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Trump’s Tweets Are Not Harming National Security

Not so long ago my wife and I, in a heated moment, canceled our subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times on the same day. We stopped short of burning recent copies of both publications on a bonfire in our front yard, but were elated at ending our connection to America’s leading sources of government propaganda and outrageously fake news. We toasted our liberation with a nice glass of Oregon State pinot noir.

We had become increasingly annoyed over the constant defamation of Donald Trump as candidate and president-elect even before he was inaugurated and had a chance to do anything wrong. But the real reason for our removal of America’s self-styled papers of record was the horrible coverage of Russia in general and what was going on in Syria in particular. That both papers kept repeating how Moscow had interfered in the election and that Syria was using chemical weapons without providing any evidence in either case had proven to be our own red line in terms of what we would allow into our house.

Not having the papers readily available has meant that we have avoided a lot of sensational journalism explaining in some detail why the United States has both a right and an obligation to be interfering militarily in every corner of the world simultaneously, and we also missed some really crazy stuff. A Washington Post opinion piece [1] that I completely missed when it first appeared on June 23, but which I have recently discovered, was entitled “This is what foreign spies see when they read President Trump’s tweets.”

As presumably few Americans can appreciate that Donald Trump’s tweets are actually classified documents and I was once upon a time a spy, I found the title intriguing, so I put on my tin hat and dove in. First of all, I took note of the author. She is Nada Bakos, self-described as a former “CIA analyst and targeting officer.” I didn’t know what a targeting officer was, but the article went on to explain it.

Per a page advertising her forthcoming book [2] at Amazon, Nada worked as an “analyst on the team charged with analyzing the relationship between Iraq, al Qaida, and 9/11.” Redundancy aside, as there was no actual evidence linking together Iraq, al-Qaeda and 9/11, one wonders how Bakos reacted when CIA Director George Tenet and Vice President Dick Cheney came pounding on her door insisting that there had to be a relationship to justify war. Reportedly some CIA analysts refused to endorse the lie that Iraq was cooperating with al-Qaeda to bring about 9/11, so hopefully Bakos got it right and stood her ground.

Bakos subsequently became the chief “targeter” working on al-Qaeda notable Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who rose to the rank of First Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq before he died in a “targeted” killing by U.S. forces in 2006. Bakos’s book’s subtitle is “My life in the CIA, on the Hunt for the Godfather of ISIS,” which refers to her role in locating and killing al-Zarqawi. I would note in passing that al-Zarqawi was a genuine monster and richly deserved what he got.

In any event, the Amazon blurb goes on to note that “after 20 years in the intelligence field and corporate world, Ms. Bakos is currently focused on national security issues and regional stability around the world.” One might note in passing that “regional stability” is a feelgood U.S. government buzzword that means the same thing as “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect,” both of which are sound principles that are presumably enshrined somewhere in the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe not.

So what does Nada Bakos have to say about Trump’s tweets? Well, intelligence agencies around the world are apparently busy trying to analyze them because “they’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States might have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with. Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency.”

Bakos twists herself into a pretzel in trying to emphasize the importance of an intelligence agency learning everything there is to know about a foreign head of state. She draws on her own experience, recounting how “At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea. But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now—to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.” 

That’s where I began to lose it. I would first of all note that learning what one might about habits and attitudes of terrorist leaders in order to anticipate where they will go or what they would do so you can kill them is much different than assessing what the head of a legitimate government might say or do based on his or her personality. I seriously doubt that there are teams of intelligence analysts, as Bakos claims, sitting around worrying about the deeper meaning of Donald Trump’s tweets. There might be no deeper meaning at all, and it would seem to me that Trump is relatively transparent. Narcissistic, quick to take offense, impulsive, unwilling to consider “details”—he is a walking id. So what is there to figure out beyond that?

I suspect this article was written both to sell a book and to diminish Donald Trump from a new angle, one that might reasonably be described as bizarre. Whatever kernel of truth it might contain is overwhelmed by hyperbole. Bakos cites how the Saudi Arabians may have exploited their intelligence-derived assessment of Trump to publish favorable newspaper stories about him and line the highway from the airport with billboards praising the new American president. But, as flattery will get you everywhere, such activity is not necessarily a brilliant insight into how to win over the new sheriff in town. It would not have taken a genius to figure out that Trump likes to be celebrated, and it is likely that the Saudis would have made a similar effort for any American president.

And I might add that judging from Bakos’s brief bio, she likely did her “analysis” and “targeting” from the comfort of an office at CIA headquarters. I wonder how much time she spent actually analyzing foreign leaders up close and personal. I know from my own experience that no one in Langley in my era would have wasted much time or effort on personality profiles. That was done at headquarters by guys and gals who holed up in the basement and went methodically through newspaper clippings. As a CIA case officer who lived overseas in four countries, my recollection is that no one ever had the least bit of interest in the quirks of foreign leaders. They were part of the background noise of operating overseas. While we would have been delighted to recruit a deputy prime minister both as a source of information and as an agent of influence, it was a very low priority to step back and worry about his personal foibles.

