Dead Drop: September 8

PARDON ME? Rumors floating around that the President may pardon WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange in exchange for information that would attempt to demonstrate that Russia did not collude with Team Trump during the past election – has gotten current and former U.S. intelligence officials spooked.  So says The Hill, which reported that Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is trying to set up a meeting with the President to discuss such a deal.  Oddly, Assange has yet to be charged with anything in the U.S., even though WikiLeaks is widely believed within the intelligence community to have done enormous damage. One CIA veteran told us, “While he is at it – the WikiLeaks founder might also want to provide Rohrabacher with evidence that Assange isn’t a Russian tool.”

TURNABOUT: Speaking of WikiLeaks, it seems their homepage was hacked this past week. Not by the CIA or NSA, apparently, but by an outfit calling itself “OURMINE.”  WikiLeaks says their servers were not affected… just the landing page.

WATCHING THE WATCHDOGS: The McClatchy News Service ran a lengthy story this week that exposed an outrageous practice of the Congressional intelligence oversight committees—hiring staff who actually know something about intelligence. Crack McClatchy investigative reporters uncovered the fact that lawmakers rely on people who spent time working for intelligence agencies to help them keep an eye on the intelligence community.  McClatchy apparently thinks it would be better if staffers were unfamiliar with the agencies they are monitoring. The Dead Drop, however, thinks cluelessness is more appropriately the role of the elected Members.

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

  • Unlocked and Unloaded: It has been a while since we have seen a spy thriller movie get such bad reviews as the just-released, Unlocked, the story of a traumatized CIA interrogator trying to thwart a terrorist attack in London. The N.Y. Post says despite a talented cast, the movie suffers from “exposition-heavy dialogue” and a “clunky plot.” The paper says you are better off watching Homeland reruns than this flick. The Chicago Sun-Times agrees, urging viewers to “count the spy movie clichés” in Unlocked.
  • Department of Deep State: Last month, The Dead Drop told you about how former CIA officer Robert David Steele appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars program claiming there are kidnapped children living on Mars. This week we learned from The Washington Examiner that Steele has joined forces with former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney to help President Trump combat the “deep state.” You may recall McKinney once got in trouble for punching a Capitol Hill cop – and later got detained for attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  Steele has run for president a couple of times before.  He and McKinney sound like quite a ticket.

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:

  • Former CIA and NSA chief General Michael Hayden was on CNN’s State of the Union this week saying the President’s national security team had framed a coherent policy on North Korea but that it was sometimes “inartfully executed.” He said he feared two things: “the stray electron, the tweet that goes out a 5 a.m.” and the president getting into a “hyperbole contest” with Kim Jong-un.
  • Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell was on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday reacting to the North Korean nuclear test and laying out President Trump’s options, saying that diplomacy is the first option but that has “failed for the last 25 years,” adding there is “absolutely no reason to believe it’s going to work now.” Morell also had an Op-Ed in Thursday’s Washington Post, saying that despite conventional wisdom, “North Korea may already be able to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S.”
  • Admiral Jim Stavridis and Gordon Chang were on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday also talking about North Korea. Stavridis said he hopes Kim Jong-un is listening to the tone of voice of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.  Chang noted that Kim has been talking about “total victory” recently – code for taking over South Korea.

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

Jim Jeffrey, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Iraq:

“I am reading H.W. Brand’s The General and the President on President Harry Truman’s removal of General Douglas MacArthur.  I did my college thesis on the subject and thought I knew it, but Brand introduces many new elements of what was almost a constitutional crisis—and military catastrophe.  My conclusion: Our nation will never know what it owes to a little known general, Matthew Ridgeway.


“Kim Jong-un has made up his mind and is hell bent to create an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead capable of targeting the United States. The question is not whether he can be deterred but whether the elite of North Korea can be convinced that Kim is taking a path that does not lead to peace and stability but rather leads to the destruction of the North Korean state.”

– Dennis Wilder, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs

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