A Glimmer of Journalism

tl;dr: Journalists seem to be starting to pay attention to more than their own war against Trump.

When it comes to journalism, I’m a consumer. Which doesn’t stop me from analyzing and criticizing. But having asked for real journalism, I’m going to say something when it shows up.

From this morning, about the time I was writing my critique, Politico comes out with another of its string of biased and deceptive efforts to twist the conflict between the President Elect and top Intelligence people into a “hardening of positions.

However, way down at the bottom, where most people won’t see it because they stop first, we have some interesting paragraphs:

Clapper and other top, politically appointed leaders of the intelligence community will be stepping down once Trump takes office on Jan. 20. Trump’s nominee for CIA director, GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, faced his confirmation hearing on Thursday. Trump also has selected former Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana to replace Clapper as director of national intelligence.


John Sipher, another former CIA official, said intelligence veterans are familiar with political wars and expect Trump to be kinder to the people he appoints than those he views as cronies of the outgoing president.

“Once he is in charge and has his own people in place, I think that a lot of the charged statements will abate,” Sipher said. “However, if he continues his public attacks after he assumes ownership of the intelligence community, it will create a serious rift inside the various agencies.”

This seems (AFAIK) to be the first admission by any of the leftist, anti-Trump media that the relationship with the “Intelligence Community” is far more complex, and more receptive to Mr. Trump’s incoming administration, than has been portrayed.

The point is that organizations like the CIA, including other intelligence services, have a complex structure to mediate the relationship between the elected government and the career intelligence professionals our country depends on for guidance in global and international politics.

Truncated Version of CIA Org Chart released 9/10/2015

Let’s use the org chart above as an example: The incoming president will appoint a few people at the top, and some number of intermediate people will be selected by them, probably from among existing staff.

Other changes may be made, and the details are, AFAIK, not available to the public. (For the record, I have no intelligence experience and am analyzing from the outside.) However, as anyone could guess, and as the events surrounding the Iraq fiasco in 2002 demonstrate, the people at the top are more politicized than the rank and file.

Although we can only guess, it seems highly likely (to me) that the increasing focus on “cyber security” has involved bringing in experts at the lower levels, along with in-house training for people already having skills and/or aptitudes.

One thing is pretty clear: the people at the top simply don’t understand how cyber-security works, probably don’t even understand how basic computers and networks work. Their Grizzly Steppe report of 12/29/16 has been widely disparaged by experts, such as Jeffrey Carr. It’s not that just they got their facts wrong, worse than that: it’s “not even wrong”, a phrase described by “Rational Wiki” as:

[… A]ny statement, argument or explanation that can be neither correct nor incorrect, because it fails to meet the criteria by which correctness and incorrectness are determined. As a more formal fallacy, it refers to the fine art of generating an ostensibly “correct” conclusion, but from premises known to be wrong or inapplicable.

The phrase implies that not only is someone not making a valid point in a discussion, but they don’t even understand the nature of the discussion itself, or the things that need to be understood in order to participate.

My strong impression is that it was the product of “political management” types who figure that since they don’t understand the subject, nobody else does either, and they can just wave their arms and spout a bunch of gobbledygook using the same terms and symbols real experts do and everything will be fine.

The problem, of course, is that the civilian world is full of professionals who do understand, and know the difference between what makes sense and arm-waving bullshit when the see it.

So now consider how the experts in the rank and file, inside the lower boxes in the org chart above, feel. Their agencies have been made to look incredibly foolish to thousands of outside experts, some of whom they probably know personally.

How will they feel about the “ hardening of positions” referenced in the Politico story? My guess is that they feel about the way Mr. Trump’s tweets come across. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Trump has lines into the technical rank and file and his tweets are designed to show his sympathy to them in the face of the discreditable behavior of the top types.

Remember that those top types are Obama appointees, and their sycophants. By denigrating them, especially in the face of their clearly demonstrated incompetence and embarrassment of their subordinates, Mr. Trump is, IMO, doing a good job of soliciting support among the rank and file.

And it’s not just with cyber-security, but even more traditional intelligence, as an opinion piece by Jamie Dettmer in The Hill this evening shows:

'Our Man In Havana’ — Trump dossier drama smacks of old spy novels

Are we in a Bond film or in a Bourne film. I can’t decide,” New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted in the wake of Buzzfeed’s posting of the explosive dossier on Donald Trump and Russia. Probably neither.

When the dust settles, the appropriate comparison may be with “Our Man in Havana,” the novel written by Graham Greene, himself a onetime spook, that poked fun at the intelligence services and the willingness spies to believe what local informants tell them.

It’s true that he’s mostly talking about the dossier that has been getting so much attention recently. And in so doing, he’s starting to dig up information we can use to judge that actual credibility of the dossier and its creator.

But the same logic above applies to routine intelligence analysis, as this piece by Masha Gessen in the NYR Daily (1/9/17) demonstrates:

Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence

I’m not going to excerpt extensively, just skip to the end for part of the concluding paragraph:

[… T]he intelligence report does nothing to clarify the abnormalities of Trump’s campaign and election. Instead, it risks perpetuating the fallacy that Trump is some sort of a foreign agent rather than a home-grown demagogue, while doing further damage to our faith in the electoral system. It also suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information — all this, two weeks before a man with no government experience but with a short Twitter fuse takes the oath of office.

I recommend reading the entire piece. It’s a good dissection of the inability of the Obama appointees and their sycophants to make any sort of case for their claims about “Russian interference in the US election”. It points up their incompetence and political agendas to the embarrassment of the real spies and analysts in the intelligence community. It’s also reminiscent of the “aluminum tubes for centrifuges” fiasco of Iraq War fame.

As I said, Mr. Trump’s tweets seem tailored to appeal to the rank and file, the people who actually do the work of intelligence. The “hardening of positions” will likely go away with the outgoing administration.

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