National Security

The Consequences of Political Abuse in the US Intelligence Community

The politicization of the intelligence community greatly affects the ability of the president to garner support for military action.

Imagine this: The 3 A.M. call comes in to the President of the United States stating that intelligence shows North Korea is preparing to launch three nuclear armed missiles at South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The President, remembering the politicized intelligence community he inherited from his predecessor and the long sordid investigations resulting in the uncovering of surveillance on his own presidential campaign and transition, immediately asks the name of the approving official over the intelligence reports. The President tells his aide to let him know the name, as he will not make any decisions until he confirms that a “trusted” intelligence professional has reviewed the report for truth and accuracy. The phone rings after 5 minutes have passed and the military aide sets aside the Nuclear Decision Handbook (the nuclear football Black Book) he is using to brief the President on nuclear targets in North Korea to answer it. His face turns white as he listens and tells the President, “Sir, we are too late, 12 missiles are in the air, space assets indicate targets are Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington D.C., missile types are NK-14, NK-08, and estimated time en-route to target is 33 minutes. Mr. President, we are out of time so I recommend Option 3 from nuclear response plan Humpty Dumpty.” The President nods and reaches for the code card in his pocket …

Two years ago, this scenario would have been unthinkable, that a President of the United States would not be able to have absolute confidence in the loyalty of the U.S. Intelligence Community to help him make a timely military decision. Let alone that a President might have to delay a military decision until it was too late to discuss any further because he or she needed to know that the source was politically loyal. Unfortunately, due to the years of the Obama administration politicizing the entire U.S. Intelligence apparatus, we have arrived at this destination.

My experiences with Intelligence Community professionals and as one of them serving in a senior command position of the Air Force’s largest airborne intelligence organization span over 30 years has compelled me to sound this alarm due to the dangerous terrain our nation is now treading on. According to the Secretary of Defense, the cruise missile attack conducted by the United States on Syria to re-establish chemical warfare deterrence was based on rock-solid technical and ground intelligence confirming the perpetrators were Syrian government air forces. Considering that President Trump and many other national leaders have openly questioned the integrity of intelligence providers and the reliability of intelligence from areas such as Syria, we face this very dangerous situation. Even if there is no truth behind the reliability of intelligence questions, the perception lives in the minds of almost half of all American adults, if President Trump’s support polling numbers are used as a rough guide. These conditions make it very difficult for the U.S. Government to request, gain, and maintain support for any military action from the American people through their elected representatives in Congress, the government branch empowered to authorize military action via the Constitution.

The North Koreans appear to be at the precipice of more nuclear weapons and missile launch testing. They are threatening to use nuclear missiles directly on the United States and Japan. Are America and her allies in the best position to face this threat? I argue we are not until we get our intelligence house in order. It’s one thing to shoot a bunch of old cruise missiles at a hapless monster dictator like Assad who has been weakened by six years of civil war, but quite another to try to convince the American people to support an attack on a nuclear armed country as belligerent as North Korea.

Rob Maness

Rob Maness is a former US Senate candidate and retired Air Force Colonel with over 32 years of military service. During his storied career, Colonel Maness led numerous combat operations, including as a bomber squadron commander in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He is now the owner of Iron Liberty Group. Follow him on Twitter @RobManess.

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