The 2020 election is about many issues, but one crucial one is the status of America’s intelligence apparatus. Do our intel agencies serve the American people — or their own interests and lefty agendas?
President Trump wants reform. Judging by their fevered activism of late, pro-Biden ex-spies hope a new administration will permit them to return to business as usual.
Of course, Biden supporters claim that a Biden administration would cleanse an Intelligence Community horribly politicized by Trump officials. The mainstream media is happy to repeat this claim without question, because it has ignored — and often facilitated — unprecedented efforts by the Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton campaign to weaponize intelligence to undermine the Trump candidacy and presidency.
Witness the recent claim by 50-plus former intelligence officers that the Hunter Biden e-mails uncovered by this newspaper are Russian disinformation.
It doesn’t matter that, as former officers, they don’t have access to any intelligence to confirm this claim. Never mind, too, that they have no evidence for the claim — zilch. The purpose of their letter was to discredit the firm statement by someone who does have access to classified intelligence and said there is no link between The Post’s Hunter Files and Russia: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.
This is part of a long tradition of dishonesty by liberal politicians, some spooks and the mainstream media about politics in US intelligence agencies. They constantly peddle the myth that intelligence agencies are virtually immune to political influences and only Republican administrations can be guilty of undermining the integrity of their work for political reasons.
From my experience working in the Intelligence Community under presidents of both parities, from Ronald Reagan to Trump, I know Washington is a political town and that it is impossible to completely shield any government agency from politics. Like other agencies, intelligence organizations must compete for attention and resources from the White House and Congress. They also have ambitious individuals, disgruntled workers and outright partisans happy to meddle in domestic politics.
As a CIA officer, I witnessed politicization of intelligence to undermine the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations and politicization to bolster the foreign-policy agendas of the Clinton and Obama administrations. Most intelligence officers who engaged in such unethical activity got away with it; many were rewarded.
Even before Trump was elected, I predicted that he would have a lot of trouble with the Intelligence Community, because it increasingly tilts left. I couldn’t have imagined how bad this problem would be: that intelligence would be weaponized against a duly elected administration.
This included leaked National Security Agency reports, the unmasking of Trump campaign officials from intelligence reports and the use of a fraudulent dossier paid for by the Democratic National Committee to justify foreign-intel warrants to spy on Team Trump.
Trump administration efforts to counter this problem came too little, too late. Only after reports by Attorney General Bill Barr and Justice Department Inspector General Horowitz in 2019, and documents released by Trump appointees, did the American people begin to fathom the depths of anti-Trump intelligence abuse.
Many of the documents on the Russia-collusion hoax still haven’t been released, because of resistance by CIA Director Gina Haspel — a pure careerist — and attorneys in the DNI’s office.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration made significant progress publicizing rampant politicization in intelligence agencies and offset some of it through staffing changes and reorganization in the DNI office.
Biden officials-in-waiting are desperate to reverse the Trump administration’s modest gains in depoliticizing intelligence. They seek to discredit the evidence that our Intelligence Community weaponized against Trump.
Even more worrisome, if past is precedent, Team Biden is likely to greatly expand the Obama administration’s abusive politicization of intelligence and use it to target political enemies.
A second term would give the president an opportunity to finish what his administration started with respect to intelligence. It also could significantly improve the quality and usefulness of intelligence analysis, by making it less risk-averse and streamlining the Intelligence Community’s massive and lumbering bureaucracy. The stakes are that high for our security.
Fred Fleitz, a former executive secretary of the National Security Council under President Trump, was a CIA analyst from 1986 to 2005. Twitter: @FredFleitz