Dead Drop: November 30

TALKING TURKI: CIA alumni, whom The Dead Drop talked with recently, were bemused by recent comments by a senior member of the Saudi royal family.  Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi ambassador to the U.K. and U.S. was quoted attacking the agency for reportedly concluding with a ‘high degree of confidence’ that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. “The CIA is not necessarily the highest standard of veracity or accuracy in assessing situations. The examples of that are multitude,” Turki said to reporters in Abu Dhabi.  Citing the Agency’s faulty analysis regarding Iraqi WMD in 2003, Turki said: “I don’t see why the CIA is not on trial in the United States. This is my answer to their assessment of who is guilty and who is not and who did what in the consulate in Istanbul.”  The Saudi government did not publicly support the 2003 invasion, one Agency veteran told us, “because unlike the first Gulf war, they did not think they had a dog in the fight.”  But the Saudis did not disagree with the assessment of U.S. intelligence (and most other intelligence agencies worldwide) that Saddam had WMD, we were told.  But former U.S. associates are cutting Turki some slack. “When your Crown Prince deals with dissidents using bone saws, it is hard to expect people to stick their necks out,” we were told.

WILL SENATE NIX TRUMP INTEL PICKS?  President Trump not only faces the prospect of a soon-to-be Democrat controlled House of Representatives, but he is also getting some unexpected push back from the Republican controlled Senate.  The Wall Street Journal reported recently that two top Trump nominees for positions in the intelligence community are being help up by Republican Senators.  The National Counterterrorism Center has been without a full-time leader for nearly a year.  Joseph Maguire was nominated to lead NCTC this past June, but Senator Rand Paul (R, KY) has put a hold on the pick while he tries to pry information from the government about how the intelligence community uses metadata on U.S. citizens.  Maguire is a retired Navy vice admiral. And then there is William Evanina, who was nominated in February to lead the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. (Evanina has been director of the NCSC since June 2014 but the position has been elevated so that it now requires Senate confirmation. Check out publisher Suzanne Kelly’s podcast with him here.) In Evanina’s case, Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA) is the roadblock.  Grassley has put a hold on the nomination trying to extract information from the administration about what Evanina might have told Vice President Pence about the Russia investigation early in the Trump administration.  According to the WSJ, the delay has reached the point where Evanina is beginning to think about jobs outside government.

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