Secretocracy (3)

I want to return to the last thought in yesterday’s blog post: the damage to our intelligence agencies wrought by the Trump administration and the resulting danger to our republic.

I know all too well the experience of reporting valid intelligence findings and having them ignored by government leaders. As the fall of Saigon loomed, I repeatedly warned U.S. officials of the coming disaster. They paid no heed. The president, secretary of state, and the U.S. ambassador in Saigon were all surprised when the North Vietnamese attacked Saigon even though I and others had been foretelling the assault for weeks based on irrefutable evidence. That came at the end of a thirteen-year battle I’d had with intelligence recipients warning them what the North Vietnamese were doing only to have them dismiss the warnings. Starting a week before the 1968 Tet Offensive, for example, my agency, the National Security Agency (NSA), had, at my behest, been alerting U.S officials that the communists were about to launch a country-wide offensive. Our warning was discounted, and the U.S. was taken by surprise.

On the other side of the coin, I know of half a dozen instances when intelligence warning prevented a hostile move by a foreign government. In each of these cases, the U.S. public never knew of the foreign threat or of the U.S. action to thwart it. To protect the information sources and methods involved, the entire incident remained classified.

We are now facing a threat I never saw the likes of during my thirty-five years in intelligence: a president who not only ignores intelligence but is actually hostile to it. We know that early this year President Trump dismissed repeated warnings from the intelligence community that a pandemic was about to hit the U.S and didn’t act to protect the health of American citizens. We know that he has sought to suppress alerts that Russians and others are preparing to interfere in the 2020 election. We know that he fired the Director of National Intelligence when an intelligence expert warned Congress about the Russian threat.

The president and the Republicans who support him risk severe damage to our country by disregarding and even attacking intelligence. By turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the threats against us and attacking those who give warning, the leaders now in power are inviting disaster.

We are, in short, in grave danger.

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