Law & the Courts

Our Unelected Officials’ Distortions

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee, May 23, 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Why haven’t we held career government servants in the intelligence community and the Department of Justice accountable for their fabrications?

On March 17, former CIA director John Brennan tweeted about the current president of the United States: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. . . . America will triumph over you.”

That outburst from the former head of the world’s premier spy agency seemed a near threat to a sitting president, and former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power tweeted that it probably was: “Not a good idea to piss off John Brennan.”

If there is such a thing as a dangerous “deep state” of elite but unelected federal officials who feel that they are untouchable and unaccountable, then John Brennan is the poster boy.

Immediately after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the careerist Brennan quickly reinvented himself as a critic of the very methodologies that he once, as a George W. Bush administration official, had insisted were effective. Brennan was initially appointed Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and then took over the CIA after the abrupt and mysterious resignation of General David Petraeus following the 2012 election.

Brennan claimed that intelligence agencies had not missed clear indications in 2009 that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” would try to take down a U.S. airliner. Just days later, when his denials were ridiculed, Brennan flipped and blasted intelligence agencies for their laxity.

In 2011, Brennan falsely alleged that the Obama administration’s drone program had not caused a single civilian death in Pakistan over the previous year. In truth, around 50 civilians had been killed by drones since the 9/11 attacks.

The same year, Brennan offered various versions of the American killing of Osama bin Laden. His misleading narratives required White House revisions.

In March 2014, Brennan denied accusations that CIA analysts had hacked the computers of U.S. Senate staffers to find out what they knew about possible CIA roles in enhanced interrogations. After he was caught in a lie, Brennan was forced to apologize to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Most recently, in May 2017, Brennan testified under oath before Congress that he had no knowledge during the 2016 presidential campaign of the origins of the Fusion GPS/Christopher Steele dossier. Nor, Brennan claimed, was he aware that the FBI and the Department of Justice had used the infamous file to obtain surveillance warrants from the FISA court before and after the election.

Several sources, however, have said that Brennan was not only aware of the Steele dossier, but wanted the FBI to use it to pursue rumors about Trump. Brennan reportedly briefed Democratic senator Harry Reid on the dossier. Armed with those rumors, Reid then became insistent that they be leaked before the 2016 election, according to reports.

Brennan is typical of the careerist deep state.

Former national-security adviser Susan Rice lied about the Benghazi tragedy, the nature of the Bowe Bergdahl/Guantanamo detainee exchange, the presence of chemical weapons in Syria, and her role in unmasking the identities of surveilled Americans.

Andrew McCabe, recently fired from his job as FBI deputy director, openly admitted to lying to investigators, claiming he was “confused and distracted.” McCabe had said that he was not a source for background leaks about the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. He wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post that “some of my answers were not fully accurate . . .”

Former FBI director James Comey likely lied about not drafting a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing in her email scandal before interviewing her.

Comey misled a FISA court by not providing the entire truth about the Steele dossier. He falsely assured the president that he was not under investigation while likely leaking to others that Trump was, in fact, under investigation.

Former director of national intelligence James Clapper lied under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he said that the National Security Agency did not collect data on American citizens. When caught in the lie, Clapper claimed that he had given the “least untruthful” answer to the committee that he could publicly provide.

In the past, Clapper had also misled the country about the “secular” nature of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the threat posed by the Islamic State.

Note that Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe, and Rice so far have not been held to account for their distortions. We cynically expect our politicians and even presidents to fabricate, but we idealistically (and naïvely) assume that career government servants do not.

A common strategy of the deep-state careerist is the psychological tactic known as “projection.” To square their own circles of lying, our so-called best and brightest loudly accuse others of precisely the sins that they themselves commit as a matter of habit.

In the ensuing chaos and uproar, careerists such as Brennan, Clapper, and Comey usually escape scrutiny — to proceed to their next political reincarnation, Beltway billet, book deal or television gig.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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