As I recall very clearly, the Department of State generally had the “leader profile” bases well covered both in terms of foreign-government intentions and the proclivities of the key players in the host governments. U.S. Foreign Service officers actually met with senior government officials, attended their receptions, had lunch with them, and went to their parties. The FSOs were very well trained in making assessments and writing them up for policymakers in Washington. It was their job and they were quite good at it.  

So, no, I am not buying that Donald Trump’s twittering makes the United States more vulnerable from a national security point of view, with teams of hostile intelligence officers somehow and somewhere using computers to perform “content analysis on the president’s tweets in the aggregate,” as Bakos puts it. I do believe, however, that there is a major covert industry nationwide that is seeking to do whatever it can to delegitimize Trump and Bakos’ silly article is just one more example of what is being purveyed in the mainstream media to that end. The jury should still be out on what kind of president we actually have, and Trump is certainly not helping his case through his unwillingness to play the game and act presidential. But the assertion that his use of Twitter is somehow making the country less safe is complete nonsense.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "Trump’s Tweets Are Not Harming National Security"

#1 Comment By Uzback On July 13, 2017 @ 11:48 pm

This is what Donald Trump wrote on July 9th:

“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..”

[3]

Tell me, please tell me how putting the Fox to guard the henhouse was not putting our national security at risk? Oh sure, he backtracked hours later, but why would he even do it in the first place?

Giraldi is either trying to gaslight people to think we are dumb or he really believes the lies that Trump is saying, and is therefore losing his mind trying to keep up with the lies of this incredibly stupid administration.

The only reason Giraldi probably has a writing spot on TAC is just to get the clickbait and have people like me react. It certainly isn’t about giving a reasoned opinion.

#2 Comment By FiveString On July 14, 2017 @ 12:18 am

“canceled our subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times on the same day… elated at ending our connection to America’s leading sources of government propaganda and outrageously fake news.”

Best of luck, Philip, Fox News should definitely notice you now.

#3 Comment By Bob K. On July 14, 2017 @ 12:19 am

This is another good argument for a RIF (Reduction In Force) of our Governmental Agencies. We can start with Langley.

Trump describes it in his tweets as “draining the swamp!”

#4 Comment By observeandreport On July 14, 2017 @ 1:35 am

Regional stability is not a buzzphrase, Phil. Used to justify unnecessary action, unnecessary expense, sure, please condemn it, and thank you for doing so, but where American strength preserves the peace, checks the foreign adventurism of nation states that do not share our values, it is a qualified good. China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea bully, threaten, and attack neighboring powers that aspire to live by American values, and our presence is for the most part welcomed in these regions (except, of course, by the aggressors). No sane citizen thinks our colors should run the world, most condemn American interventionism, but most also recognize, given a casual survey of the horrors of the 20th century, that if there must be a global hegemon let it be us, reluctantly, until nations that undermine regional security are more willing to work toward greater peace. What we must do is be strong, but not careless.

#5 Comment By KevinS On July 14, 2017 @ 7:28 am

So you think it is not damaging to the United States to have Tillerson and Mattis constantly undermined by the President’s impulsive tweets that contradict what they are saying around the world even as they are saying it? Seriously?

In this silly essay you only look at Bakos’s arguments. There are others.

#6 Comment By Tim Charoo On July 14, 2017 @ 8:42 am

Well timed trash, what with the whole “Trump had literal Russian spies meeting with his senior staff during the campaign” revelation this morning.

#7 Comment By spite On July 14, 2017 @ 9:03 am

I think there is something more fundamental going on here than even Trump and Russia. The cold hard reality for the intelligence world is that they are becoming increasingly obsolete, in a world of instant communication in the hands of nearly everyone now keeping secrets is becoming something from a bygone age.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 14, 2017 @ 9:13 am

I suspect that they are more democratic and opposed huddles in the US psychiatric field pouring over tweets in an attempt to make a case for mental impairment as cause for impeachment.

But why bother with tweets. There are no less than seven books, hundreds of interviews and ten years of programming that display a fairly clear personality profile, not to mention, public depositions and court filings.

One comes to mind concerning a dispute over the sie of some US flag at some snazzy club —

Mr Trump wanted it larger. Even the petty can be a positive tell.

#9 Comment By Macroman On July 14, 2017 @ 10:41 am

Trump’s tweets are helping national security by subverting/undercutting the public-facing portion of the deep state. I say that as someone that didn’t vote for Trump nor understood the implications of his twitter use in the first place. But he is doing great putting people like Bakos in their place. And what’s best is that the Bakos-types are playing right into his hands, and they have no idea. We have learned a lot about the media and deep state via Trump, and thus their power has begun to be undercut, and all Americans should at least be grateful for that.

