CIA fight with the White House spooks U.S. intel partners

by WorldTribune Staff, February 16, 2017

The CIA’s apparent ongoing war with the White House is not only stalling security appointments by the new administration but also generating concerns among U.S. allies, according to reports in The Washington Times.

The White House is denying security clearances to members of President Donald Trumps’s national security team of whom the agency does not approve, according to a former official of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Since no one can take part in the formulation or execution of foreign or defense policy without a high-level security clearance, vetoing the president’s people by denying them clearances trumps the president,” Angelo Codevilla wrote in The Washington Times.

The Trump administration’s public brawl with the CIA has further frayed the nerves of already antsy American foreign intelligence partners, security sources said.

The downfall of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, leaks from intel agencies to the press and the fallout from it all is unnerving European and Mideast agencies that have information-sharing relationships with the U.S. and were already wary of the Trump team’s perceived closeness to Russia, current and former officials told The Washington Times on Feb. 15.

“Our foreign partners are deeply alarmed and unsettled by what they’re seeing in Washington,” a senior Republican national security source said on the condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump escalated the battle on Feb. 15:

“From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked, it’s criminal action, a criminal act,” Trump said during a press conference with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing nearby.

“It’s been going on for a long time, before me, but now it’s really going on. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.”

If the president “does not fire forthwith the persons who thus took for themselves the prerogative that the American people had entrusted to him at the ballot box, chances are 100 percent that they will use that prerogative ever more frequently with regard to anyone else whom they regard as standing in the way of their preferred policies, as a threat to their reputation, or simply as partisan opponents,” Angelo M. Codevilla wrote in an analysis for the Washington Times on Feb. 15.

Should Trump allow this to happen, “he will have undermined nothing less than the self-evident heart of the Constitution’s Article II: The president is the executive branch. All of its employees draw their powers from him and answer to him, not the other way around.”

Codevilla, who oversaw the CIA for eight years as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s budget chairman, said “using security clearances for parochial purposes — usually petty ones — while neglecting security, never mind counterintelligence, is an old story at the CIA. Because I did my quality control job vigorously, and because I placed on the budget cut list some of the many outside contracts that seemed corrupt, the agency made repeated attempts to withdraw my top-level, cross-cutting security clearances.

“After I left the Senate staff for Stanford, when the Naval Postgraduate School asked me to teach a highly classified course on signals intelligence, the school’s security office asked the CIA for my clearances. The bureaucrats there said they had never heard of me. I had to call Director of Central Intelligence Bill Casey, who ended up phoning them in personally to a startled Navy chief.”

Codevilla continued: “The CIA uses pretense about security to insulate itself from criticism, to protect its own, and to intrude into policymaking. Security against foreign intelligence ranks low in its priorities.”

The message to the people Trump has appointed or who are considering working for the president “is just as clear,” Codevilla wrote. “You have no choice but to make yourself acceptable to the bureaucrats because, if you don’t, they will hurt you and the president will not help you. This cannot help but skew the pool of potential members of the Trump administration.

“We cannot know nor does it matter why Donald Trump seems to be deferring to bureaucrats who have gone out of their way to delegitimize him. But we can be certain about the kind of dynamic engendered by deference in the face of assaults.”