Dead Drop: November 11

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PLAN B: The Dead Drop was prepared to speculate this week about who would fill significant national security positions in a Hillary Clinton administration. Yeah, we didn’t exactly nail that one either.  We are FAR less prepared to suggest who will play what role in a Trump administration.  We hear that a national security advisor and White House chief of staff will be named quickly – perhaps before we have a chance to get this online. Retired General Michael Flynn is rumored to be a likely candidate to fill Susan Rice’s shoes at the NSC.  For the CIA’s top job, we hear former Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI)—and once chairman of HPSCI—is the leading contender to be Director.  He’s well-respected at Langley.   Rogers is currently leading the Trump intelligence transition team.   And what about the other jobs? Among the potential candidates are Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Senator Jeff Sessions and…and…well, we are sure there are fine folks out there. Other names we have heard bandied about include former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, former NSC and State legal advisor John Bellinger, retired LTG Keith Kellogg, Russian energy wonk and hedge fund guy Carter Page,  scholar Walid Phares,  and former CIA officer Clare Lopez (who once said that the Obama administration “switched sides” in the war on terror.)

Oh, and for what it’s worth, had Hillary Clinton won, there were only two candidates still standing for CIA Director—former Acting and Deputy Director Mike Morell and former Obama National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.     There were also two candidates for the DNI job: Morell and former Congresswoman Jane Harman.

ONE AWKWARD TRANSITION AVOIDED: On the eve of the election, CNN opined that in a Clinton administration, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein was a possible candidate for CIA director.  Feinstein has clashed memorably with current CIA director John Brennan (as colorfully illustrated by these Taiwanese animators.)  If Feinstsein had been picked to replace Brennan, there probably would have been some frosty transition sessions. That won’t happen – but who goes to Langley? One possibility is Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, and longtime aide to the John Bolton.

BAD SPECULATION: To show how little thought the media put into who would get jobs in a Trump administration – late last week, MSNBC reported that General Flynn might be in line to be the Donald’s Secretary of Defense – forgetting that in order to maintain civilian control of the Pentagon, the law prohibits those who have worn the uniform in the past seven years from becoming SECDEF.

COMEYGATE: There’s been lots of chatter about the impact of FBI Director James Comey’s statements and letters may have had on the outcome of the presidential election.  During the race for the White House, Comey managed to annoy just about everyone at one time or another.  One senior former FBI official told The Dead Drop that while he didn’t think Comey’s actions changed the outcome – he viewed the letter to the Hill, suggesting that the email investigation had been reopened, as a stupid mistake which politicized the FBI. According to our source, the Director should have written out his recommendations and walked across the street and handed them to someone in DOJ to handle. Sure, AG Loretta Lynch had recused herself from the matter given her ill-advised tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, but somebody at DOJ should have made the decision on what to do. “I don’t care if it was the janitor at the DOJ,” our source said, preferring that anyone other than the Bureau make that call.  Our source speculates that Comey may recognize that he has rendered himself ineffective and elect to turn in his badge.  If that happens, we’re told it is likely to be a sudden announcement without any warning.

COMING HOME: Showtime has put out the first trailer for season six of Homeland. This year, Carrie Mathieson returns to the U.S. where a female candidate has just been elected president. Alex Gansa, the showrunner for the program, has described the president-elect as  “a little bit Hillary Clinton, a little bit Donald Trump, and a little bit Bernie Sanders,” which may explain why so many characters in the trailer are shown holding their heads in their hands.  The series returns January 15th.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: One of the positive aspects of a Trump win (if you ask us) is that a number of annoying celebrities had previously promised to leave the country (or the planet) should Donald beat Hillary.

MEOW MIX: Apparently, when you have a book out, you must go to great lengths to promote it. Case in point: Douglas Laux, whose book “Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” was published in April. Laux is featured in Catster magazine in an article called, “So You’re a Spy and You Have a Cat: How Does That Work?”

That, admittedly, is a question we have never pondered.  We DID learn something from the article, however.  Laux says he named his Russian Blue cat “Mr. Oleg Penkovsky” after the Soviet colonel who spied on behalf of the CIA in the 1960s.   Being a good spy, the cat generally goes by a pseudonym, “Bubbins.” No doubt this helps preserve his cover.

POCKET LITTER: Stray threads of possible interest:

  • SECRET SPOTS:  The Wall Street Journal had an article November 5 called, “A Traveler’s Guide to Washington, D.C.’s Top Secret Spots.” Sounds interesting – but the WSJ hid it behind their paywall – so unless you are a subscriber, don’t bother clicking on the link.
  • 6TH SENSE: The website Collective Evolution has an article about the CIA’s old “Stargate” remote viewing program. It talks about an Air Force psychic who reportedly discovered a downed Soviet bomber in Africa after going into a trance. The article says the telepathy program ended suddenly, when “men in suits walked in and shut the program down.” Hey, shouldn’t some psychic have seen that coming?
  • FACECROOK: According to The Intercept, a private intelligence firm called IntelCenter, is exploring partnering with Morpho, a facial recognition outfit, to create an internet-based tool that would facilitate law enforcement, the military, and intelligence agencies “searching for the face of a terrorist as easy as running a Google search.”
  • ZERO DARK DIRTY: Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit to get their hands on all the porn Osama bin Laden was hording when Navy SEALs arranged for him to meet his maker back in 2011.  Per Secrecy News, the CIA is fighting the request, since the material is stashed in their “operational files,” which are exempt from FOIA.

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND?   (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Kevin Hulbert, former CIA Station Chief:

“The Old Man and the Sea (for about the 20th time) by Ernest Hemingway because my 11-year old has to do a book report on it!   But, I’m also reading, Afghanistan Decoded: Perspectives in Domestic and Foreign Affairs, written by Mahmud Kaber Khalili, about an Afghan whose father was in the Northern Alliance and who fought with Ahmed Shah Massood back in the day.” 

SECURITY QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

 “I’m convinced the feelings he (President-elect Donald Trump) may have had about Russia during the campaign will be somewhat mitigated by the understanding of the depth of Russia’s aggression and intent.”

-Retired General Jack Keane

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