Dead Drop: June 16

SAD SIGN OF THE TIMES: The USMC is reportedly in the process of installing bullet proof cubicles at Marine Corps Recruiting Stations around the country and is looking into adding bullet resistant glass panels capable of stopping bullets fired from a hunting rifle according to

STAYING OFF THAT CURVEY COUCH: The New York Times on Sunday reports that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis seems to be steadfastly refusing to drink the Kool-Aid being peddled by the Trump Administration – and as evidence says that the General has resisted pressure from the White House to appear on the president’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends.”  On Monday, there was a bizarre cabinet meeting where, with cameras rolling, one-by-one, top officials were given a chance to praise the POTUS.  Mattis stood out by stressing what an honor it is to look after the troops – without mentioning the Commander-in-Chief.

STAYING AWAY FROM THE MEDIA (THIS TIME): At that same odd cabinet meeting, when it came time for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to win brownie points with the boss, he piped up, “Mr. President, it’s an honor to serve as your CIA director. It’s an incredible privilege to lead the men and women who are providing intelligence so that we can do the national security mission. And in the finest traditions of the CIA, I’m not going to share a damn thing in front of the media.” Some of our observers noted that Pompeo hasn’t always adhered to the zipped lips policy – for example, back in February when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer got him to call reporters to discredit a New York Times article which alleged collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russians.

HITS AND MYTHS:’s latest discovery from the CIA’s Crest database is a nearly 50-year-old document which told Agency employees how to respond to criticism of the organization. Among the gems:  If asked about the failure connected to the 1960 U-2 incident, Agency workers were encouraged to say, “What failure?” arguing that the mission “was a very great success indeed.” It was only the aftermath that “left a great deal to be desired.”  Yeah.  It is not being shot out of the sky that was the problem, it was just the sudden stop. If asked whether espionage is potentially “odious or even immoral,” the Agency suggested a response that included telling people “not to worry about it.”  That’ll work.

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

  • Did Anyone Else Notice?  When the president’s representatives criticized James Comey for having an intermediary anonymously reveal the existence and content of memos regarding the former FBI Director’s meeting with the POTUS – that they did so on background? According to the Washington Post:  “A person close to the president’s legal team say they were preparing to file a ‘complaint’ early next week….” If so-called “leaking” is so bad – why not announce your intention to file a complaint “on-the-record” instead of this “a person close to” stuff?
  • The Search for Smoking Guns: The Secret Service is relaxing its policies regarding hiring new recruits who have used marijuana in the not-to-distant past.  Apparently, according to Salon, past prohibitions have gone up in smoke given the dearth of candidates who can honestly claim to have avoided weed.
  • Speaking of smoke: A CNN political analyst compared last week’s testimony of senior intelligence officials who declined to get into details about their private conversations with the President – with past testimony of tobacco executives who downplayed connections between smoking and cancer.
  • The Senate Book Club:  At Tuesday’s Senate hearing for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senator Tom Cotton decided to make a point (we think) by suggesting that some of the allegations of collusion between the Russians and Trump campaign amounted to “bad tradecraft” – which Sessions might recognize by novel reading and movie watching.  Mediaite provided this transcript. Cotton: “Do you like spy fiction? John La Corre [sic], Daniel Silva, Jason Matthews?”  Sessions: “Yeah, Alan Furst, David Ignatius.” Cotton: “Do you like Jason Bourne or James Bond movies?” Sessions: “No. Yes, I do.”  Cotton then suggested that that it was a “fantastical” and “ridiculous” plot line to suggest that a then-sitting senator and ambassador colluded in an open setting to commit espionage.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news.  Here are just a couple examples from this week:

  • “Ship-Killer” Missiles Challenge U.S. – Admiral James Stavridis on Bloomberg TV on the threat from hypersonic missiles.
  • Watch your bank, eh? – Former NSA Director General Keith Alexander told a Canadian “defence” industry trade show recently that the  “interconnectedness of the financial system could lead to rapid transmission of stress from a cyberattack.”

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

Matthew Olsen, former National Counterterrorism Center Director:

“I am reading, The Long Game, by Derek Cholet, subtitled, How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World.”


“We have to have a fairly healthy suspicion that Iran will do whatever it can to advance itself. Because it has cheated in the past and built unauthorized, secret [nuclear] sites, one has to be very vigilant and also conclude that it is likely doing that again.”

-General Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop?  Shoot us a note at [email protected].