A Contrarian View on Trump and Classified Intelligence

by N. M. GUARIGLIA May 18, 2017

Was our source really a Turkish operative?

One day, many years from now, some brave journalist - who will probably end up being mysteriously murdered on the streets of Washington, D.C. - will write a Thucydides-style history on all things Trump-and-Russia.  The name of this massive undertaking could be called The Donald and the Deep State.  Such a volume would probably exceed 3,000 pages; at last count, there are about 100 individual chapters to this whole kit and caboodle.

There's WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  That's a chapter. 

There's Michael Flynn and Sergey Kislyak.  That's another chapter. 

There's Susan Rice and Sally Yates.  Those ladies each get their own chapter. 

There's Roger Stone and the "Romanian" hacker, Guccifer 2.0. 

There's John Podesta and his Russian financiers. 

There's Paul Manafort and his Ukrainian clients. 

There's Ben Rhodes, James Clapper, and John Brennan - and whatever the hell they were up to.

There's Carter Page and the discredited "BuzzFeed dossier."

There's Slick Willie and Loretta Lynch on the tarmac. 

There's Hillary and Huma smashing their phones with a hammer. 

There's James Comey and how everyone hates but needs him simultaneously.

There's Putin and Trump... and "sick guy" Obama.  I could go on.

Each side is effectively accusing the other side of committing the biggest scandal in American history.  Nice, right?  What a time to be alive!  I follow this stuff and even I can't keep up.  It's impossible to fully connect the dots as of this writing.  Anyone that tells you otherwise has a biased dog in the fight.

Naturally, level-headed people think: "Let's just appoint a special prosecutor and get to the bottom of it."  Such a sentiment is understandable - and may eventually be the answer - but I fear it currently misses the forest for the trees.  For starters, what crime would such a prosecutor be investigating?  As it stands, despite being under some sort of domestic counterintelligence surveillance since July 2016, nobody in Trump World has yet been accused of anything illegal.  That little detail is a direct body-blow to the mainstream narrative; an incontrovertible fact that simply has not yet been reconciled with the level of media frenzy devoted to this so-called #Russiagate "scandal."

Secondly, appointing a special prosecutor presumes that Trump's most committed enemies have altruistic and objective intentions; that they "just want the truth to come out."  I suspect they do not.  I suspect any conclusion from an independent investigation that does not result in Trump's impeachment or resignation (or heart attack) will be deemed insufficient.  I suspect they prefer the drip, drip, drip of daily leaks, political warfare, and weaponized information.  Think about it: these Deep State spooks are committing 30-to-life crimes by leaking classified information to the press corps.  Treason.  High crimes and misdemeanors.  Do you really think that they're taking these personal risks because they're indifferent as to whether or not Trump is destroyed?  Of course not.  Their knives are out and they're out for blood. 

Meanwhile, the 24/7 daily news cycle - i.e., the Comcast-owned (NBC), Time Warner-owned (CNN), Jeff Bezos-owned (WaPo), George Soros-owned corporate media that lobbies, colludes with, and bankrolls basically any politician not named "Donald J. Trump" - seems entirely reactionary to the messy and decentralized Twittersphere underworld, openly disseminating "smoking gun" "breaking news" by the hour.  All from anonymous leakers.

As a country, we seemed trapped in a sort of information-vortex that only further adds to the confusion and mystery.  The latest media effluvia has Trump reportedly sharing top secret intelligence with two Russian officials in the Oval Office, which was first sorta-kinda denied by Trump's national security advisor, but then sorta-kinda defended by Trump himself.

Okay.  What should we make of all this?  What did Trump actually reveal to the Russians? 

In short, it looks like he told them that we know a guy - let's call him Mr. X - located in some various location - let's call it Location Y - who has "discovered" that ISIS wants to kill us all.  Specifically, that ISIS wants to use laptops as bombs to take down airliners. 

Pardon the levity, but... YeahAnd?

Is it really top secret information that ISIS wants to blow us all up?  Or that Islamic terrorists like to attack civilian airliners?  I'm pretty sure the Ruskies are tracking.  ISIS already took down a Russian civilian airliner in 2015, killing 224 innocent people.  Why should our common enemy's tactical methods - using laptops as bombs, for instance - be kept from public knowledge?  Wasn't this already public information and reported by CNN more than a month ago?  Isn't this obvious?  Is nobody else paying attention?

If America receives intelligence that ISIS is planning to use laptops as bombs to take down planes, shouldn't everyone in the world be made aware of this fact?  Furthermore, shouldn't we be openly and publicly mocking ISIS - as part of a psychological operations strategy - for this pathetic and lame-as-hell plan?  They've already tried putting bombs in their shoes and setting their underwear on fire.  This is what they've come up with after nearly two decades?  These cats are a logistical goat-rope.  (This is what Trump should be tweeting.)

What is the tangible benefit in keeping this information a secret from other nations?  The only benefit I can think of is political: preserving Mr. X as a source.  Fine.  But why would telling the Russian foreign minister about Mr. X's existence undermine our intelligence-sharing relationship with Mr. X and his government?  It shouldn't.  It wouldn't.  America is at war with ISIS in Syria-Iraq.  Russia is at war with ISIS in Syria-Iraq.  Mr. X and his government are presumably at war with ISIS in Syria-Iraq.  Perhaps we should all get on the same page and defeat ISIS in Syria-Iraq?  Just an idea.  That would probably require sharing our Syria-Iraq intelligence with the Russians.  But isn't that what Barack Obama tried to do time and again?

