Dead Drop: November 18

NAME GAME: We are tempted to dive headlong into the speculation about who will get what job in the Trump administration.  But The Dead Drop comes out just once a week – and the hot names seem to change once an hour. We did note with interest that as of midweek – the Trump transition people seem to have not yet contacted the Pentagon to discuss turnover.  The folks at DoD are all prepared with briefing books, power point presentations and the like – but no one to give them to. There are some reports that other major departments, including Justice, were also sitting by the phone waiting for a call.  Word was that “landing teams” from the Trump crowd might wade ashore at the various departments around November 17th – nine days after the election. Last week’s leader in the clubhouse for the job of CIA Director, former Congressman Mike Rogers, is now off the transition team. The Weekly Standard speculates that this is because he was viewed as insufficiently strident about perceived Hillary Benghazi sins of the past. Another former House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Peter Hoekstra, has become the flavor of the week – or at least the day – with speculation that he might be picked to run the CIA or DNI.  According to Politico, Hoekstra “previously lobbied on behalf of the Kurdish regional government, a Belarusian potash company and a Libyan organization.”  Must not have been planning on a return to government at the time.

PLAYING BOTH SIDES? The Washington Post on Thursday reported that among the long list of potential National Security Advisors in a Trump administration – was retired General and former CIA Director David Petraeus.  That’s interesting – The Dead Drop is reliably informed that Petraeus was very interested in filling that same position in a Hillary administration.

SORE WINNERS:  Eliot Cohen is a highly respected professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, a former senior State Department Official, and a Republican who supported Hillary Clinton in the just completed election.  Nonetheless, on November 10, he penned a conciliatory article in The American Interest urging folks to give Team Trump a chance.  But a few days later, he took to Twitter to say that after an exchange with the Trump transition team he has changed his mind. “Stay away. They’re angry, arrogant, screaming “you LOST!” Will be ugly.” It seems the Trump folks are keeping a list of folks they want to get even with.  And it is a LONG list. Cohen took to the pages of the Washington Post on Thursday to reiterate his advice: stay away.

HE WENT TO JARED!  According to some media accounts (denied in a tweet from Donald Trump), the president-elect has sought to get top secret security clearances for his adult children and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner, by the way, is getting the credit/blame for purging NJ Governor Chris Christie from the transition – some say in payback for Christie’s 2004 prosecution (and subsequent jailing) of Jared’s dad, Charles, for tax evasion.

HERE’S MUDD IN YOUR EYE: Some pundits clearly have no sense of humor.  For example, the folks at the euphoniously named website Crooks and Liars, who spotted former CIA and FBI official Phil Mudd being interviewed by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday.  Cuomo brought up reports of Trump’s interest in getting top secret security clearances for his adult offspring.  After asking Mudd what his concerns were – Cuomo immediately interrupted him.  Mudd said (with a smile), “Be quiet son, I’ll give you an education.” Apparently Crooks and Liars brook no disrespect for CNN anchors, calling Mudd’s comments rude, hyper aggressive, and a few other words we won’t repeat.

FIREHOSE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: According to The – Dataminr, a Twitter analytics company that previously revoked CIA access to its information, has signed a contract to help the FBI know “…about breaking news quickly…ensuring public safety and the fastest emergency response.” The bureau awarded a sole-source contract to Dataminr, a company that allows customers to churn through Twitter’s “firehose,” which includes more than 500 million 140-character messages posted daily. The company says, however, that “Dataminr is not a product that enables surveillance.”

POCKET LITTER: Stray thoughts – loose change – and a few odds and ends.

  • CAVEMAN: reports on 85-year-old CIA veteran Joe Kelly who has built a 2800 sq. ft. underground home in Tennessee, which allows him to live completely off the energy grid.
  • SPY VS. SPY: Newsweek has a very long story about  two Russian defectors who got caught up between warring factions: the FBI and CIA.
  • PICKPOCKET LITTER? There’s a new spy flick out this week called The Take, which is about an American pickpocket who teams up with a lone-wolf CIA “agent” to pursue a gang behind a deadly bombing in Paris. Why are the CIA folks in movies always lone wolves?  Saving money on the cast?  The trailer can be viewed here.

NETWORK NEWS: Experts from The Cipher Brief network are always making news.  Here are a few examples from this week:

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

John Sipher, former member of CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service and currently Director of Client Services at CrossLead, Inc.:

I just put down Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer.  I enjoy history and especially appreciate looking at critical events in order to get an understanding of the historical and political context.  The success of the Continental Army over the British was not inevitable, and General George Washington came close to defeat several times.  


“Combat readiness doesn’t have a constituency—except for the entire nation— when fighting needs to be accomplished.”

-Retired Lieutenant General David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies.

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