Brennan, the Spooks, and Russian Collusion

The FBI is being held accountable for its role in spy operations against the Trump campaign. John Brennan’s CIA should be held accountable as well.

An editorial by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal on June 29, 2018 recommends an investigation of the CIA’s involvement in the 2016 election, and I agree. The WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel has commented on CIA involvement as well, as did Rudy Giuliani on August 13th. 

If press reports are accurate, American spy operations targeted the Trump campaign by luring Trump associates such as George Papadopoulos to meetings in Britain. There are two key factors at work here.

The first factor is the location.  The CIA is in charge of American government spy ops that occur in foreign countries, not the FBI. While an American tourist can fly to Britain to see the changing of the guard and be in front of Buckingham Palace within 24 hours, an American FBI agent can do nothing in Britain without intricate CIA approvals and supervision. If the CIA were not involved, they’d be raising hell with the FBI for doing business on their turf. Turf is everything in bureaucracy. CIA involvement is certain.

The second factor -- I do not know the people named and am basing this on press reports -- is that these ops bear the distinctive signature of being run by bureaucrats at CIA Headquarters, not by professionals in CIA field stations.

Headquarters’ spy recruitments are weak. Our full-time government employees, such as CIA officers and FBI agents, are expected to recruit part-time spies called agents, assets, sources, informants, and access agents. (Some folks don’t like the use of the word “spy,” but in fact everyone involved is a spy. I was a spy.)  With 17 redundant spy agencies and tens of thousands of idle employees in the Washington D.C. area, there’s a natural tendency to recruit American citizens to help spy on Americans. Such operations provide employees with opportunities to look busy and get promoted while living in the comfort of Washington. 

Recruitments of sources are important to the CIA, but if you try to recruit a terrorist in Syria, you might get a bullet in the head. North Korea and Iran are far away, out of sight and out of mind. Why not recruit an American college professor instead? Assign him a secret code name and he comes to look like a real spy. Most Americans are happy to help out, so there’s no fear of embarrassing rejection. 

There’s only one thing easier for Headquarters employees than recruiting an American college professor, and that is recruiting an American college professor who has already been recruited by other U.S. spy agencies. This appears to have been the case in these operations.

“Hey, this isn’t a secret source, this is just old Bill Jones!” is the kind of statement heard at CIA Headquarters when someone realizes that a secret asset is not a brave source deep within a rogue state, but is instead an American college professor, an old colleague, or the family member of a CIA employee. 

In espionage, you’ve got to recruit directly. If you need intelligence on Iran, you’ve got to go out and find an Iranian. It’s like courtship. You’ve got to get out and find your potential spouse and you must do it yourself. When I first saw the woman who would become my wife, I approached her immediately and directly. A simpering Headquarters bureaucrat would have thought, “I must find someone who can sidle up to her and assess her and then provide me with information that I can use to develop a relationship.”

We’ve spent billions training our officers and then they live in Washington and recruit American college professors to do their work.

The question is:  If these Headquarters-run operations are so lightweight, why did John Brennan’s CIA choose this kind of operation to target Trump? 

The answer is that they already knew there was no collusion, so they didn’t need a surgical, focused, silent CIA field operation.  

They wanted the noise and the hum of activity, the smoke, rumors, leaks, and innuendo of a Headquarters-run operation.  And they were right. Their plan worked. All this noise, combined with the fraudulent Steele Dossier, led to relentless media attacks on Trump, an unlimited budget for Mueller and his team, and even to ongoing demands that Trump kowtow to the intel agencies. 

The deep state left a sloppy trail behind. They must have figured Hillary would win and so it wouldn’t matter. There’s much more going on here than CIA spies merely sidling up to Trump associates for brief conversations and handing them some money. Big meetings about these operations meant people like Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe from the FBI piled into cars to head over to the CIA. Once there, they sat around the Nirvana of bureaucracy, a big conference room table. (McCabe spent $70,000 of your money to buy his own table.) Each agency and office would have been at the table. Each senior person brings along a herd of minions. The senior people talk while the minions sit there like potted plants. These potted plants will be willing to talk to investigators. 

CIA employees document their activity exhaustively in records that are sent to lots of other offices to keep everyone informed. These documents are cross-referenced, so if a deep stater tries to delete them, it will be obvious. A Horowitz-style investigation will find a treasure trove of information plus a trail of accountings that will show wasteful spending and possibly fraud. Headquarters-run ops are expensive extravaganzas. 

Democrats seem to understand that these ops are easy to unravel. Their only defense is to scream that details must be kept secret to protect national security. Yet they are the ones who did the leaking of identities of people involved, which is a felony.

Mueller and his 13 angry Democrats are missing out on all the fun. Their investigation of the President has been frustrating. Had Mueller focused instead on threats from our own intelligence agencies, he’d have been able to indict and jail his prey at will. 

We must hold John Brennan and his bureaucrats accountable.  At the same time, we must strengthen our intelligence capabilities by cancelling phony operations and redirecting our officers to service overseas.    

Ishmael Jones is the pen name of a former CIA case officer. He is the author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

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