Michael Flynn was fired from the Trump administration following vague, somewhat concerning, leaks about a phone conversation he had with the Russian ambassador. The intelligence community (IC) leaked this conversation to damage President Trump, who had previously tweeted, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
These are glimpses into the soft civil war taking place between the IC and the democratically elected president.
This fight should be completely unsurprising. Kenneth Timmerman, in 2007, wrote a fabulous book called Shadow Warriors, which documented bureaucrats in the State Department and CIA, i.e. shadow warriors, nakedly harming President Bush. What Timmerman had the foresight to catalog years ago now serves as an explanatory backdrop to what is happening between Trump and the IC.
When IC people attack Flynn, it is not safe to take them at their word. They could be working for political reasons -- or simply personal ambition. Timmerman provides many recent historical examples which show them doing exactly this. The IC has damaged their own credibility.
One example is the 2005 confirmation hearings for John Bolton as ambassador to the UN. The Democrats blocked Bolton’s nomination due to a confrontation he had with a State Department analyst, Christian Westermann. Democrats claimed Bolton’s actions had “grave and far-reaching implications for American credibility”.
What was Bolton’s horrible deed? He had written a speech, “Beyond the Axis of Evil,” to communicate the threats Americans faced from biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, from actors beyond North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Bolton stated that Cuba had a biological weapons program and shared data with other states.
Westermann, based on the intelligence work of Ana Montes, went behind Bolton’s back to stop him. The problem is that Ana Montes was convicted in 2002 of espionage for Cuba. She avoided a death penalty by plea bargaining down to twenty-five years in jail.
Prior to conviction, Ana had been the top analyst on Cuba for the entire American IC. After her conviction, her disinformation remained in the system. Westermann was relying on the work of a Cuban spy to subvert Bolton. In response, Bolton had a frank conversation with Westermann.
In the confirmation hearings, Democrats and Westermann had turned the whole issue around on Bolton. Bolton was punished for speaking the truth about Cuba, and punished for confronting a bureaucrat in the IC about carrying water for a Cuban spy.
Like Bolton, Flynn has a reputation for calling stupid people out on stupid behavior. Maybe the IC took out Flynn because they are true patriots who think he posed a risk to America. Or maybe it’s because they didn’t like his political orientation and policy goals. Maybe it’s simply because he was going to tell the truth and make them look bad. One thing is certain, ascribing nefarious motivations to their actions is not a conspiracy theory, as Timmerman has documented this type of behavior.
The IC uses various disinformation methods to achieve their nefarious goals. One example Timmerman gives covers how CIA man Stephen Kappes hid important intelligence from the American people.
Kappes was in the CIA for over two decades so this is exactly the sort of “career IC” man one would expect to be nonpolitical. As deputy director, he was the second most powerful man in the CIA, so one would hope he would put patriotic love for America first.
The Bush administration had obtained media from an Arab television station which showed how the war had been effective at stopping terrorists. Bush wanted to share the video with the American people.
Timmerman writes what Kappes response was, “You’ve got to tell them they can’t use that tape unless they want to answer to me for getting one of my guys killed”. This would have been a laudable reason for Kappes to stop the information from coming out. The only problem was that Kappes was lying.
The CIA director and Bush appointee Porter Goss first told Bush not to publish the tape, to protect Kappes’s source. Then when Goss learned Kappes had lied, he went back to Bush to explain what had happened and clear release of the tape.
Bush lost trust in Goss. Only a couple of years later, in 2006, Goss was forced out of the CIA. Meanwhile, Kappes served as number two at the CIA into 2010. One lie from Kappes had served to hurt Republicans, prevent the truth from getting out to the public, hurt Goss, destabilized the administration, and furthered his own career. What a success! …for a shadow warrior.
Kappes’ deception figures as a relatively simple one in Timmerman’s book, in this instance anyway, as Kappes pops up fighting the shadow war numerous times.
Timmerman also recounts the Valerie Plame affair, which shows how the CIA carries out sophisticated psychological operations against America.
As readers will recall, CIA agent Valerie Plame arranged for her husband, Joe Wilson, to go to Niger to investigate whether Iraq was trying to buy uranium. Remarkably, Wilson was not bound to a confidentiality agreement. After the Iraq War started, Wilson went public bashing Bush. When Republicans defended themselves, Valerie Plame’s name came out, and Republicans got scorched again for leaking the name of a CIA agent
As then-senator Zell Miller wrote, “The rules on agents are clear. They can't purposely distort gathered intelligence, go public with secret information or use their position or information to manipulate domestic elections or matters without risking their job or jail. But their spouse can!”
Wilson’s public attack on Bush wasn’t even truthful. Wilson focused on one piece of evidence, some forged documents, to discredit the idea that Iraq was trying to buy uranium. He completely bypassed the fact that an Iraqi delegation had gone to Niger in 1999 headed by Iraqi nuclear expert Wissam al-Zahawie. Wilson used a half-truth to deceive.
This CIA operation has permanently changed America. Many Americans now “know” that Bush lied. The Republican brand was damaged forever. And efforts to employ violence in self-defense against dictators working to procure uranium have been undercut.
What Trump is facing from the IC is nothing new. It is simply Shadow Warriors Part Two. As Timmerman has documented, a significant number of people in the IC, the shadow warriors, have a history of subverting America and democratically elected presidents, for political reasons. Anyone who says this is impossible is lying or ignorant of history.
Given the IC’s rabid lying attacks on Bush, there is no particular reason to believe them now. The attacks on Trump must especially be taken with skepticism as they come from anonymous sources, are vague, and merely hint at wrongdoing. Until the IC gives hard evidence that Flynn or Trump are Russian agents, these attacks say more about the IC than Trump. It suggests that certain shadow warriors perceive Trump as a threat to their well-being, and that they don’t like Trump’s policy stances. Never mind that he won the election in a free country.
One recurring theme in Shadow Warriors is that under the Bush administration, the shadow warriors didn’t face consequences. Westermann was not fired for spreading Cuban disinformation, nor for his political attempts to harm Bolton. Kappes was not fired for lying to Goss. And Plame actually got rich and famous.
Trump has approached these situations entirely differently from Bush. He has called out the IC for illegal subversive behavior in a direct and public manner.
There is a wonderful thread on Reddit in the Donald Trump forum (because the generic politics section of Reddit has banished Trump supporters), where users hypothesize that Flynn and Trump lured the IC into leaking Flynn’s private conversation on purpose, “In a single day, the deep state went from tinfoil hat conspiracy to common public knowledge. Amazing.”
It is impossible to know what Trump and Flynn’s intentions were, but these ideas are not so far-fetched. Shadow warriors exist. And by baiting them into leaks which self-expose, Trump would merely be using the same play that Plame and Wilson used when they baited Republicans into outing her, only this time the shadow warriors were the victim. Either way, Trump’s response to the IC has been strong.
As Zell Miller realized over a decade ago, “Something has to be done. We can't let the CIA become the domestic dirty tricks shop, with Republican and Democratic agents each trying to pull down their opposing presidents.” Kenneth Timmerman has gone to great lengths to document these past abuses, which explain the current situation, and predict the future. A man ignorant of shadow warriors is but a wounded lion, staggering as the IC hyenas stalk from the shadows.