WaPo | The public outcry led the administration to reverse course and name the CIA director an NSC principal, but the White House’s inclination was clear. It has little need for intelligence professionals who, in speaking truth to power, might challenge the so-called “America First” orthodoxy that sees Russia as an ally and Australia as a punching bag. That’s why the president’s trusted White House advisers, not career professionals, reportedly have final say over what intelligence reaches his desk.
To be clear, my decision had nothing to do with politics, and I would have been proud to again work under a Republican administration open to intelligence analysis. I served with conviction under President George W. Bush, some of whose policies I also found troubling, and I took part in programs that the Obama administration criticized and ended. As intelligence professionals, we’re taught to tune out politics. The river separating CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., from Washington might as well be a political moat. But this administration has flipped that dynamic on its head: The politicians are the ones tuning out the intelligence professionals.
The CIA will continue to serve important functions — including undertaking covert action and sharing information with close allies and partners around the globe. If this administration is serious about building trust with the intelligence community, however, it will require more than rallies at CIA headquarters or press statements. What intelligence professionals want most is to know that the fruits of their labor — sometimes at the risk of life or limb — are accorded due deference in the policymaking process.