For the first time since Bill Clinton, we have a President that is both competent (unlike W) and patriotic (unlike O), and I’m learning to appreciate that quite a bit.

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 14, 2017 @ 11:38 am

The mainstream media pours out fake “news” 24/7. To counter the mainstream media’s distorted, misleading, fake news President Trump uses Twitter to communicate directly with Americans and to set the record straight.

In her Washington Post piece Bakos admits as much: “The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately…Fortunately for him, the platform lets him speak directly to his supporters whenever he chooses.”

We like his tweets.

We’re also way ahead of you, Philip – aggravation-wise — because most of us never had a New York Times or Washington Post subscription to cancel.

P.S. I thought Bakos’ comment that “Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency” was an attempt at humor. You think she meant that seriously?

My favourite “Trump Twitter Humor” is The New York Times/Washington Post/CNN pleading with Trump that he should stop tweeting because he’s only hurting himself.

#11 Comment By Tom Reynolds On July 14, 2017 @ 12:09 pm

Interesting, describing national-security officials as “Cassandras.” Y’see, Cassandra’s curse was that, though her prophecies and doomsaying were true, no one would listen. I wonder, does Giraldi just need to brush up on his Classics, or does he know he’s casting himself and ideological allies as feckless Priams?

#12 Comment By Argon On July 14, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

The intense focus on such insubstantial details is what characterizes much of TAC in my mind. It’s almost like many editors are hesitant to address the elephant in the room.

#13 Comment By John S On July 14, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

So when POTUS impulse-tweets that he and Putin agreed to form an impenetrable cyber-security unit, there is no harm to our national security. None our allies might be thinking that the USA is lead by a nutball who either doesn’t know what he’s doing, or who does know what he’s doing. Either way, he is no ally to be trusted. “Nothingburger”?

#14 Comment By Philip Giraldi On July 14, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

Thanks Tom. Your assumption that I wrote the headlines is incorrect. I am very familiar with the Iliad and its dramatis personae.

#15 Comment By TC On July 14, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

Ah, I see you just discovered Nada Bakos. I’ve been following her for a long time, since pre-Trump. She’s a former #NeverTrump who is now part of the so-called #resistance. She has no credibility IMHO.

#16 Comment By Dan A. Davis On July 14, 2017 @ 2:57 pm

“Not Harm National Security”
Right!
Of course, that foreign powers now regard America as an amusing laughingstock because our Public Face is that of a vainglorious rageaholic who can be easily cozened by flattery and smooching up to his brood of wannabe Mafiosi… does no harm to the US.
None at all.

#17 Comment By nick On July 14, 2017 @ 2:59 pm

So the IC “Cassandra’s” are telling the truth, Mr. Giraldi?

#18 Comment By Jumpin’ Jimi On July 14, 2017 @ 3:11 pm

Holy cow!, a nest of selfish disillusioned barely Americans full of themselves, quasi-intellectuals are so boorish, really. Here ya’ go while you sit around sippin lattes and matching color swatches for wall colors to go with the indirect lighting in your adopted greyhounds 4 room dog house. There are actual patriots watching this man dismantle our experiment in self governance, and simultaneously settin America on the path to glorious 3rd world country status, so gather together over wine at your brokers summer house and solve some more of America and The worlds problems i’ll give you 4 hrs. you should be able to do it with time left over.

#19 Comment By nick On July 14, 2017 @ 3:35 pm

The tweets are a symptom of the overall sickness, sir.

#20 Comment By Adriana I Pena On July 14, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

The tweets are a symptom of recklessness and poor impulse control.

Two things that you do NOT want in someone entrusted with vital secrets.

Some of the man’s utterances make me think that he is just letting out his stream of consciousness. That would make him the type to blurt out classified stuff without realizing what he is saying.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 14, 2017 @ 5:33 pm

“There are actual patriots watching this man dismantle our experiment in self governance, and simultaneously settin America on the path to glorious 3rd world country status . . .”

Ohhh no you don’t. The decline if in fact it is a decline began long before Mr Trump ran for office and it is largely due the our immigration policy, outsourcing, revolving financiar-congressional marriage and over extending our military obligations.

No point mentioning the debt it has become SOP to pretend it doesn’t exist and does not matter.

#22 Comment By JD Ryan On July 14, 2017 @ 9:10 pm

Wow, reading the first few paragraphs of this, I thought I had somehow landed at The Onion instead of TAC.

#23 Comment By Ray Woodcock On July 14, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

This piece would be more persuasive if it were not so obviously partisan. Such mixing of the credible with the unlikely tends to drag down the whole project. I’d suggest passing a draft by someone from outside the echo chamber.

