|ELIZABETH GRIFFIN / ESQUIRE|
At first blush, Donald Trump's efforts to discredit America's intelligence agencies seemed like a pretty good idea. After all, they've done an historically craptastic job of fulfilling their missions. But like everything else that the president-elect does, his blasts against the CIA, FBI and NSA regarding their fairly well-documented assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally sought to influence the 2016 election on Trump's behalf were just more logs on his very own bonfire of vanity that will allow these agencies to yet again avoid the kind of harsh scrutiny they have long deserved.
Yes, America's intelligence Big Three appear to have done themselves proud on the election hacking scheme, even if foreign governments first tipped them to what was going under right under their noses. The scheme, if you missed the news, threw the election to Trump by sewing enough doubt in voters minds about Hillary Clinton through an unrelenting campaign of stolen emails and false news and then the coup de grâce administered by FBI Director James Comey a few days before the election, all of which has gifted the republic a tweet-happy narcissistic boy-man with notoriously thin skin who in clearer-headed times easily meets the definition of a traitor but is about to be handed the Pentagon's nuclear codes.
To quote the slam-dunk summary in the unclassified portion of the report:
"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
The list of missions blown and dire warnings overlooked and ignored by U.S. intelligence agencies is stunningly long. But other than noting that the CIA in particular has been historically inept (my favorite being it finding out on CNN that the Soviet Union had collapsed and the Berlin Wall was coming down), the most catastrophic failure was the 9/11 attacks.
The CIA and FBI, supported by NSA eavesdropping data, were aware that five of the 19 hijackers were in country, but because of their historic rivalry -- which continues apace -- and bureaucratic inertia -- which remains alive and well -- failed to communicate with each other. Add to that toxic mixture the fact that President Bush was more interested in photo ops with a weed whacker at his Texas ranch in the weeks before the attacks than taking seriously intelligence briefings about the emerging Al Qaeda threat against the homeland, the very briefings that Trump also has poo-pooed, and so the U.S. blithely sailed into a perfectly deadly storm that took 3,000 lives and altered the course of history.
Heaven forbid that Trump get any credit since he continues to frame the election hacking in starkly partisan terms as "a political witch hunt," and the guy makes no secret of his disdain for anything to do with computers. But his belief that the office of director of national intelligence has become bloated and that the CIA needs to get more agents off their asses and into the field are spot on.
So much for praise.
The reasons that Putin meddled are twofold: He didn't like Hillary Clinton and he knew he could diddle Trump, something he has been unable to do with an American president since he quit the KGB to become a Russian government bigshot and then president.
Diddling aside, I happen to think that Trump's bromance with Putin is more a case of lazy-assed convenience and his dependence on money from the autocrat's corrupt buddies, as well his compulsion to constantly try to shock people as with his embrace of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, than genuine admiration of a thug. Although it is fun in a train wreck sort of way to watch Republicans on Capitol Hill tie their boxer shorts in knots over their exalted leader's peregrinations concerning America's one-time Cold War rival, which for 70 years the GOP viewed as the global Satan and not too long ago would have accurately characterized the hacking as an act of war.
(Let's also not forget that The Donald and The Julian have something in common. They're both sexual predators.)
Trump's presidency already is deeply tainted, and not just because the election was stolen. But it is unlikely he will lift the sanctions President Obama has placed on Russia for interfering in it because that would trigger a shitstorm he would not be able to tweet away, while it is just as it is unlikely that the intelligence agencies will get the kind of scrutiny their sucky long-term performance demands. Because Trump, of course, has made such a hash of things.