CIA Leaks Highlight Agency Addled by Director’s Oversight – Leak of the Week

Intelligence

CIA photo

The “anonymous sources” in Langley, Va. simply cannot help themselves. With so many whispered conversations in the nation’s capital, it’s a wonder the country has any secrets left at all. The latest leak is another piece of evidence on how far some of the rank-and-file employees at the Central Intelligence Agency are willing to go to undermine the current administration by delegitimizing the leadership of their own boss, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The latest leaks came in a Washington Post article published online last week which had it not been for Hurricane Harvey and Kim Jong-un, would have been the center of much more attention. The online version’s headline reads, “At CIA, a watchful eye on Mike Pompeo, the president’s ardent ally.” The print headline more accurately reflects the thoughts of the leaker: “Pompeo’s close ties to Trump prompt what-ifs inside CIA.”

employees rankled by direct oversight

At the heart of the matter is bureaucratic chafing over a politically appointed agency head who actually intends to lead his organization, rather than let the careerists have their way. Pompeo recently ruffled career intelligence officers’ feathers by moving the CIA’s Counterintelligence Mission Center from the deputy director’s purview to his own. It is, the article notes, the only such organization reporting directly to the director. It is also, the article takes great pains to remind us, “closely tied to the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”

Because we can’t let Russia drop off the front page of the Washington Post for too long.

“Officials at the center,” the article informs us, “have… kept a watchful eye on Pompeo, who has repeatedly played down Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and demonstrated a willingness to engage in political skirmishes for President Trump.” Like Claude Rains raiding Rick’s Cafe in Cassablanca, CIA employees are “shocked, shocked to learn” that a D/CIA wants to actually take charge of his organization.

The article begrudgingly admits about a third of the way in that “Pompeo has not impeded [the center’s] work,” while immediately adding, “But several officials said there is concern about what he might do if the CIA uncovered new information potentially damaging to Trump and Pompeo were forced to choose between protecting the agency or the president.”

What he might do. Not has done, or is even suspected of doing, but what he might do.This is exactly the sort of self-righteous pearl-clutching that has consumed the inside-the-Beltway crowd, and which drives Trump’s base even closer to him, feeding the narrative that there is a “deep state” that operates without regard for who occupies the White House.

who will watch the watchers?

The Counterintelligence Mission Center is the descendent of the organization run by the notoriously paranoid James Jesus Angleton, who saw Soviet moles lurking in every shadow. It is said that Angleton was so suspicious of everyone that when he looked at his own reflection while shaving, he mused, “I wonder who that guy is working for?”

Clearly, some in the CMC have inherited that tendency. “People have to watch” Pompeo, one anonymous source said.  “It’s almost as if he can’t resist the impulse to be political.”

Who’s being political here?

Of course Pompeo is political. He’s a presidential appointee. The article says the CIA is “supposedly apolitical.” That ignores the very real fact that the CIA gathers intelligence and conducts covert operations in support of national security policy — policy that is inherently political. The CIA does not get to set its own course, it supports national objectives. Those objectives are set by the president and implemented through his appointees.

Ironically, these latest leaks come from the organization that is supposed to be finding the people leaking details of the inner workings of the intelligence community to the press. Yet it is someone closely connected to it that is doing the leaking here. Who’s watching the watchers?

Apparently, it’s Pompeo himself.

Tom McCuin is a strategic communication consultant and retired Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Public Affairs officer whose career includes serving with the Malaysian Battle Group in Bosnia, two tours in Afghanistan, and three years in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in the Pentagon. When he’s not devouring political news, he enjoys sailboat racing and umpiring Little League games (except the ones his son plays in) in Alexandria, Va. Follow him on Twitter at @tommccuin

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