Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made a pit stop at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia to give a 15 minute speech to approximately 400 employees of America’s strategic intelligence agency. The speech failed to mention anything about national security or intelligence, but rather focused on the President self aggrandizing in front of a memorial wall dedicated to CIA employees who have died in the line of duty. Many of them are represented by anonymous stars without their names attached, as the details of their activities are still classified.
The response from CIA veterans was scathing.
“I was stunned when Trump said that ‘probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks,'” wrote Dennis Gleeson who served as the CIA’s director of strategy within the Directorate of Analysis. “Setting aside Trump’s earlier disparagement of the Intelligence Community, you must understand that the agency, unlike the departments of State and Defense, is unusually apolitical. In fact, there is only one political appointment: that of the director,” Gleeson continued, explaining how he felt that Trump was attempting to turn the CIA into a partisan vehicle for exploitation.
“In Mr. Trump’s rambling, 15-minute speech, he made only one reference to the memorial, saying, ‘The wall behind me is very, very special,’ before pivoting to his familiar mode of narcissistic diatribe, peppered with the occasional misplaced joke,” wrote another former CIA analyst named Yaël Eisenstat. “He used my former agency to advance his own delusional vision of grandeur. When I see our president use a wall that symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice as a backdrop for his vanity, I cannot play down its seriousness,” she continued in a op-ed. Eisenstat also commented that Trump’s speech saying he was not going to ask CIA employees to raise their hands to see who voted for him felt like something out of a “dictator’s handbook.”
Steven Hall, who headed up Russian Operations at the CIA, pointed out that President Trump was, “facing a statue of OSS director Bill Donovan, who would have punched him.” Former CIA targeting officer Nada Bakos also weighed in saying, “I didn’t see a president standing in the building trying to repair the relationship” with the CIA. “You can’t sweet talk a good spy,” she said, fearing that CIA employees will now be strong-armed by the administration.
Others who came out in opposition were former Case Officer Lindsay Moran, former CIA disguise officer Emily Brandwin, former operations officer Alex Finley, and many more.
Former CIA case officer and SOFREP writer Frumentarius said of the speech, “Like everything Trump does, it was unorthodox and had the aura of unseemliness to it. It wasn’t the right place for that kind of speech. It was not the first political speech given there, but it was definitely the most crass I have experienced.”
Former CIA operations officer and SOFREP writer James Powell remarked, “the speech seemed out of touch with the reality that the men and women of our intelligence agencies face. It is our job to wade through and past all of the political and personal bickering (though that sometimes takes front row) and get the needed intel – and this speech placed those unnecessary obstacles center stage.”
All of this comes on the heels of a very tense escalation between the CIA and Trump. A few days prior to the speech, Trump sent out the following Tweet:
The comparison of the CIA to the Nazis is something that one would normally expect from the far left and from communist agitators. Whether or not the CIA actually leaked negative information about Trump to the press is unknown, but possible. Making antagonistic statements like this makes Trump’s words at the CIA that, “we are all on the same wavelength,” seem superficial at best.
For some, the speech amounted to a political shakedown, an implied message that the CIA had better get on the Trump train, or there will be consequences. The last time we saw this type of partisanship pushing into the CIA, it came from the George W. Bush administration, and resulted in America invading Iraq under false pretenses.
The backlash to Trump’s speech from former CIA employees will likely be dismissed by Trump’s supporters as the liberal whining of snowflakes. However, ignoring the the concerns of the rank and file at the CIA is something that the President does at his own peril.
Another former CIA officer told SOFREP, “he had the chance to hit a home run, but instead made it about himself but at least he showed up at headquarters and said he supported the agency. We will watch and see.”
Picture credit: Getty images.