Dead Drop: November 25

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I SPIED ADVICE: The somewhat surprising nomination of Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to be CIA Director in the Trump Administration has gotten fairly good reviews around town. Former Director, General Mike Hayden said he was “heartened” by the pick and told ABC news that his contacts still inside the intelligence community were as well. Ex Agency chief Leon Panetta said that Pompeo is going to have to get used to delivering information that the President is not going to want to hear and urged him “to get to know and trust the professionals who work for the agency.” Pompeo won praise from across the aisle when the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said, “While we have had our share of strong differences — principally on the politicization of the tragedy in Benghazi — I know that he is someone who is willing to listen and engage, both key qualities in a CIA director.” Not everyone was quite so supportive.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is apparently still smarting about Pompeo’s criticism of the Democrat’s controversial investigation into the CIA’s role in enhanced interrogation after 9/11. She has promised to grill Pompeo on the subject during his confirmation hearing.

TOLDYA SO: Way back on October 21, The Dead Drop told you that NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers was taking some heat inside the administration and might be replaced soon.  And on November 20ththe Washington Post caught up and reported that the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence have recommended to President Barack Obama that the Admiral get the heave ho. Of course, in the interim, a few things happened, including, in case you haven’t heard, the election of Donald J. Trump. 

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: Then last Friday Admiral Rogers traveled to New York to meet with the President-elect.  According to the WaPo, the Admiral elected to not inform his current bosses that he was going to meet with his prospective new one. Some press accounts suggest that Trump is considering naming Rogers as his DNI – replacing James Clapper – who, if you believe the press accounts, is trying to get the Admiral fired before heading off into retirement. 

D-N-BYE-BYE? Except various news organizations report that Team Trump is contemplating doing away with the Director of National Intelligence position entirely (and also rolling back organizational changes that CIA Director John Brennan has made at his agency.) Next to killing entitlements – there is almost nothing harder in Washington than doing away with a major governmental bureaucracy.   Would you take a cabinet level position if offered – and your mandate from the boss was to close the place?  But if the Trump administration tries to dismantle the DNI organization, they may find quite a few folks in the intelligence community quietly cheering them on. 

HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK FOR THE DNI? The old punchline is, “about half.” The DNI shop was set up in the wake of 9/11 and billed as a relatively small and agile management shop to oversee the operations of the IC.  Initial promises said its staff would number in the three digits and provide value added.  The exact number of DNI employees today apparently is a state secret – but published reports suggest its ranks long ago soared to a couple of thousand – most of whom work in a spiffy new building down the road from CIA headquarters.

TORTURED ABOUT WHAT BOOKS TO BUY FOR HOLIDAY PRESENTS? For your hardcore relatives, there is a new book coming out November 29 called: “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America.” The book, by psychologist and former CIA contractor, Dr. James Mitchell, gives a first person account about how the Agency’s controversial enhanced interrogation techniques were developed and employed.  Mitchell, who personally waterboarded the three al Qaeda operatives who were subjected to the technique back in 2002 and 2003 and spent thousands of hours in the cells of top terrorists, gives a very personal account of what went right and wrong in a program that critics call “torture” and that President-elect Trump vowed to bring back “and worse,” although he seemed to back off that position in an interview Tuesday with the NY Times.

POCKET LITTER:  Stuff we found laying around:

  • CRAZY TIMES: The wacky (even by British standards) UK news site The Daily Star has a story out saying “CIA used TIME TRAVEL foreseeing Trump win.”  It is unclear what the Daily Star thinks the Agency did with this advance notice.  If it were us – we would have gone to Vegas a couple years ago and put down a big bet on The Donald’s chances. We would now be living in luxury.
  • SUPERMARKET SWEEP: Speaking of spacey theories – the pro-UFO website Collective Evolution has an interview with a someone who says he was a CIA contractor and claims UFOs treat earth like a “supermarket” and visit here to suck up our water.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by that members of The Cipher Brief’s Network aren’t in the news somewhere.  Here are just a few examples from this week:

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

Frank Archibald, former Director, CIA’s National Clandestine Service:

French war on Al Qaida in Africa, a Rand study about the French intervention in Mali in 2013.  There are useful lessons from the successful French hybrid COIN/CT effort in Mali, as we work to find solutions to the ongoing and adapting terrorist challenge in North Africa in 2016. 

SECURITY QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

He (President-elect Donald Trump) and I have a couple of things in common. I’m a New York City kid, born and raised. We like the Yankees, and that’s not something to be taken lightly. But then we got into talking about the national security challenges, foreign policy challenges, and defense issues that the country is facing, and I was able to provide him with some thoughts. I found him to be very personable, quite engaging, an effective listener. He asked excellent questions.”

Retired General Jack Keane

Got an inside scoop to share?  Drop us a note at:[email protected].  And don’t worry, who you are will remain a tightly held secret.