PARK SPOT VACANT: We hear Meroe Park, the long-serving Executive Director of the CIA, told Agency staff last week that she plans to retire. Park has held the #3 position at CIA since mid-2013. No word on what she will do next. She stepped out of the shadows (briefly) on January 21st when she was Acting Director – and was tasked with welcoming President Trump for what turned out to be a controversial post-inauguration visit to CIA HQ. There is no indication yet on who will succeed Park, but we have heard that the new Deputy Executive Director (DEXDIR in Agency parlance) will be Cynthia “Didi” Rapp. Rapp is a long-time Agency analyst who served as top Agency spokesperson when David Petraeus was Director. The Deputy Executive Director job is admittedly an obscure one – but it was once held by John Brennan, who, as you may recall, went on to bigger and better things.
WIKILEAKS REVENGE: Last week, in his first major public remarks as CIA Director, Mike Pompeo went out of his way to dump on WikiLeaks, saying the outfit “walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.” The allegation generated some – well, hostility – from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who said the CIA was trying to “subvert” his First Amendment rights. We were unaware that the First Amendment applied to Australian fugitives holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London – but perhaps it does. Assange had a somewhat more effective pushback by noting that last July, during the presidential election, then-Congressman Pompeo was touting WikiLeaks’ release of pilfered DNC emails. And WikiLeaks was not without some other odd defenders, including Roger Stone – a colorful Trump supporter accused of being too cozy with the Russians – who accurately predicted that it would soon be John Podesta’s time in the barrel just before his emails were released on WikiLeaks. Stone told Newsmax TV that Pompeo should resign for saying such rude things about Assange and company. RT, Mike Flynn’s favorite Russian propaganda outlet, also attacked Pompeo.
THE NEXT SHOES? Remember when the Intelligence Community said that one of the reasons they were convinced that the Russians were playing favorites in the presidential election was that there was evidence Moscow had hacked both the Democrat and Republican campaigns – but that they chose to use their surrogates like WikiLeaks to release dirt only on the Dems? Well, if President Trump starts to distance himself from Putin, and if his top aides like Pompeo take pot shots at Julian Assange, we might start to see some of the stolen Republican documents surface. We want to stress – that perhaps unlike Roger Stone – we have no advance knowledge of such a release – just sayin’.
CRIME PAYS: McClatchy reported this week that Edward Snowden has found a way to fill his days in exile in Russia. “Nearly every week,” the news service says, Snowden takes part in video chats with university students, techies and “privacy advocates,” and McClatchy says he charges more than $30,000 a talk. Snowden’s lawyer protests that he gives many of his talks free (sort of like the millions of classified documents he stole, we guess). In any case – the wages of sin sound pretty good. For an hour-long Skype call with Ohio State students late last year, Snowden was paid $30,000, which one student (probably a math major) pointed out works out to be around $8 a second for Snowden’s time.
ABSENCE OF LEADERSHIP: Here we are, three months into the Trump presidency, and there is no Secretary of the Army, Navy or Air Force in place. Unprecedented gap in leadership, right? Actually, no. We checked the records going back to 1947. The Navy spent nine months with two back-to-back Acting Secretaries in 2003 and the Air Force was led by a fill in – Acting Secretary for nine months in 1993. The winner was the Army back in 2003-4 which went about 18 months with an Acting Secretary. The fact that there are so many positions empty, simultaneously is, however, unprecedented.
MOTHER, DAUGHTER, SISTER, SPY! Some of the most accomplished women who served in the U.S. Intelligence Community will be on hand for The International Spy Museum’s second annual “Mother, Daughter, Sister, Spy” luncheon on May 18th in Washington. Among those on the program are Jonna Mendez, the CIA’s former master of disguise; former CIA covert officers Melissa Mahle and Rollie Flynn; the National Reconnaissance Office’s former Chief Information officer Jill Singer; former CIA Counterintelligence officer Sandy Grimes; and former CIA analyst Kristin Wood.
FLEET JOE: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, “Fighting Joe” Dunford ran the Boston Marathon on Monday. The 61-year-old Marine Corps General finished the race in just under four hours and 50 minutes. Marine Corps Times reports that Dunford wore a “Team Kelly” T-shirt to honor Marine 1st Lt Robert Kelly, the son of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. The younger Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:
- Times Change: 1993: “When word of a crisis breaks out in Washington, it is no accident that the first question that comes to everyone’s lips is, “Where is the nearest carrier?” President Bill Clinton. 2017: “Where is the nearest carrier, Mr. President? No really, where is it?”
- American Assassin Trailer: The teaser for the forthcoming movie “American Assassin” was released on Tuesday. Within 24 hours, the version posted on YouTube had over two million views – which bodes well for the flick (out in September) based on Vince Flynn’s popular novel about a young man recruited by the CIA to “kill people who need to be
- Gentlemen. You Can’t Fight Here. This is a war room! Muckrock also just posted a declassified CIA document from 1965 in which the Agency’s “Executive Director-Comptroller” reported that “there was a free-for-all fight in the cafeteria today, as a result of which three or four additional employees were dismissed.”
NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news. Here are just a few examples from this week:
- General Mike Hayden was interviewed for a story in the McClatchy Newspapers. “In the past, we’ve lost secrets to foreign adversaries,” he said. “Now we’ve got the self-motivated insider that is our most important counterintelligence challenge.”
- Admiral Jim Stavridis was on the Hugh Hewitt radio show on Tuesday talking about the military threat from North Korea.
- Former Acting and Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” on Tuesday discussing North Korea’s probable reaction to an unpredictable U.S. president.
WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND? (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)
Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy:
“I'm currently working my way through the biography, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, which is great, but it's a bit of a slug at times.”
SECURITY QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“Retaking Mosul and expelling ISIS from Iraq must not be the end of U.S. engagement. Even President Trump, who previously claimed both support for and opposition to America’s 2003 invasion, now agrees that the troop withdrawal of 2011 was a mistake. Neither he nor Iraq can afford to repeat it.
-Gary Grappo, former U.S. Ambassador to Oman, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop? Shoot us a note at TheDeadDrop@theCipherBrief.com.