On January 5 we asked "The Question on Everybody's Mind": What did Trump know about the Russian contacts, and when did he know it?
Since then, you've probably engaged thoughts about Trump that last year you would have considered more suited to the conspiratorial ravings of a left-wing Infowars site.
Well, you're not alone. In a column called The Spy Revolt Against Donald Trump Begins, a former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer reports what he is hearing from contacts still in the government. It is not pretty.
Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.The whole article is here. Bolded parts are my own emphasis.
It’s debatable whether Flynn broke any laws by conducting unofficial diplomacy with Moscow, then lying about it, and he has now adopted the customary Beltway dodge about the affair, ditching his previous denials in favor of professing he has “no recollection of discussing sanctions,” adding that he “couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.” That’s not good enough anymore, since the IC knows exactly what Flynn and Kislyak discussed.
In pretty much every capital worldwide, embassies that provide sanctuary to hostile intelligence services are subject to counterintelligence surveillance, including monitoring phone calls. Our spy services conduct signals intelligence—SIGINT for short—against the Russian embassy in Washington, just as the Russians do against our embassy in Moscow. Ambassadors’ calls are always monitored: that’s how the SpyWar works, everywhere.
Ambassador Kislyak surely knew his conversations with Flynn were being intercepted, and it’s incomprehensible that a career military intelligence officer who once headed a major intelligence agency didn’t realize the same. Whether Flynn is monumentally stupid or monumentally arrogant is the big question that hangs over this increasingly strange affair.
There is more consequential IC pushback happening, too. Our spies have never liked Trump’s lackadaisical attitude toward the President’s Daily Brief, the most sensitive of all IC documents, which the new commander-in-chief has received haphazardly. The president has frequently blown off the PDB altogether, tasking Flynn with condensing it into a one-page summary with no more than nine bullet-points. Some in the IC are relieved by this, but there are pervasive concerns that the president simply isn’t paying attention to intelligence.
In light of this, and out of worries about the White House’s ability to keep secrets, some of our spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office. Why risk your most sensitive information if the president may ignore it anyway? A senior National Security Agency official explained that NSA was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, in an unprecedented move. For decades, NSA has prepared special reports for the president’s eyes only, containing enormously sensitive intelligence. In the last three weeks, however, NSA has ceased doing this, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep their best SIGINT [signals intelligence] secrets.
What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.