#24 Comment By bt On July 14, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

I suspect that foreign nations aren’t really putting a lot of stock in Trump’s tweets, so no they aren’t endangering the state.

His general incompetence and inability to plan and follow through on anything he has promised damages his credibility greatly. Add to that after he tweets something, 2 minutes later he’ll tweet something else that complete contradicts it.

Now add in that we see proof, written down and sent around to multiple recipients, that he actively worked with the Russians(!), casting doubt on the legitimacy of his election. At this point, there’s just no way to deny that the Emperor is wearing no clothes. What person would put stock in anything Trump says or does at this point? Only a fool.

#25 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On July 15, 2017 @ 1:14 pm

here’s the problem. the ‘threat’ to national security posed by the content and tone of many of the tweets offered by the 45th POTUS are not threats in the classic ‘retired former intelligence officer’ sense, or viewed via the lens of Cold War/Spy vs. Spy context. or do they? the threat to national security lies in the irony in in the “anti-establishment, outsider, drain the swamp, successful businessman can fix DC pitch and I use “pitch” as the 45th POTUS may or may not have perfected “the art of the (NY Real Estate) deal. I say “irony” because when, let’s say, a one time Soviet Army officer, with ties to a counter-intelligence unit in the old USSR, who is NOW a US Citizen and (registered) lobbyist for the current Russian government, sits in on a meeting with members of the Trump campaign team; there would appear to by NO POSSIBILITY this individual and his “partner” (a Russian “government lawyer”) would use the skills, training and techniques developed and employed in previous positions to advance and further the interests (National Security) of their clients (Russia) at the expense of American interests (which appear to be secondary to the interests of the Trump brand/business empire). as a sidebar, this is why things like conflict of interest and emoluments clause matter. But I digress. I am no expert in the ways of espionage, but it would appear a narcissistic, entitled, loose-lipped, self-serving, “mark” is a lot easier to “play” than a close to the vest, humble, stoic, and judicious person. And such an analysis or assessment can often be performed or calibrated via a person’s use of Twitter. Again, in this instance, I almost wish the 45th POTUS was more of an autocrat and thug (like his idol in Moscow), as opposed to being the patsy and rube he appears to be (both here and in other parts of the world). As I have argued ad nauseum; it the nature or motive for the gaffe – ignorance or malfeasance doesn’t matter at the geo-political (National Security) level, WINNING does. unfortunately, national security “negotiations” require a bit more than the “pump and dump” enthusiasm of a “reality TV” carny barker.

#26 Comment By Dale On July 15, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

Too many words to say so little.

#27 Comment By TR On July 15, 2017 @ 5:29 pm

Okay, cancel the Times and the Post. And substitute them with what?

#28 Comment By Robert Madera On July 16, 2017 @ 3:50 am

I read the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and, of course, the daily TAC. Unlike Mr. Girardi, I enjoy looking at issues from as many viewpoints as possible, and then forming an informed opinion.I heartily recommend this process.

#29 Comment By Robert Madera On July 16, 2017 @ 3:59 am

Sorry for the misspelling, Mr. Giraldi. Good to see you’re retired and have a diminished capacity to inflict any further damage to our beleaguered intelligence community. Here’s my counsel-in the national interest-no good can come from back-scratching with Mr. Putin of the KGB.

#30 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 16, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

There’ve been a couple of strange comments about Philip Giraldi’s cancelling his NYTimes and Washington Post subscriptions: “Okay, cancel the Times and the Post. And substitute them with what?” and “I read the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and, of course, the daily TAC. Unlike Mr. Giraldi, I enjoy looking at issues from as many viewpoints as possible, and then forming an informed opinion. I heartily recommend this process.”

For many of us who, like Philip, don’t wish to fund the NYTimes and the Washington Post, it’s not as if we don’t understand the importance of monitoring their content and reading NYT and WaPo articles that we need to be aware in order to accurately understand what the fake-news-boys-and-girls are up to.

#31 Comment By Boris M Garsky On July 17, 2017 @ 5:07 am

All of this nonsense about tweets violating national security is just idiocy. I’m sure that these are reviewed before posting and I’m not at all certain that he posts them personally, and I’m not at all certain that there is not a double blind purpose for his posts. Give me a break!

#32 Comment By Carroll Price On July 17, 2017 @ 9:32 am

So, Trump’s tweets prove he’s a human being after all. What’s wrong with that?

#33 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On July 17, 2017 @ 10:47 pm

@ Carroll Price. He’s the POTUS. @ Kurt Gayle, “fake news”? please. if the media reports denials, lies, and disinformation, it the news is not “fake”, the source is. @ Boris M Garsky, if he’s not posting, who is, and who is “reviewing”? double blind? see @ Kurt Gayle, when is a “double blind” post a Tweet, and when is it a “fake’ Tweet? is this TAC or Facebook?