The whole thing is overblown.  The New York Times, of Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews fame and shame, is saying our source is Israeli intelligence.  Ironically, this leak reveals and jeopardizes more information than Trump leaked himself!  Are Trump's many critics capable of taking a second to step back and observe the absurdity in all of this?  Trump is revealed to have done an arguably stupid but legal thing - declassifying intelligence in conversation - but the leaks designed to "keep him in check" ended up publically circulating more sensitive information and are illegal in and of themselves.  Looking at it logically, Trump did one maybe-bad legal thing, by definition, whereas the people that "got" Trump "for this" did two objectively-worse illegal things.

I mean, did Trump lose the nuclear codes like Bill Clinton did?  (Google that.)  No?  Alright, then.  Let's all collectively exhale and thank God that Trump hasn't reached Clintonion-levels of incompetence just yet.  ("The codes were actually missing for months," General Hugh Shelton, Clinton's former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed in his 2010 book.  Of course, Shelton's book and Clinton's historically unprecedented and potentially apocalyptic mistake received near-zero media attention.)

Let me put this into personal context.  I have some experience around classified intelligence.  My biggest take-away from that experience is a lot of it doesn't need to be classified.  There are a lot of "top secret" documents floating around that say a whole bunch of nothing.  Frankly, a lot of it becomes classified because some nerd jacked-up the version control on his PowerPoint slide and clicked "Save" instead of "Save As."  A lot of it becomes classified because people want to cover their ass legally or because they're too lazy to change the letterhead.  I kid you not.

A lot of this super-duper secret stuff is actually open-source information that can be easily researched or logically deduced.  In government work, there's nothing worse than self-important mid-level analysts justifying their own existence by talking up their "sources" like they've got Jack Bauer on speed dial.  If you dig into these clowns a little bit, you realize they're just regurgitating whatever is trending on Google News.

It's either that or they are protecting information that should be declassified and should be shared throughout the intelligence community so as to make it operational.  You know, so things get done and lives are saved.  How many times - in the aftermath of a terror attack - do we have to hear that the FBI or CIA had "eyes-on" that terrorist for months or years, but didn't act because they wanted to continue collecting intelligence, or because they didn't want to "compromise their source"?  At some point, we have assembled enough data points for our PowerPoint slides and the time comes to take action and kill bad guys.

My second take-away from being around classified intelligence is that it's usually inaccurate.  The only thing seemingly more inaccurate than intelligence reports?  Media reports about intelligence reports.  So consider me more on the skeptical side than the hysterical side about this latest Trump blabber-gaffe.  And consider me just as skeptical that our source, Mr. X, is an Israeli intelligence operative.

Look, maybe the source is Israeli Mossad.  But everyone knows the Israelis and Americans share intelligence with one another, so what's the big secret?  The same could be said of the Jordanians, Egyptians, and Iraqis.  Additionally, the Israelis and Russians have something of a close relationship (at least Netanyahu and Putin do on a personal level).  So why would Russian knowledge of Israeli infiltration into ISIS be a cause for concern? 

Obviously, ISIS having knowledge of such infiltration is a cause for concern because that operative's life may now be in jeopardy.  But Trump only revealed the existence of a source in private.  It was the leaker-media alliance the revealed the national identity of the source in public!

Since we're all conspiratorial lunatics these days, let me offer a theory: our source is a Turkish operative, not an Israeli operative.  The Israelis are just covering for us because they owe us one spy-lie to make it even (ahem Johnathan Pollard).

The Turkey angle makes too much sense for a variety of reasons.  The Turks and Russians don't exactly have the coziest relationship, so Turkey probably wouldn't want Moscow to know about their operational capability.  In November 2015, Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter plane and killed the pilot.  Not good.  A year later, Russia's ambassador was assassinated in the Turkish capital.  Also not good.  Both nations have unclear, ulterior, and potentially irreconcilable objectives in Syria.  Additionally, Turkey is in the midst of becoming a full-fledged authoritarian Islamist dictatorship.  President Erdogan's goons took to violence against Kurdish-American and Armenian-American protestors on the streets of Washington, D.C. this week.  The silence from the U.S. media and American political class has been deafening.  

Furthermore, as my good friend Ryan Mauro has observed, Turkey recently bombed U.S.-backed Kurds in Iraq and Syria in order to deny them the ability to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS.  That means we're in a proxy war... with a member of NATO.  Nobody is talking about that.  Nobody is even talking about how nobody is talking about that.

You see, just like the Saudis, Pakistanis, and Qataris, the Turks triangulate between us and the terrorists.  They play both sides of the fence.  Why do they do this?  Because we let them.  Turkey is not openly hostile to America like Iran or North Korea; they are covertly hostile to us.  Rather than confront Turkey outright - much like we should have already done with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Qatar, but have not - we foolishly prioritize operational and tactical benefits (like intelligence collection) over strategic benefits (like winning).

Whether or not our source is actually Turkish, that's the overarching story here: a large segment of the U.S. intelligence community bureaucracy continues to sell-out the long-term American national interest for short-term bureaucratic gain.  Whenever somebody tries to bring logic and reason to the process - as General Mike Flynn brilliantly did throughout his intelligence career - the Deep State strikes back with a vengeance.

As we have seen from these continuous leaks, it is not the protection of secret information that serves as the driving force behind the Deep State.  It is the preservation of their power and control.   

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Contributing Editor N.M. Guariglia is an essayist who writes on Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitics.


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