Déjà vu: Trump administration is ‘cooking’ intelligence to politicize the intelligence agencies

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Donald Trump has spent four years promoting a “deep state” conspiracy theory with which to undermine the U.S. intelligence agencies and the state department. He has removed virtually all of the career service personnel who led those agencies, out of retaliation for their having investigated his campaign’s numerous interactions with Russian operatives in the 2016 campaign.

Trump has replaced the leadership of these agencies with sycophant yes men who will parrot whatever conspiracy theory he is advancing today, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the former leaders of the GOP House Freedom (sic) Caucus, who pursued eight investigations into Benghazi! to smear Hillary Clinton and came up with bupkis.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, published an op-ed in the Washington Post outlining his growing concern about the politicization of the intelligence community. Warner wrote: “Efforts by this president to intimidate … U.S. intelligence services may be politically advantageous in the short term, but over time the consequences for our country will be disastrous.”

Michael Morell, former deputy director and twice acting director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013, Avril Haines, former deputy director of the CIA from 2013 to 2015 and deputy national security advisor from 2015 to 2017, and David S. Cohen, former deputy director of the CIA from 2015 to 2017, write at Foreign Policy tht they share Senator Warner’s concerns. Trump’s Politicization of U.S. Intelligence Agencies Could End in Disaster (excerpt):

Analytical objectivity—intelligence officials writing and saying what they believe to be the truth without consideration for policy or politics—is fundamental to U.S. national security. Simply put, good policy decisions require fact-based, objective, and rigorous analysis.

Politicized intelligence, by contrast, simply reinforces preexisting beliefs, depriving leaders of a foundation for developing sound policy. That is why intelligence analysts are trained, from the very outset of their careers, in presenting objective analysis, and why the intelligence community has institutional safeguards, including ombudsmen and inspectors general, to push back against pressure that leads to bias and politicization of intelligence analysis.

Every president since the creation of the U.S. intelligence community after World War II has supported this principle—until Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly pressured the intelligence community to present analytic judgments consistent with his views, rather than those of its expert analysts.

“This pressure is having an impact; the intelligence community is becoming politicized.”

The Trump 2020 campaign, and by extension the Republican Party, have settled upon an election strategy to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic to deflect criticism of Donald Trump for his own belated response to the pandemic and his repeatedly praising China for its coronavirus response. (China’s failures in no way mitigates against Trump’s own criminal negligence in his failed response to the coronavirus pandemic).

Last week the New York Times reported that Trump is trying to politicize the intelligence to blame China, in step with his campaign strategy. Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs:

Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former American officials. The effort comes as President Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.

Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.

Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.

Mr. Trump’s aides and Republicans in Congress have sought to blame China for the pandemic in part to deflect criticism of the administration’s mismanagement of the crisis in the United States, which now has more coronavirus cases than any country. More than one million Americans have been infected, and more than 60,000 have died.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former C.I.A. director and the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China, has taken the lead in pushing American intelligence agencies for more information, according to current and former officials.

Last Thursday, the U.S. intelligence community released an assessment formally concluding that the virus behind the coronavirus pandemic originated in China. While asserting that the pathogen was not man-made or genetically altered, the statement pointedly declined to rule out the possibility that the virus had escaped from the complex of laboratories in Wuhan that has been at the forefront of global research into bat-borne viruses linked to multiple epidemics over the past decade. Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release:

“The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said, using a common initialism for the U.S. intelligence community.

* * *

While intelligence analysts and many scientists see the lab-as-origin theory as technically possible, no direct evidence has emerged suggesting that the coronavirus escaped from Wuhan’s research facilities. Many scientists argue that the evidence tilts firmly toward a natural transmission: a still-unknown interaction in late fall that allowed the virus to jump from a bat or another animal to a human.

Trump on Thursday said he has seen evidence suggesting the novel coronavirus originated in a virology lab in Wuhan, China. Trump says he’s seen evidence coronavirus came from Chinese lab. US intelligence agencies say it was not man-made:

Trump did not provide any evidence to support that assertion, and he seemed to hedge a bit by saying there were many “theories” about the origin of the virus. He has repeatedly called for an investigation into the origin of the virus, part of what critics say is an effort to shift blame to China amid growing criticism of Trump’s missteps in response to the crisis.

The president’s comment on Thursday came just hours after his director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, issued a statement on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community stating there was broad agreement the virus was not man-made or genetically modified.

But that statement left open the question of whether the virus was accidentally released by a laboratory in China, where the virus first emerged before spreading across the globe, or whether it came from animals and then jumped to humans, as the Chinese government has stated.

* * *

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also has suggested, without citing evidence, that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a theory that many scientists have disputed.

You should be experiencing déjà vu to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney “cooking” the intelligence to claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to the U.S. to support their long-held desire to invade Iraq and reorder the Middle East in a Pax Americana empire promoted by the neoconservative Project for the New American Century. Here we go again.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that there’s “enormous evidence” to support the theory that the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, not a nearby market.

President Trump said in a Fox News town hall Sunday that he believed that a “mistake” in China was the cause of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, though he did not present any evidence for the claim. Trump says China made a ‘mistake’ and tried to cover up coronavirus outbreak.

