pre-presidential inauguration feud between Donald Trump and intelligence
agencies that soon will be under his command could harm U.S. security
if not quickly defused, current and former government officials said.
said morale at the CIA and other agencies was already sagging because
of disputes with Trump over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin
ordered interference in the U.S. election and over leaks about an
unsubstantiated dossier compiled by a private security firm suggesting
Moscow had compromising information on Trump.
Unless addressed, the disputes could prompt
the departure of personnel and lead those who remain to take fewer risks
to counter security threats, the officials said.
the last few months, Trump has expressed his willingness to deal with
Putin and denigrated the work of the intelligence agencies. This week,
the President-elect accused agencies of leaking the dossier’s
information to the media, but Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper said he did not believe intelligence officials were responsible
for the leak.
“People shooting at (the CIA) is pretty common. But usually it’s not the president,” one former senior U.S. official said.
Trump’s transition team did not reply to email messages seeking comment.
think it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Daniel Benjamin, who served in
senior White House and State Department counter-terrorism posts under
Democratic presidents. Benjamin, now at Dartmouth College, said there
was a “strong chance” people would leave and they have “tremendous
value” to the private sector.
Complicating the situation just a week before
Republican Trump is sworn in, two of his nominees for top security
posts set a different tone at their Senate confirmation hearings,
heaping praise on the men and women who work in the secret world of
congressman Mike Pompeo, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency
director, said on Thursday that he has seen CIA personnel “walk through
Separately, Trump’s nominee
for U.S. defense secretary, James Mattis, told senators that he had a
“very, very high degree of confidence” in U.S. intelligence agencies.
Mattis also put Russia at the top of a list of threats to U.S.
A top official at one intelligence agency
said a growing number of intelligence officers over the age of 50 and
with at least 20 years of service, including at least five years
overseas, have drafted and in many cases signed but not dated their
great anxiety here about the President-elect’s apparent disdain for the
work we do and the dangers we face,” a second senior intelligence
official, at another agency, said.
He and others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters and morale at their agencies.
latest round of rancor began with a CNN report that Trump had been
briefed Jan. 6 by intelligence and law enforcement chiefs on a two-page
memo summarizing the unverified claims in the dossier. In blaming
intelligence agencies for the leak, Trump wrote on Twitter: “One last
shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
chief Clapper called Trump before dinnertime on Wednesday to calm the
waters. Trump and Clapper differed on what was said in the phone
On Friday, Trump appeared to again blame U.S. spies for the leak.
“Probably released by ‘intelligence’ even knowing there is no proof and never will be,” he said on Twitter.
intelligence agency personnel “are kind of shell-shocked at being
accused of being Nazis and intentionally leaking this stuff,” the former
senior official said.
The 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have
combined budgets of more than $70 billion and tens of thousands of
employees. They are responsible for everything from warning of terrorist
attacks to supporting American troops on the battlefield and analyzing
the impacts of global trends such as climate change.
former U.S. officials said the tensions with Trump were the worst they
could recall since President George W. Bush and the CIA traded blame in
2003 and 2004 over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in
But Douglas Wise, a former
senior CIA official, said it will be harder for Trump to “beat up” on
his own intelligence chiefs once they are in place instead of officials
appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama.
“I think things are going to change,” Wise said.
Still, tensions seem likely to persist after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who will be Trump’s national security adviser,
led the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency until he was fired by
Clapper. He has a long-time suspicion of the CIA, according to Wise and
others who have worked with him.
Pompeo said was somewhat reassuring, but it’s not at all clear whether
that matters, or whether Trump’s apparent attitude and Flynn’s
bitterness toward us is what counts,” the second senior intelligence