The intelligence community in the United States has been at odds with President Donald Trump and his administration despite serving at Trump’s pleasure. A fine line is being walked by intelligence officials who answer to the president, while they are simultaneously investigating his conduct and discovering there is much more than meets the eye. One former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst found himself in a moral dilemma serving Trump while knowing he is dangerous and complicit in criminal conduct, and the only course he saw was to leave the agency.
Edward Price, who worked with the CIA for almost 11 years until abruptly resigning last month, wrote a scathing editorial in the Washington Post where he detailed how he could not “in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional.” Price worked in the White House for last three years as a liaison for the CIA.
In particular Price, like millions of others, is outraged that Trump has had the audacity to attempt to gloss over his involvement with the Russian government. As Price noted:
The high-confidence conclusion of our 17 intelligence agencies 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 paid a visit to CIA headquarters where he bellowed on endlessly about himself and paid no mind that he was disrespecting and desecrating the memorial of CIA agents who were killed in the line of duty. Price was disgusted by Trump’s behavior:
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.
Despite Trump’s best attempts at denying his top adviser, Steve Bannon, is a racist Price was not buying what Trump was selling. Furthermore, Price found himself unable to serve Trump when he removed the director of the CIA from his National Security Council’s Principals committee but allowed Bannon a seat at the table. This move drew the ire of and bewilderment of the entire world, as Bannon has no foreign policy experience and Trump removed some of the most credentialed foreign policy wonks from his sphere of influence:
The final straw came late last month, when the Trump 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.
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.
Ultimately Price said, in closing, his decision was not political, as he was an intelligence analyst for the CIA when George W. Bush was president. He further says as a member of the CIA he was taught not to consider politics at all. Rather, he made a decision of conscience, and who could blame him? Trump has shown himself to be hostile to the views of any person who disagrees with him, and that includes members of the intelligence community who are the first line of defense against the enemies of the United States. Trump would do well to listen rather than alienating the individuals whose entire job is to provide the president accurate and timely intelligence so he can make the most informed decisions possible.
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