Dead Drop: March 10

PEACE PROCESS(LESS) –  Sources tell The Dead Drop, that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and point man on the topic has yet to take a State Department briefing on the thorny issue of Middle East peace. Kushner was done no favors when Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu figuratively patted him on the head during a White House news conference essentially saying that he has known the lad since he was in short pants. Despite the lack of visible effort on the peace front – our sources hear that the White House wants to host a Middle East summit soon.  Unclear who might attend – or what the agenda would be.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE: If you sought to defend the President’s assertions about alleged wiretaps of Trump Tower – what is the last news outlet you would speak with to make your case?  We suggest it might be “RT” – the Kremlin run propaganda outfit.  But former CIA analyst Larry Johnson granted an interview with RT recently saying that senior people in the ODNI, CIA, NSA should be fired, because, as he understands it “…NSA authorities had been misused and abused with respect to Donald Trump.” Johnson added, “There’s no evidence on the side of Russia meddling in the U.S. election.”  That’s not what the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said – but what do they know?

HOW’D THEY GET THAT SHOT?  Over the weekend, CNN aired some dramatic video shot through a window of the Oval Office which appeared to show adviser Steve Bannon and others engaged in heated conversations.  Some press accounts said that President Trump (who is not seen in the video) unleashed a “ballistic tirade” against Bannon.  Setting aside the content of the conversation, Dead Drop sources ask, How and why was CNN allowed to get such a shot?  Normally, White House press operations (and the Secret Service) closely control access to areas where goings on in the Oval Office can be seen.   

NOT MY VAULT: When WikiLeaks announced on Tuesday that they were releasing a trove of secret documents, they called “Vault 7,” allegedly purloined from the CIA – it presented a dilemma for Agency alumni sought out by the media for comment.  Most folks with a current security clearance were unwilling to verify the legitimacy of the documents.   So, you saw lots of people dancing around saying things like “IF these documents were genuine, it would be troubling.” Initially, the CIA itself would only say: “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”  Somehow, we think if the documents were bogus – they’d find a way to comment. A day after the bombshell revelations, CIA issued a lengthier statement – still neither confirming nor denying the authenticity of the documents – but stressing that the Agency collects intelligence against foreign targets – not Americans.

CIA OGC 2B: On Tuesday, President Trump announced his intention to nominate Courtney Simmons Elwood to be General Counsel of the CIA.  Elwood, a highly-regarded 1994 graduate of Yale Law, once clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and served in the White House and Justice Department during the Bush ’43 administration.  She’ll need Senate confirmation to take up her new duties.  The White House quoted CIA Director Mike Pompeo as saying, “The warriors at CIA look forward to her joining in our mission to be the premier espionage agency in the world.” The quote got our attention – since CIA officials don’t usually refer to themselves as “warriors.”  That may reflect Pompeo’s Army background – and saying that their mission is “to be the premier espionage agency” is also a bit odd – since most Agency officers we know firmly believe they ARE the premier espionage agency – and there is no TO BE about it.  

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

  • No Laughing Matter: The December 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee’s controversial report of CIA interrogation practices against captured terrorists has been turned into a “graphic novel.”  CIA leaders who were involved in the program (none of whom were interviewed for the so-called “Feinstein Report”) are unlikely to be thrilled with the comic book version.  A glimpse of the cartoon-like edition is on
  • We’re #2!  An Air Force flight surgeon has won $15,000 in a NASA competition dubbed the Space Poop Challenge.  According to Air Force Times, Colonel Thatcher Cardon has come up with a “genius solution” to help astronauts come up with a hands-free, mess-free way to get rid of human waste while cooped up in a space suit for up to six days.

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 has been just about everywhere promoting the release of the paperback version of his book, “Playing to the Edge.” On Fox News radio, he said “an awful lot of the population of the CIA and FBI (are) at battle stations…(defending) themselves against a president who has accused them of a felony.” Hayden told Business Insider that pro-Trump media have been peddling an “illegitimate” and “non-fact based world view.” He also promised Stephen Colbert that the CIA was not spying on the talk show host through his TV or microwave oven.
  • Michele Flournoy, writing in the Washington Post, said President Trump is right to spend more on defense – but cautioned that he must spend it carefully.
  • Admiral James Stavridis  was among the national security experts who spoke with NBC News, cautioning against any dramatic reduction of American military presence overseas. “The idea that we would simply walk away from our allies…is a mistake,” he said.

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

Lt. Gen. (ret) Guy Swan, Vice President of the Association of the United States Army:

“You must read Tribe by Sebastian Junger, which addresses the question of why we as humans long to be part of something bigger than ourselves and why modern-day society fails to deliver.


“The government spends a lot of time and money checking the backgrounds of people to be “cleared” to receive intelligence.  That makes sense to protect sensitive information.  Doesn’t it make sense to expend some additional effort to make sure the recipients understand the intelligence they are getting?”

-Charles Duelfer, Chairman of Omnis, Inc. and former Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence for Iraq WMD

DON’T BE SHY:  If you know any tidbits, just pass them along to us at: [email protected].  And don’t worry, who you are will remain a tightly held secret.