Dead Drop – December 3

SACRED OATH (KEEPERS): You have probably heard that former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is suing his former Agency for dragging their feet on clearing his memoir, A Sacred Oath.  Esper, who was fired by President Trump last fall via tweet just after the election, hired a Washington attorney to try and force the Pentagon to move on clearing the manuscript which they have reportedly had for about six months. Esper says that it’s being help up under the guise of classification – but that DoD officials have been unable or unwilling to come up with explanations of what secrets they seek to shield. Esper also told CNN that DOD has farmed the text out to multiple other agencies – some of which are arguing to remove chunks of the book asking that he delete his “views on the actions of other countries, on conversations I held with foreign officials, and regarding international events that have been widely reported.” Mr. Esper said: “Many items were already in the public domain; some were even published by D.O.D.” You may have heard all that – but here is something you might have missed – in the court filing on Esper’s suit – his attorney included what sounds like promotional language: “The Manuscript is scheduled for publication in May 2022, and copies can be pre-ordered on at…” and then he includes a URL that leads to the page for the book. We are unable to determine if the link is one of those “Amazon Associate” ones like we use – which would enable him to earn a little money on each book sold – making one wonder if Esper will publish even without clearance.

IF YOU THINK THE LAST TIME WAS A CHALLENGE:  For decades, former CIA officer John Helgerson has been putting out a little book under Agency auspices called, Getting to Know the President.  The monograph details how the Agency has briefed presidential candidates and presidents-elect over the years. The Agency just released an update to the book in the fourth edition which includes a new chapter 9 titled, “Donald J. Trump – A Unique Challenge.” Some of the nuggets come from political appointees of the Obama administration – like former DNI Jim Clapper.  But others come from career non-political officers like Ted Gistaro, who organized briefings for both candidates in 2016 and later was the first full-time briefer after Trump assumed office. Regarding the PDB, Gistaro said: “He touched it” (referring to the briefing book) “He doesn’t really read anything.”  Chapter 9 also reveals that Trump was not briefed on CIA covert actions until several weeks into the administration and stopped taking the briefings entirely during the final several weeks of his time in office. While the chapter is interesting – and fleshes out some of what has been heard in unofficial channels – it got us wondering – if Trump should run for office again and win his party’s nomination and perhaps the presidency again – what kind of reception will his next set of briefers get? He might not repeat something he is said to have told his briefers during the 2016 campaign: “the nasty things” he had been saying about the Intelligence Community in public (he told them) “don’t apply to you.”

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