Former CIA director Michael Morell sounded the alarm Friday about President Donald Trump’s acrimonious relationship with top intelligence officials.
“President Trump’s critique of his intelligence chiefs in the aftermath of this week’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony is the third time the relationship between the president and the intelligence community has taken a significant public blow,” he writes in the Washington Post.
He observes that the most recent attacks lobbed at intel are more dangerous than ever.
“The most recent round — on Wednesday, the president labeled his top intelligence officers ‘extremely passive and naive’ as well as just plain ‘wrong’ in a tweet without providing any alternative evidence — is a reminder that the current relationship is atypical in both kind and degree. And because it is so different from the norm, it carries potentially significant consequences for our nation’s security,” he writes.
Although presidents might disagree with their intelligence chiefs, there’s a mutual respect and the appearance of a united front.
“Presidents have long disagreed with some of the information and analysis they get from the intelligence community. President George W. Bush would occasionally say to me during a morning briefing, ‘Michael, I don’t think this is quite right’ or ‘I have a different view here.’ There are also plenty of examples of intelligence analysts telling presidents that they cannot accomplish something only to have them do just that,” he writes.
“During the mid-1990s war in the Balkans, the intelligence community was highly skeptical that a peace deal was possible, but President Bill Clinton delivered the Dayton Peace Accords nonetheless.”
In short, President Trump is breaking with bipartisan tradition.
“As President Ronald Reagan once said, America’s intelligence officers ‘are the eyes and ears of the free world.’ The intelligence community must be supported by our nation’s leaders in its critically important work. And a key part of that support is publicly and privately encouraging the intelligence officers to bring them bad news when necessary. The national security of the United States depends upon it.”