Dead Drop: August 24

TROUBLESOME LETTERS: We hear the people who have been putting together those open letters decrying the president’s action stripping former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearances have a big problem.  They don’t know how to stop. This is how it started: on Thursday morning August 16, a couple former top CIA officials were talking about how they should not let Trump’s action against Brennan go unremarked upon.  A short letter was crafted and in less than 24 hours, 15 former CIA Directors and Deputies and Directors of National Intelligence had signed on.  Mission accomplished, right?  Well, no.  Immediately after publishing the letter they started hearing from lots of other CIA veterans who also wanted to have their voices heard.  By Friday evening a second statement was published with the names of 60 former CIA officials. #USTOO. In both missives, the point was made that those signing were not necessarily agreeing with the positions taken by Brennan or the words the former CIA director had used – but rather his right to express his opinion as long as he protected classified information.  Well, NOW the mission was accomplished?  Umm, no.  Over the weekend scores of other veterans — not only of the CIA, but also elsewhere in the Intelligence Community, State, Defense and Justice Departments and even NASA said they wanted to add their voices.  So early Monday morning another statement with the names and titles of 177 additional people opposing the administration’s actions and threats was released. The names of those who signed that statement were nicely laid out in this Washington Post graphic. By now you know the pattern.  We’re told that even more voices are being heard.  Many of the signers of the three statements are hearing from friends and former colleagues asking: where do I sign up? Note Brennan was respected but not universally beloved when he was CIA director and his comments that President Trump’s action in Helsinki were “nothing short of treasonous” rubbed some people wrong.  Others think he comments are much needed honesty. But as one intelligence alumni told us: “This is not about what was or was not said. When Lieutenant General Mike Flynn led “lock her up” cheers at the Republican National Convention in 2016 targeting Hillary Clinton – if the Obama administration had yanked his security clearances we would have vigorously opposed it.” The Dead Drop is presuming that Flynn kept his clearances – at least up to the point where he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

TEAM GINA: CIA Director Gina Haspel has her leadership team in place.  Back in June, The Dead Drop mentioned that it seemed to be taking a long time for Haspel to fill up the 7th floor offices at CIA HQ. Then, a couple weeks ago, she landed a deputy, Vaughn Bishop, who was recently profiled on the Agency website.  On Wednesday, August 22nd – the CIA announced the appointment of veteran analyst Andy Makridis to be their Chief Operating Officer and 34-year career veteran Sonya Holt as the new “Diversity and Inclusion Officer.”  Makridis is replacing Brian Bulatao as the Agency’s #3.  Bulatao is awaiting Senate confirmation to follow his pal, Mike Pompeo, to Foggy Bottom.  Long-time CIA expert Emile Nahkleh is a fan of Makridis.  He told The Cipher Brief: “Andy’s appointment…is very impressive and well-deserved.  I worked with Andy over the years and have also interacted with him since then and think very highly of his expertise, experience, and leadership abilities. The Agency’s COO is a key position, and Andy is eminently qualified to work with the D/CIA in this area.” reported that Holt previously led a team to implement recommendations made by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to boost the number of women in senior Agency positions.

The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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