, we have to ask, is Donald Trump tweeting the following?

Then he endorsed Sean Hannity’s fawning interview with Assange:


And finally, this one:


He is arguing that Julian Assange and Sean Hannity know more than our own intelligence agencies. He’s also falsely claiming that the meeting between himself and the top intelligence chiefs was delayed so they could build a case. In fact, it had been scheduled for that Friday much earlier, as Trump well knows.

Everyone should read the column in today’s Observer by intelligence analyst John Schindler. The paper is owned by Jared Kushner, which most likely means Kushner and Trump have read it. Schindler writes:

It’s time to be clear about what is happening. Our soon-to-be commander-in-chief is publicly ridiculing our security agencies, while backing a fugitive on the lam from rape charges who is also an agent of the Kremlin. To call this situation unprecedented is an understatement.

Trump has backed himself into a corner with his refusal to consider that the Russians might have had a role in the attacks on his rival in 2016. Now, he is stuck, since the IC [intelligence community] shows no sign of wavering from its conviction that the Kremlin is the guilty party. If the president-elect has no evidence beyond the unsubstantiated assertions of an accused rapist hiding in an embassy for over four years, he has little to stand on.

If you don’t want to believe Schindler, heed the words of one of Trump’s most prominent supporters, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. On Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox News, Cotton answered Carlson’s argument that the U.S. and Russia have a common interest in fighting ISIS:

Well, those other countries don’t do things like beat our diplomats in Moscow when they’re walking in the front door of our embassy. They don’t harass our diplomats throughout Russia and throughout the Middle East. They don’t invade sovereign countries in Europe like Russia did in Ukraine and like they did in Georgia. They don’t supply missiles to rebels that use those missiles to shoot civilian aircraft out of the skies. They don’t run illegal spy rings in our countries for decades who are then exposed.

These are just all examples of things that Russia has done over the last eight years in no small measure because Barack Obama, again, has not just appeased Russia and been weak on Russia, he’s actively undermined efforts by people in Congress like me to take a firmer line.

Cotton then added that Russia was in fact not fighting ISIS in Syria, but the Syrian opposition fighting Bashar Al-Assad:

They haven’t been bombing Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. They’ve been bombing Aleppo, which was the main opposition holdout until it fell last month.

Then, on Morning Joe, Cotton said that he had “a lot more faith in our intelligence officers … than I do with people like Julian Assange.” He also believes that Russian intelligence was behind the hacks of the DNC. His recommendation was to take a “firmer line” against the Russian government.

I’d rather take Tom Cotton’s word than that of Donald Trump. Trump, as Schindler puts it, “believes Moscow — not the government he is about to take over in a couple of weeks.” Indeed, he seems more willing to protect Putin and the FSB and GRU than our nation’s own intelligence agencies. Schindler ends with this warning, which I strongly second:

I want to state that, unless he comes clean and starts accepting reality soon, Trump’s inexplicable gullibility about the Russians will prove to be his political undoing.

Conservatives who like Trump’s appointments, and who have high hopes for the justices he will pick for the Supreme Court, should realize that this is not a reason for them to shill for Trump, and stand behind his every tweet.

Tomorrow will be the test, since Trump will then have his intelligence briefing before the top leaders of the intelligence community. He has a right to question them intensely and demand that they address all of his concerns, but he does not have the right to publicly cast doubt on their findings, and to denigrate the work of those who risk their lives to protect our security. If he continues in this manner, it will be his own credibility with the American people that is at stake.