“Passive and Naive”: Trump Attacks His Own Intelligence Chiefs After They Contradict His Statements On Iran, North Korea, and Syria

President Donald Trump attacked his own intelligence chiefs today after they contradicted his statements about the status of threats posed by Iran, North Korea and other countries. Trump called the intelligence chiefs “wrong” and “passive and naive.” He also said that these seasoned intelligence officials might need to go back to school. It is worth noting that the testimony of these officials were not only quite measured but widely shared by experts in the field.

Trump seemed most angry over the testimony of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel. Coats testified for example “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” Haspel said the evidence shows that North Korea “is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.”

After the intelligence chiefs testified before Congress, Trump went to Twitter to blast his own appointees, insisting “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” He also told his own appointees “Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

It is a bizarre moment since, if Trump thought these top intelligence people are passive and naive, one would think that he would replace them.

85 thoughts on ““Passive and Naive”: Trump Attacks His Own Intelligence Chiefs After They Contradict His Statements On Iran, North Korea, and Syria”

    1. Old News. But still relevant. Excerpted from the article linked above:

      Why a new missile system is a bad idea. Congress’s approach emulates Russia’s bad behavior at its own peril. Developing a new ground-launched cruise missile and threatening to abrogate the INF Treaty may anger Moscow, but it will not impose meaningful military costs. At the same time, this approach will be financially and politically expensive for the United States. The Pentagon has not requested a new ground-launched cruise missile, and spending resources to research, develop, and potentially deploy an unnecessary new system will siphon funding away from other defense priorities.

      In addition to being militarily unnecessary, basing US intermediate-range missiles in a location where they can reach Russia will pose serious political and diplomatic challenges. By aggravating existing divisions within NATO at a time when the Trump administration has offered inconsistent messaging about its commitment to US alliances, Congress’s approach could ultimately serve Russian objectives. Russia has registered its distrust in NATO clearly and, as in the Cold War, Moscow can exacerbate tensions within the alliance by holding targets at risk that allies might not be willing to collectively defend. For a US intermediate-range system to be effective, it would have to be based on NATO territory in Europe. This was controversial in the 1980s, drawing thousands of citizens to the streets of European capitals in protest. Basing a new US system in Europe today will be similarly contentious and will put allied governments under significant political pressure domestically. Convincing allied capitals to accommodate a controversial US system will be especially difficult if responsibility for the INF Treaty’s disintegration shifts from Moscow to Washington.

      [end excerpt]

      Russia is responsible for the imminent scrapping of the INF treaty. Nevertheless, deploying intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe will place enormous strain on NATO. And that’s why Putin went down this road in the first place. It’s still a bad idea.

  1. ““Passive and Naive”: Trump Attacks His Own Intelligence Chiefs After They Contradict His Statements On Iran, North Korea, and Syria”

    Maybe the naivete lies elsewhere.

    “Published in the National Review

    January 30, 2019

    By Fred Fleitz

    Headlines are in the news today stating that top U.S. intelligence officials “contradicted” President Trump at yesterday’s briefing of the intelligence community’s annual worldwide threat report to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The intelligence chiefs differed with President Trump and his senior officials in finding that North Korea does not plan to give up its nuclear weapons, that Iran is technically in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, and that ISIS has not been defeated. The intelligence chiefs offered other assessments that matched Trump administration policies such as stating that Russia, Iran and China plan to meddle in the 2020 elections and a strong warning that China is growing as a cyber and intelligence threat.

    Since Congress is an independent branch of government and is responsible for oversight of the executive, it is entirely appropriate for our intelligence agencies to provide Congress with annual worldwide threat briefings. The problem is, when these briefings are unclassified and public, they tend to interfere with presidential foreign-policy decision-making and provide valuable information to America’s adversaries on U.S. intelligence assessments.

    When the unclassified worldwide threat report said that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” its nuclear weapons, the intelligence community was not just repeating the view of the foreign-policy establishment it was telling the world that it believes the president’s North Korea policy will likely fail. This violates the U.S. intelligence community’s mandate to inform but not prescribe presidential policy. Moreover, such a public assessment is inappropriate while U.S. diplomats are engaged in negotiations with North Korea and in the run-up to a second Trump-Kim summit.

    The worldwide threat briefing’s findings on Iran’s nuclear program, meanwhile, were blatantly political and misleading. For example, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said: “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” CIA Director Gina Haspel claimed concerning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran: “At the moment technically they [Iran] are in compliance.”

    These findings reflect the Intelligence Community’s record of bias in its assessments of rogue-state WMD programs after the Iraq War and a refusal to objectively assess Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. To reach these findings, the intelligence community had to pretend that Iran’s ongoing uranium enrichment and its efforts to develop advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges have nothing to do with nuclear-weapons development. Iran also clearly is not in compliance with the nuclear deal since it refuses to allow the IAEA to inspect military bases where it likely is engaged in nuclear-weapons work.

    Haspel and Coats (and the threat report) also failed to mention that Israel found a warehouse of nuclear equipment and radioactive materials in Tehran earlier this year — that the IAEA refused to inspect so it would not have to find Iran in noncompliance with the nuclear deal.

    In fact, classified and unclassified evidence that Iran has not given up its nuclear weapons program and is violating the nuclear deal is very strong. As national-security adviser John Bolton told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month: “Despite getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite the sanctions, we have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons.”

    America’s intelligence agencies were not created to publicly criticize or offer rebuttals to the president’s foreign-policy initiatives. They are not supposed to be a “check” on presidential decision-making — that is Congress’s role. For the U.S. intelligence community to effectively perform its role informing presidential national-security decision-making, it has to be credible and trustworthy. Public spectacles like yesterday’s worldwide threat briefing make America less safe: They undermine the president’s trust in his intelligence agencies and make him less willing to listen to or consult with intelligence officials.

    Public, unclassified worldwide threat briefings by U.S. intelligence officials to Congress therefore must end. Congress could still perform its responsibility overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies by holding classified worldwide threat hearings, provided that members of Congress do not leak information from these briefings to the press

    1. Allan, I agree with everything you said. I was at a loss as to why intelligence chiefs would say anything to diminish Iran as a nuclear threat. Your comment about Iraq might be a motive. Without an inspection, they have no proof. Without proof, they cannot determine if they are out of compliance. However, barring inspection is, in itself, out of compliance.

      Elementary school children begin their day, literally, chanting, “Death to America! Death to Israel!” If we fail to check their nuclear ambitions, this will end badly for us, and for Israel.

  2. What I find truly disturbing is the worship of the “intelligence” community by wayyyyy too many people in this society. In case you missed this fact, Haspel was involved in torture. She should be under arrest, awaiting trial for this crime. Instead, oh, people are disrespecting the IC is all I hear from NPR to plenty of right wing sites.

    Trump isn’t worthy of the time of day but neither are these people. If you want real analysis go anywhere else than 1. the IC or 2. Trump. We are pretending that we have a functioning govt. We don’t. Stop the pretense, seek out real information and stop worrying about the hurt feelings of war criminals, known liars and murders!

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