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Why the spooks are spooked

Why the spooks are spooked

by digby


The New York Times has published a big story today revealing that members of the Trump administration met with Venezuelan military coup plotters who were seeking help to overthrow president Maduro. It's a long story that indicates that the plotters had assumed the US was hands off until Trump announced publicly that he was considering a “military option” at which point they reached out and some members of the administration decided to meet. According to regional exerts, the way they went about it, sending out public hints of support and even dispatching a diplomat to attend a meeting with the plotters, gave encouragement in a way which, considering the sordid history of American interference in Latin America, was extremely risky. The plan went nowhere.

According to Woodward's book, Trump is fixated on going to war with Venezuela and there's a lot of chatter that this is ramping up within the administration. It makes you wonder if this "coup" plot might have been yet another attempt to appease and distract our Commander in Chief from doing what he really wants to do:

In the summer of 2017, Trump suggested to then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster that the United States invade Venezuela to remove its autocratic president, Nicolás Maduro. McMaster did his best to dissuade Trump — and thought he had succeeded — until Trump raised the possibility publicly at a media appearance and in a meeting with Latin American leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.

“My people tell me this is not a good idea, but . . .” Trump said in the private meeting before raising the possibility of an invasion or regime change in Venezuela, according to officials.

Said one senior White House official on why Trump kept bringing it up: “Even when the staff says no, I think he holds out hope that he’ll find someone who thinks it’s a good idea.


He's nuts. And he wants a nice little war so he can have a big parade.

Members of the intelligence community are speaking out about many things, which they normally do not do. This op-ed by John McLaughlin outlines their concerns:

People frequently ask me why so many former intelligence officers are commenting these days on matters that seem essentially political. The question usually goes “Shouldn’t you stay neutral — above the fray? Isn’t that the tradition for intelligence professionals, both former and still serving?”

The short answer is yes, that is the tradition. Neutrality has certainly been our ethic on political issues, which gave us credibility when we gathered or delivered information that presidents might not want to hear. It goes against every instinct to wade into domestic politics by openly criticizing the president on personal actions or behavior. And make no mistake: Those of us who have chosen to speak out are outside our comfort zones.

This leads people to fairly ask a second question: Do our actions mean that, in the future, intelligence officers will not be believed when they claim to be thoroughly professional and nonpolitical? Are we raising doubts about our ability to provide balanced assessments, free of political spin?

These questions must be taken seriously. If we lose the trust of those who receive our information and analyses, the intelligence community will be seen as just another calculating player in the Washington political game — and our national security will suffer.

So what has pushed us out of our comfort zone? How can we ensure that our claims of objectivity and neutrality are believed in the future? Let’s take these one at a time.

First, we are reacting to today’s extraordinarily unprecedented context, one that transcends traditional party politics. (Most of us have served administrations led by both parties.) For many of us, keeping our mouths shut about what we see in our own country would be akin to not alerting our government to a threat from abroad.

Failure to warn is the ultimate sin in the intelligence world. It feels equally sinful in the world of citizenship.

A colleague from another field said to me recently: “For you and others the normal rules no longer apply, because we are all in upside-down-world today” — a world where most of the normal rules of civic discourse no longer work. Witness the unnamed Trump administration insider who just let loose in the New York Times about the president’s dangerous behavior.

Of course, we would all love to be back in right-side-up world, where it would be unimaginable for a president to advocate jailing an election opponent, assail the Justice Department and the FBI, call a free press “the enemy of the people,” insult allies, and, most important, refuse to combat a well-documented covert foreign attack on U.S. elections — in the process weakening efforts by others to do so and encouraging Russia to keep it up. And although all politicians spend time in the spin room, how wonderful it would be if our president’s basic truthfulness were not automatically suspect.

All of us in intelligence have been shaped by careers assessing societies where free speech, democratic institutions and rule of law don’t exist or are under attack — places such as Russia and China. We have also seen how fragile democracy can be and how it can be eroded almost imperceptibly — consider Turkey and parts of Central Europe. So our senses are finely tuned to the classic warning signs: attacks on institutions, neutralization of opponents, cowed legislatures, publics numbed by repeated falsehoods.


This is the thing about the Trump era Deep State critique. They have alot of power but they have always before used it clandestinely. They have ways of manipulating the situation that don't require them to leave fingerprints. But these intelligence community leaders are coming forward in a way they've never done before. And if what they were saying didn't track so obviously with what we can all see with our own eyes, namely that Trump is a dangerous, unstable, cretinous moron, it would be bizarre. Instead, they are being transparent with their concerns which makes it a much more democratic situation than normal. They are lending expertise and credibility to what everyone with a brain is screaming at the television every single day.

This is the idiot to whom we have entrusted our security:

After hearing that a U.S. intelligence source in Russia was in enough danger that the CIA wanted to remove that person from the country, President Donald Trump reportedly responded by criticizing the use of human sources.

"These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country," Trump said, according to reporting from a new tell-all book by famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward that was obtained by NBC News.

"I don't trust human intelligence and these spies," Trump added.
[...]
The CIA stresses the importance of its human intelligence resources, often abbreviated to "humint." "Human intelligence plays a critical role in developing and implementing U.S. foreign and national security policy and in protecting U.S. interests," The agency's website reads.

Some time after the briefing, Brennan reportedly quipped, "I guess I won't tell the employees" about Trump's stance.


Think about that for a moment. He doesn't like Russians who are "selling out their country" by giving information helpful to the United States government. And yet his own son knowingly met with Russian agents who were offering information on his political rival and publicly defends the act, saying anyone would have done it.

Think about that.