The CIA taught me new skills and exposed me to new cultures and countries. More important, it instilled in me a sense of mission and purpose. As an analyst, I became an expert in terrorist groups and traveled the world to help deter and disrupt attacks. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama took the CIA’s input seriously. There was no greater reward than having my analysis presented to the president and seeing it shape events. Intelligence informing policy — this is how the system is supposed to work. I saw that up close for the past three years at the White House, where I worked on loan from the CIA until last month.
As a candidate, Donald Trump’s rhetoric suggested that he intended to take a different approach. I watched in disbelief when, during the third presidential debate, Trump casually cast doubt on the high-confidence conclusion of our 17 intelligence agencies, released that month, that Russia was behind the hacking and release of election-related emails. On the campaign trail and even as president-elect, Trump routinely referred to the flawed 2002 assessment of Iraq’s weapons programs as proof that the CIA couldn’t be trusted — even though the intelligence community had long ago held itself to account for those mistakes and Trump himself supported the invasion of Iraq.
Trump’s actions in office have been even more disturbing. His visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, an overture designed to repair relations, was undone by his ego and bluster. Standing in front of a memorial to the CIA’s fallen officers, he seemed to be addressing the cameras and reporters in the room, rather than the agency personnel in front of them, bragging about his inauguration crowd the previous day. Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my former colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief. I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark contrast between the bombast of the new president and the quiet dedication of a mentor — a courageous, dedicated professional — who is memorialized on that wall. I know others at CIA felt similarly.
The final straw came late last month, when the White House issued a directive reorganizing the National Security Council, on whose staff I served from 2014 until earlier this year. Missing from the NSC’s principals committee were the CIA director and the director of national intelligence. Added to the roster: the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who cut his teeth as a media champion of white nationalism.
I have to imagine that there are MANY who feel the same way that Edward Price feels about Trump within the intelligence community. After all he essentially labeled them Nazis at one time.
However I have to hope that the majority of them stay on the job because, despite Trump's indifference to their work, we certainly need them.
We are living in dangerous times, made even more so by our Kremlin compromised president.
In fact perhaps the greatest need is for them to keep an eye on him, because the danger he presents appears more immediate and potentially harmful than a few ragtag terrorists.