Dead Drop: June 26

THE ROOM WHERE SOMETHING HAPPENED: As you may have heard, former National Security Advisor John Bolton has a new book that came out on Tuesday.  The Dead Drop got our hands on a copy. At 500+ pages we can’t say we’ve read every word yet – but we have read enough to say that it is one of those rare books in which nobody comes out looking good, including the author. The administration tried to stop publication of the book way too late to keep it out of the hands of readers. In court filings, we were intrigued to see statements from folks like DNI John Ratcliffe, Director of the NSA General Paul Nakasone and Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, William Evanina, asserting that the manuscript contains classified info.  The Cipher Brief’s Fine Print Columnist Walter Pincus closely examined this issue in his column this week.  Of course, Ratcliffe, Nakasone and Evanina are not going to tell us exactly what info is problematic – because that would only make the problem worse.  But one hint may have come from the president who told reporters last week that every conversation with him as president is “highly classified.”  While that notion is absurd – in the past, administrations have asserted that closed door conversations between heads of state are classified.  And the book has quite a few accounts of Trump’s chats with world leaders – so maybe that, in part, is what they’re worried about.

SECRET BOARD: The House Oversight Committee would like to unearth some CIA secrets of their own.  They have sent a letter to the Agency requesting the names of the members of the CIA’s external advisory board.  Seems like that should not be a huge secret but so far, the committee has come up dry.  Their interest was sparked by allegations that when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was CIA director, he loaded the board with wealthy, well-connected political figures and entertained them lavishly with an eye on enhancing his own political future. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus denied the allegation and said that the board was established by General Mike Hayden when he was CIA Director (2006-2009.) In fact, we are told the board dates back to the early 1990s.  And it hasn’t always been such a secret.  Leon Panetta issued a press release when he was director in 2009 listing his members. Mike Pompeo is the only person taking some heat for the recent handling of the CIA advisory board.  Politico quoted a former official as saying that Susan Pompeo, “helped set schedules, plan menus and chart the general agenda for advisory board events.” All of which makes it seem odd that the CIA would pick this past Wednesday to tweet out a clip from a CBS This Morning interview with the Pompeo’s when he was at the Agency as part of their #FamiliesofCIA series.

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