Dead Drop: July 14

ANALOGY GENERATOR: President Trump’s Sunday morning tweet that he and Vladimir Putin “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking & many other negative things, will be guarded” sparked a lot of interesting analogies.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said working with the Russians on cyber security was like partnering with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a “chemical weapons unit.” Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) said it would be “akin to inviting the North Koreans to participate in a commission on non-proliferation.”   Here at The Dead Drop – we’d liken partnering with Putin with hiring O.J. Simpson to track down the real killer.  What’s your analogy?  Send it to: [email protected].

Note: just 13 hours after floating his cyber trial balloon – Trump shot it down with another tweet saying that it can’t happen.  It was fun while it lasted, though.

JOB INTERVIEW? One outcome of President Trump’s brief fling with the idea of setting up a joint U.S.-Russian cyber security outfit was the immodest suggestion from WikiLeaks that Julian Assange be named to head the organization, saying “he’s trusted by the public and has the CIA’s best stuff anyway.” Agency officials we talked to think this is a splendid idea and recommend that Assange leave his embassy hideout, get on an airplane immediately, and come to Washington where multiple U.S. officials would welcome a chance to interview him.

FAKE NEWS 1970s STYLE: Back in 1973, author Norman Mailer published a book called Marilyn, which suggested that “right-wing” FBI and CIA officials had a “huge motivation” to murder Marilyn Monroe to somehow embarrass the Kennedy family.  According to documents from Mailer’s FBI file (on, the FBI was quite spun up about the allegations – including suggestions that they were monitoring Monroe’s calls to the White House on the night she died. The Bureau’s concerns were eased, however, when Mailer admitted in press interviews that he had “no evidence to support his theory,” and that they were based “on his ‘writer’s instinct’ and on speculation.”

DISPARATE VIEWS ON DON JR.-GATE:  Seems as though everyone has an opinion on the significance (or lack thereof) of Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer where she did (or did not) offer dirt on Hillary Clinton.  CNN found Lindsay Moran (who served as a CIA case officer for five years around the turn of the millennium before quitting to write a book). “Legality aside, this is Russian intelligence tactics at their best,” Moran said. “Let’s promise Trump Jr. something that he wants, lure him in, bait and switch. It doesn’t matter whether they talked about nefarious activities with him at the meeting — the whole thing is nefarious.” Meanwhile, Newsmax TV rolled out former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz who downplayed the whole matter. “I think in a month or two, no one’s going to be talking about this,” Fleitz said. “My view is this is a very minor incident. I think a couple people may have made a mistake by not mentioning it.” Adding, “But, frankly, it’s not illegal to meet with Russians, and I imagine that these Trump sons meet with a lot of people from different countries.” Meanwhile, former CIA officer (and former presidential candidate) Evan McMullin was on MSNBC debating Trump supporter retired Colonel Anthony Shaffer. McMullin said Shaffer was doing a “tremendous disservice to the American people” by saying Trump Jr.’s meeting was a normal campaign move.  Shaffer found a silver lining in Don Jr.’s meeting, saying it’s helpful to learn if Clinton could be blackmailed by the Russians. But another CIA alumnus, Bob Baer, took a dimmer view on CNN, telling Wolf Blitzer, “I’ve got to say, this is looking more and more like treason, Wolf. I mean, from a CIA officer’s perspective, this it doesn’t pass muster at any level.”

SPY STONES:  You may remember a fascinating story in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago about a mysterious engraved stone found on federal land in DC that memorialized six World War II German spies who were executed in 1942. It is unclear who placed the marker.  Now comes a parallel story from the other side of the pond.  According to, the family of a Dutch-born, Nazi spy who killed himself in the U.K. in 1941 has arranged for a headstone to adorn his previously unmarked grave near Cambridge.  The Nazi spy called himself Jan Willem Ter Braak, but his true name was “Engelbertus Fukken”….no, really.  The Nazi spy reportedly parachuted into the British countryside in late 1940.  His mission was unclear but he reportedly took his own life as local authorities were beginning to figure out there was something funky with Fukken.

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

  • Atomic Blonde: Charlize Theron is out with a spy flick later this month called Atomic Blonde.  She reportedly plays an MI-6 agent dispatched to Berlin to recover a “priceless dossier” containing the names of double agents.  Based on the trailer shown here, she apparently leaves a lot of broken glass, necks, and stereotypes in the process. Take that, Jason Bourne.
  • Virginia is for Homeland:  Season 7 of the Showtime TV series Homeland is going to be filmed in the Richmond, Virginia area, according to the local NBC affiliate.
  • Munn’s the Word: Six – is a History Channel dramatic series allegedly inspired by real missions of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six. The Hollywood Reporter says that in the upcoming season two, actress Olivia Munn will play “Gina” who is a “ruthless and smart CIA operative who rose from being a CIA shooter to a high-level operations officer.

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:

  • General Mike Hayden, former CIA and NSA Director, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Tuesday that the Trump Jr. emails were “fairly momentous” and represented “soft collusion.”
  • Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell told CBS News that Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer  was “highly inappropriate” and showed a “willingness to collude.”
  • Retired four-star General Jack Keane said on Fox News that the U.S. would not likely shoot down another North Korean ICBM test because “North Korea would likely react that, that was all-out war and therefore react accordingly with bombing South Korea and actually starting an invasion of South Korea.”
  • MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked retired Navy Admiral Jim Stavridis what he thinks about reports that White House advisors Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner told Secretary of Defense James Mattis that we should outsource the war in Afghanistan to contractors like Erik Prince.  Stavridis said, “This is in the category of dumb and dumber.”  Mitchell replied with a smile, “Tell us how you really feel about this, Admiral.”
  • Former CIA and DOE officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, writing in Just Security, says the media is asking the wrong questions on Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer.

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

Kevin Hulbert, former CIA chief of station:

“I’m reading two books: Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance—it seems to be the ‘go to’ book of the season to figure out what is happening in big swaths of America—and Wild Ride, by Adam Lashinsky, about the founding and history of Uber.  


“I can’t believe that this one exchange represents all there is, either involving the President’s son or others associated with the campaign… We are headed for a constitutional crisis, in my view.”

-James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence

ADVISE AND DISSENT: Got any hot tips or cold cuts you’d like to share? Reach out to us at [email protected].