Dead Drop: August 25

THE PRINCE AND THE POTUS: Monday night’s announcement of the President’s Afghan policy came after consultations at Camp David the previous Friday.  Politico reported that Blackwater founder Erik Prince had been scheduled to attend the meeting with the President’s brain trust but was blocked at the last minute by National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.  Prince later confirmed that – and predicted to Breitbart, before Trump’s remarks, that the President would “roll over and accept the same failed strategy on Afghanistan.” If there was any doubt about how the Steve Bannon-led Breitbart would react to the new policy – it was erased Tuesday morning with a volley or stories and commentary with headlines like: “President H.R. McMaster’s Yuge Foreign Policy Blunder,”   “His McMaster’s voice: Is Trump’s Afghanistan Policy that Different from Obama’s?” and (complete with a picture of the defunct Atlantic City Trump Taj Mahal) “An Old Casino King Doubles Down on a Bad Hand in Afghanistan.”

SECRET SERVICE: “SEND $”  Word is out this week that the Secret Service is pretty much tapped out trying to protect the President and his large, jet-setting family. In the first six months of the Trump administration, the USSS has had to shell out $60,000 just to rent golf carts at Trump-owned courses. Not only is the Secret Service out of cash – but civil service rules generally prohibit paying overtime to civil servants when their compensation would exceed the $160K neighborhood. So even if Congress ponies up some additional bucks – the outfit will have to get inventive to find ways to compensate their overworked agents. While Erik Prince’s plan to privatize parts of the war in Afghanistan does not seen ascendant, perhaps (as previously discussed in The Dead Drop), his suggestion to contract out the presidential protection gig will gain some traction.

SHERMAN 4 CIO:  On August 18, President Trump announced his intention to appoint John B. Sherman as the Chief Information Officer of the Intelligence Community. Federal News Radio noted that Sherman is the third IC CIO in a row to have a CIA background.

WARREN 4 CNN:  Army Colonel Steve Warren was a respected and popular press spokesman who, according to Stars and Stripes, was encouraged to hang up his uniform to take a civilian job in the Pentagon.  But, according to an unusually blunt statement by Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana White, “Unfortunately, the White House determined he was not a suitable candidate for the position.”  Well, being viewed as “unsuitable” by the White House apparently made him a perfect fit for the President’s least favorite network, CNN.  Within a couple days of word getting out that Warren would not be getting a civilian gig at the Pentagon – CNN hired him to join their stable of military analysts.

WHERE THERE IS A WILSON, THERE’S A WAY: Valerie Plame Wilson, former clandestine CIA officer whose cover was blown during the Bush ’43 administration, sought media attention this week for her “GoFundMe” page, which is trying to raise $1 billion to buy a controlling interest in Twitter – for the purpose of shutting down President Trump’s account. When last we checked, she was just $999,961,000 short of her goal.  Plame Wilson says she wants to prevent Trump from starting a nuclear war with a tweet. In the (very likely) event that she falls short of her fundraising goal – she says she will donate money raised to Global Zero, “a nonprofit organization leading the resistance to nuclear war.”  We suggest Global Zero might use some of that cash to update its website, which lists the leaders of its movement.  The roster includes Plame Wilson and about 300 other international figures – quite a few of whom are long dead – like former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger (who died in 2011) and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger who passed on in 2015.

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:

  • Ya Think? Heard on CNN on Sunday: A teaser urging viewers to tune in Monday for coverage of the total eclipse of the sun…” an event DECADES in the making.” So THAT’S when they lined up the sun and moon.
  • Nice work if you can get it. According to Deadline Hollywood, ABC has OK’d a pilot for a one-hour TV series called “Romeos & Juliets.”  They say the show “centers on a badass, tough-as-nails female CIA operative who is forced to partner with a handsome, self-absorbed agent from the CIA’s elite “Romeo and Juliet” division — agents who are trained to use sex and charm to keep America safe.” Agency alumni assure the Dead Drop there is no such division in real life – but several have volunteered to return to Langley should one be set up.

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:

  • Former CIA Deputy Director David Cohen told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired on Sunday that the President is politicizing” intelligence regarding the determination as to whether Iran is complying with the nuclear deal saying: “It’s very disconcerting. And it stands the intelligence process on its head.”
  • Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday talking about the President’s Afghan policy speech and the tragic collision of USS JOHN S. MCCAIN. Regarding Afghanistan, Stavridis said the president has selected the “best of three bad options.”
  • Retired Army 4-star General Jack Keane told Fox News that the President is “moving in the right direction” with his newly announced policy on Afghanistan.
  • Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell was interviewed for a CBS Evening News story about whether Russian-based Kaspersky anti-virus poses a threat. “There is a connection between Kaspersky and Russian intelligence, and I’m absolutely certain that Russian intelligence would want to use that connection to their advantage,” Morell said.
  • Former DNI James Clapper, interviewed on CNN following President Trump’s speech in Phoenix, said he has questions about Trump’s “fitness to be in this office.”

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

Nick Fishwick, former senior member of the British Foreign Office:

“I have been reading The Korean War by Max Hastings. The Korean War is largely forgotten in Britain now, even though it was the conflict many of my parents’ generation – too young for World War II – fought in. There are fascinating historical insights into the U.S.-UK relationship – political and military—as well as into the nature of leadership, the rise of China and the Western response to it, and the possible use of nuclear weapons for strategic ends.

An American friend once described the U.S. and Britain as “two countries divided by a common language.” So Americans should remember that when Brits describe a situation as “a bit sticky,” as a British brigadier described his position to U.S. HQ in 1952, we mean that we are facing a massacre of historic proportions. Hope this helps avoid future misunderstandings.”

SECURITY QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A series of comments on the Trump Administration’s Afghanistan strategy.

“I think what’s unstated is that we could get some quick victories in Afghanistan and turn the momentum to the Afghans favor, but that would take a surge of U.S. combat forces. After 16 years in Afghanistan, that’s not politically doable. It was, obviously, in 2009, and it certainly was in 2001. But eight years after the last Afghan surge, with not much to show for it, it’s just not viable. I don’t think it was ever considered as an option, but they [Trump administration] have worked considerably more aggressively on the strategy, rather than tactically with the number of troops. “

-Retired General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of State, United States Army

“In a way, we have won earlier in Afghanistan on at least two occasions — after banishing the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001 and in 2004 -2005 when Afghanistan held its first successful presidential and parliamentary elections. But we did not consolidate our gains and became too distracted with Iraq. So here we are.

-John McLaughlin, former Acting and Deputy Director of the CIA

“We all would have hoped the necessary American role would have been a lot less right now. When I look at this, this isn’t like defeating the Third Reich. This might be more like what police departments have to do everyday fighting crime. In other words, after you’ve had a really good day, you got to do it again tomorrow. We may be seeing that kind of approach in Afghanistan through the current planning horizon.”

-Retired General Mike Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA

“By our staying in Afghanistan, or Iraq, we are, by definition, “nation-building.” Our mere presence constitutes nation-building.”

-Retired Lt. Gen. James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence

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