Dead Drop: February 14

WE LOVE YOU, WE REALLY DO:  Happy Valentine’s Day to all our Dead Drop readers.

THE THREAT OF HEARING ABOUT THREATS: Every year in recent memory, the leadership of the U.S. intelligence community has trooped up to Capitol Hill to deliver to Congress an assessment of the threats facing the nation. The briefings, delivered to the oversight committees, traditionally happen in both open (unclassified) settings, and behind closed doors (for the really good stuff.) According to Politico, the IC leadership this year wanted to skip the public portion of the briefings – allegedly for fear of pissing off POTUS.  Last year, following the unclassified briefings the President suggested that his IC leaders “go back to school” because they gave assessments that were not in line with his world view. Apparently, the stand-off about taking an open stand on the “worldwide threat” assessment has resulted in no testimony (open or closed) being scheduled at this time. Intelligence veterans we talked with are shaking their heads at the state of play. “The public hearings always had a valuable impact of forcing us to come up with language about what could be said in an unclassified setting about very real threats,” one IC veteran told us. The open hearings also had the benefit of insulating the IC from complaints that they had not sufficiently warned Congress.  For example, shortly after 9/11, the CIA pointed out that in his February 7, 2001 Worldwide Threat testimony, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet told Congress in open session: “Usama bin Ladin and his global network of lieutenants and associates remain the most immediate and serious threat. Since 1998, Bin Ladin has declared all US citizens legitimate targets of attack. As shown by the bombing of our Embassies in Africa in 1998 and his Millennium plots last year, he is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning.”

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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