US spies have raised alarms about “inexperienced loyalists” threatening their jobs
Former US President Donald Trump is “likely” to launch sweeping reforms of the US intelligence community if he is re-elected in November, prompting concerns from the agencies that once baselessly accused him of ties to Russia.
Politico interviewed 18 intelligence officials – including several former Trump appointees who later came out as his outspoken critics – in an article published on Monday, warning that the possible purge could “undermine the credibility of American intelligence.”
“Trump intends to go after the intelligence community,” said one former senior intelligence official. “He started that process before and he’s going to do it again. Part of that process is to root out people and to punish people.”
The new president would replace “people perceived as hostile to his political agenda with inexperienced loyalists,” Politico summarized the claim by Trump critics.
The two people specifically named were former acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell and aide Kash Patel, who played a key role in declassifying materials about the origins of ‘Russiagate’.
Politico acknowledged that Trump’s hostility to the intelligence community was related to the infamous document claiming that Russia “interfered” in the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton. It quoted former FBI official Andrew McCabe defending the inclusion of the so-called Steele Dossier – produced by a former British spy paid by the Clinton campaign via cut-outs – in the appendix as merely due diligence.
Though the FBI quickly found out that the dossier was false and who funded it, they continued to use it to spy on Trump’s campaign and presidency.
When Trump challenged the intelligence assessment – authored not by all 17 agencies, but a hand-picked group of Obama administration loyalists – at the July 2018 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the spies felt that “never before had a commander in chief so publicly delegitimized their work.” Trump’s DNI Dan Coats told Politico that this prompted him to offer his resignation in February 2019 – which was eventually accepted that August.
Other Trump appointees turned critics interviewed in the article were former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Fiona Hill, a top Russia adviser on the National Security Council – and witness against Trump at his Ukraine impeachment trial.
“He wants to weaponize the intelligence community,” lamented Hill. “If he guts the intel on one thing, he’ll be partially blinding us.”
Several unnamed officials said Trump’s possible purges could jeopardize “sources and methods” used by US spies and undermine the trust American allies have in Washington, which the Biden administration has tried so hard to rebuild. Back in December, a diplomat from an unnamed NATO member country described Trump getting re-elected and actually purging the US administrative apparatus as a “doomsday option.”
Others worried that appointments of “controversial” figures could lead competent junior officials and staff to resign.
“There are thousands of people busting their ass, often in dangerous places, sacrificing a lot for the country. And to have their work just dismissed by a commander in chief, is really just discouraging,” Jon Darby, former director of operations at the National Security Agency (NSA), told Politico.
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