The Washington Post reports, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continue to push unsubstantiated Wuhan lab theory on novel coronavirus origins:

President Trump and his top officials are sharpening their attacks on China, aggressively seeking to blame the country where the novel coronavirus began and more frequently repeating unsubstantiated claims the disease started in a laboratory in Wuhan.

The de facto spokesman for the blame China crowd is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who claimed yesterday there was “enormous evidence” the virus originated in a Wuhan lab. But he declined to elaborate: “I’m not allowed to tell you that,” Pompeo said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

During a Fox News town hall last night at the Lincoln Memorial, Trump repeated the claim without evidence, saying he thought China “made a horrible mistake and didn’t want to admit” the virus came from the Wuhan lab. Last week, Trump said he had seen intelligence supporting the lab theory but was “not allowed” to elaborate.

“There’s a lot of theories,” Trump said, “but we have people looking at it very, very strongly. Scientific people, intelligence people and others.”

The facts: Scientists and some government officials have for months floated varying ideas on the outbreak’s origin. But as the Trump administration and the president’s reelection campaign have moved to shift blame to China from the White House’s own response to the virus, the unproven theory the disease was hatched in an accident at a Wuhan lab has gained traction. Never-mind that a growing body of scientific evidence shows the virus was the product of a “natural process. 

The president’s own intelligence apparatus has yet to find any evidence supporting the lab theory:

      • DNI: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an unusual public statement last week about the ongoing U.S. investigation into the outbreak’s origins: “The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to U.S. policymakers and those responding to the covid-19 virus, which originated in China. The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.
      • They added: “The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
      • “The C.I.A. has yet to unearth any data beyond circumstantial evidence to bolster the lab theory, according to current and former government officials, and the agency has told policymakers it lacks enough information to either affirm or refute it,” reported the New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti, Julian Barnes, Edward Wong, and Adam Goldman.

‘Conclusion shopping’: Mazzetti, Barnes, Wong, and Goldman reported that senior administration officials “have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.”

      • “Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battlewith China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.”
      • “A former intelligence official described senior aides’ repeated emphasis of the lab theory as ‘conclusion shopping,’ a disparaging term among analysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction and links to al-Qaeda, perhaps the most notorious example of the politicization of intelligence,” they report.

Payback politics: Amid already strained relations, Trump has “fumed” to aides about China for “withholding information about the virus” and failing to contain it — “and has discussed enacting dramatic measures that would probably lead to retaliation by Beijing,”  our colleagues Jeff Stein, Carol Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Gerry Shih reported last week. Senior officials across agencies were expected to meet last week to develop retaliatory measures, two officials confirmed to our colleagues.

      • Some of the options: “In private, Trump and aides have discussed stripping China of its ‘sovereign immunity,’ aiming to enable the U.S. government or victims to sue China for damages.” [This is a pointless gesture]
      • Or: “Some administration officials have also discussed having the United States cancel part of its debt obligations to China, two people with knowledge of internal conversations said. It was not known if the president has backed this idea,” per Jeff, Carol, Josh and Gerry. [This violates the “full faith and credit” obligations under the Constitution]
      • “Other administration officials are warning Trump against the push to punish China, saying the country is sending supplies to help the American response.” [In fact, China is critical to the supply chain of a large number of industries]

For their part, the Chinese government has fueled the suspicions. Chinese officials have rejected calls for an investigation into the source of the virus, pushed conspiracy theories the virus originated in the U.S., and Chinese diplomats have issued critical and unhelpful statements to other countries. The response has sparked growing global resentment as countries around the world, also impacted by the pandemic, have echoed calls for a China investigation.

* * *

However, these same leaders who have called for an investigation into China’s response have also dismissed Trump’s claim the virus could have been created in a lab:

      • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for a global inquiry into the outbreak but said there’s no evidence the disease came from a lab: “What we have before us doesn’t suggest thatis the likely source,” Morrison said on Friday. 
      • French President Emmanuel Macron has questioned China’s transparency and handling of the outbreak but his office released a statement earlier in April saying “there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of covid-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China.”
      • The World Health Organization responded to Trump’s claims  Friday: “We have listened again and again to numerous scientists who have looked at the sequences and looked at this virus. We are assured that this virus is natural in origin,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO emergency response chief. “What is important is that we establish what that natural host for this virus is … how the animal-human species barrier was breached.”

The Trump/Cheney regime cooked intelligence to lie us into a war in Iraq, and undermined confidence in the U.S. intelligence agencies for years. Now the Trump/Pence regime is cooking intelligence to politicize the intelligence agencies as part of his campaign strategy. And Trump has been undermining confidence in the U.S. intelligence agencies for years with his deep state conspiracy theories.

Donald Trump is the greatest national security threat to this country.




1 COMMENT

  1. This may be what finally gets him fired. In n exclusive interview with National Geographic, Dr. Anthony Fauci: “No scientific evidence the coronavirus was made in a Chinese lab”, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/05/anthony-fauci-no-scientific-evidence-the-coronavirus-was-made-in-a-chinese-lab-cvd/

    “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” Fauci says. Based on the scientific evidence, he also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory—that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.

    Fauci’s statement contradicts an April 30 comment by President Donald Trump that he had seen convincing evidence that the coronavirus originated from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he’d seen “enormous evidence” supporting the theory, but didn’t elaborate.

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