As we dig in to Bob Woodward’s latest, let’s start by looking at intelligence. One of the most fascinating elements in Woodward’s accounts is what the Intelligence Community told Trump after the election, and how the president-elect reacted. One of Woodward’s claims is that Trump was very skeptical about human sources, and that claim has been confirmed by the then-head of the intel apparatus, James Clapper:
According to Clapper—a man with a famously inaccurate memory, it must be said—President-elect Trump didn’t put much stock in human sources. Trump said, "l don't believe in human sources. ... These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country. ... I don't trust human intelligence and these spies."
That view is shared by a lot of intelligence professionals, many of whom are extremely suspicious of enemy defectors. Defectors have certainly sold their souls and sold out their country, and the skeptics suspect they just want to get on the American gravy train. This is particularly common when the defectors present a view of their home country that is at variance with the picture painted by our own intel experts.
I am fortunate enough to have spent considerable time with General “Mike” Pacepa, the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official to defect to the United States. He was the head of Ceausescu’s secret Romanian intelligence service, and, in case you’re still interested, the author of the best book on life under a Communist regime (Red Horizons). When he defected, one of the hottest questions in front of the US Government was whether we could sell advanced technology to Romania without fear the material would end up in Soviet hands. Most of our diplomats and intelligence experts had been gulled by Ceausescu’s claim to be “independent” of the Kremlin. Pacepa knew they were wrong. He knew that anything of military value that reached Romania would end up in Moscow. Our intel experts hated his saying that, and demanded he change his testimony and threatened to send him back to Bucarest, where a death sentence awaited him.
It still does, after all these years. In the interim, we have learned that Pacepa was right, and our experts were misguided.
I wonder if Trump has rethought the issue of human sources. The “Anonymous” oped reflects some of the same character features that so annoyed the president-elect after the 2016 vote. Trump has even suggested the article was treasonous. I don’t think it was, but there is a more serious issue, if you’re really concerned about intelligence: Americans who act as sources for hostile nations. Foreign spies in our midst.
I’ll give you long odds that the American Government is riddled with foreign spies. Primarily Chinese, Iranians and Russians, I’m not talking about the hackers; I’m talking about the real thing, real live humans, who have penetrated the government, especially the military, intelligence, and national security branches. They have two main objectives. The first is to find out what we have in store for them. The second is to steal our technology. Both are essential parts of the real, global war that is being waged against us by an alliance of jihadists and leftist radicals hell-bent on destroying Western liberty.
Some of this is done secretly, some of it—for example, former top Pentagon officials going to lucrative jobs with enemy institutions—can be documented with public sources. I suspect that we can see a lot of anti-American activity inside the government simply by matching the salaries of high-ranking officials with the costs of “normal” life in DC: mortgages, private schools for the kids (which cost pretty much the same as college), insurance, nanny/housekeeper, etcetera etcetera. In many cases we’d see that government salaries cannot cover the costs. How do these people pay for it all? Sometimes the revolving door—get out of government for a few years to build savings, then go back in—covers it, or some of it. In other cases, someone is making up the difference. On other occasions, the explanation isn’t financial, but existential. Lots of Iranian-Americans with relatives in the old country know that the relatives are at great risk if the family members in the United States don’t play ball with the regime. The Chinese regime believes that all “Chinese”, whatever their citizenship and wherever they dwell, owe loyalty to Beijing. And so it goes. Even with the most talented counterintelligence operatives, who are always in short supply, identifying the foreign agents takes time and removing them is bureaucratically daunting.
These people have sold out their country and their souls, and President Trump should be very worried about them.