It’s end-of-the-year retrospective time at Daily Intel. Looking back at the 140 entries I’ve written since coming on-board in June (141 if you count yesterday’s retrospective part 1), there are definitely some themes that keep popping up: North Korea, Russia, the NDAA… and leaks. So let’s continue our follow-up on what happened with some of the leaks and leakers we covered this year.
Watching the Watchers
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has had quite a career. The West Point grad and Desert Storm veteran also graduated from Harvard Law School before becoming an aerospace entrepreneur and eventually a member of Congress. After President Trump’s election last fall, Pompeo’s was one of the first appointments announced. The Senate confirmed his nomination on the president’s third day in office.
Pompeo is clearly a man with a mission, and that mission, for better or worse, does not include making friends among the CIA’s rank-and-file. As the old saying goes, “you don’t have to like me, but you do have to work for me.” Among Pompeo’s more feather-ruffling moves was the decision to move the CIA’s Counterintelligence Mission Center “from the deputy director’s purview to his own,” as I wrote in August.
This move sent disgruntled employees whining to the Washington Post, with the dire warning that Pompeo had to be watched. I remarked at the time about the wonderful irony of the office responsible for uncovering leakers within the agency leaking word of the director’s actions to the press.
I wish I could give some sort of revealing follow-up to this story, but it went away as quickly as it appeared. Oh to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations. One can only guess that a few people were read the riot act, after which the CMC staff got back to looking for moles instead of fretting about their boss’s motivations.
Get ready to strap on the polygraph
Anyone who’s held a security clearance at any level for any length of time has heard stories about the horrors of the polygraph. The periodic reinvestigation probing is bad enough, but the lie detector? There’s a reason its use is reserved only for those with need to access the most sensitive information (like, one assumes, the employees of the CMC).
But in September, after someone leaked transcripts of the president’s telephone calls with foreign leaders, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had had enough. He proposed polygraphs for everyone on the National Security Council staff. In this case, as well as the CMC case, the threat seems to have done the trick, since the fourth quarter was relatively leak-free, at least compared to the first seven months of the Trump administration.
But the story isn’t over by any means. While it has not received widespread coverage, Sara Carter, who until November was an investigative reporter for Circa.com, announced in early December on FNC’s Fox & Friends that the Department of Justice is currently conducting no fewer than 27 leak investigations. And in the case of several leak investigations involving the FBI, polygraphs for the suspects are indeed involved. I guess Sessions wasn’t kidding around.
I admit, leaks can fun when you’re gossiping about them, especially when you’re not part of them. But there comes a point when it’s time to say that the “polititainment” has gone too far. The state maintains secrets for a valid reason, and as I said in my remarks about the so-called “deep state,” it’s not up to individuals to decide what the public needs to know and what it doesn’t.
Thanks to everyone for reading this year, even all you WikiLeaks fans. It’s been fun and I look forward to exploring new topics in 2018. If you have suggestions for issues you’d like to see covered in Daily Intel, tell me on Twitter at @tommccuin.