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Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?

Back in my time in the CIA, there were two places in the headquarters building one could go that were free speech zones—places where it was safe to vent about senior management without necessarily being admonished or even reported. They were the Historical Intelligence Collection room off the library, where no one ever went to look at the books, and the office supplies storage room in the basement. The supplies room had a lot of dark corners and concealing shelves where it was possible to be anonymous and it was completely unsupervised in the belief that true-blue CIA officers would never stoop to taking even a single pencil more than was actually needed to get the job done.

I don’t know if those rooms still exist, but I sometimes think of them when the subject of government conspiracies come up. I have this vision of two or three conspirators huddled in the corner behind the staplers back in 1975 discussing how one would go about eliminating the likes of Senator Frank Church, who at that time was heading a major congressional investigation into CIA improprieties.

If there had been such a gathering, I would imagine that the Washington Post would have found out about it on the next day as intelligence officers are gregarious and like to talk. This has been my principal problem with the debate in some quarters about the 9/11 Commission. Their report did indeed miss many important angles in order to protect certain governmental interests, but if there had been a genuine conspiracy involving what must have been hundreds of people to demolish the Twin Towers with explosives, it surely would have leaked long ago.

Two months ago, I would have dismissed as fantasy any thoughts of a conspiracy based in America’s national security agencies to bring down Donald Trump. But now I am not so sure. Many of my friends who are former intelligence officers are increasingly asking questions. It is worth pointing out that none of us are fans of what the White House has been doing and saying—quite the contrary. Still, alerting the country to concerns over what might be a developing soft coup orchestrated by the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to nullify the results of a national election in no way equates to trying to protect Donald Trump and his uncouth and ill-informed behavior. It is rather a defense of the Constitution.


Donald Trump said [1] on Wednesday that “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” He might be right. He was referring to Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein’s appointment [2] of the highly-respected Robert Mueller as independent counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump’s bombast puts everyone but his most tone-deaf supporters on edge, but there are two points that he has been making repeatedly that are essential to any understanding of what is going on. First, the investigation into Russia and the Trumpsters has been a high priority at FBI and also in Congress for nearly a year. Yet so far no one has produced evidence that anyone broke any law or even that someone did something wrong. Second, and more importantly, the vilification of Trump and Russia has been driven by a series of leaks that come from the very top of the national security apparatus, leaks that appear not to have been seriously investigated.

This involvement of FBI and CIA in the campaign, whether inadvertently or by design, was particularly evident in the various reports that surfaced and were leaked to the press during the campaign and right up to the inauguration. The leaks of that type of information, to include technical intelligence and Special Access Program “codeword” material, require top-level access as well as the ability to arrange clandestine contacts with major players in the media, something far beyond the reach of most employees at CIA or the FBI.

Similar leaks have been appearing since that time. I confess to finding Monday’s detailed account [3] of what President Trump discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov, which included corroborating material that likely did more damage than the information that was actually shared, highly suggestive of the possibility that something like a conspiracy is, in fact, functioning. Given the really tight-security control of that transcript after it was determined that it contained sensitive information, one might reasonably assume that the leaks to the media came directly out of Donald Trump’s own National Security Council or from the highest levels of the office of the DNI, CIA, or FBI.

Yesterday, the anonymous sources struck again, revealing that [4] “Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.” That sort of information had to come from the top level of the FBI and would have been accessible to only a few, but even though the leaks of what constitutes highly-classified information have been recurring for many months, no one has been fired or arrested.

The emphasis on Russia derives from the government and media consensus that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers that led to the exposure of what the DNC was doing to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. There is also a related consensus that the Russian hacking was intended to damage American democracy and also to help the Trump campaign, a narrative that the president has described as a “made-up thing,” a view that I share. All of these assertions are regarded as unquestionably true as measured by inside-the-beltway groupthink, with even the White House now conceding that there was Russian interference in the election.

Sometimes the hysteria over Russia produces over-the-top stories in the mainstream media, including last week’s completely speculative piece wondering whether the entourage of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sought to sneak a recording device [5] into the White House during his White House visit. It was the type of tale that might have been inspired by a leak from someone in the National Security Council who personally observed the context of the meeting and was able to provide corroborating details.

Nevertheless, in spite of the overwhelming groupthink, it has been repeated ad nauseam by people like myself that no actual evidence has been produced to support any of the claims being made about Russia and Trump. There is more evidence that the White House was penetrated by Ankara—through the good services of Michael Flynn—than by Moscow, but Congress has not called for an investigation into Turkey’s lobbying [6]. Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA analyst, is even speculating that [7] the Agency might have been the actual hacker into the DNC, leaving a trail behind that would have suggested that it was done by the Russians. His concern arises from the recent WikiLeaks revelation [8] that the CIA had developed cyberwarfare capabilities to do just that.

McGovern, like myself, is also asking why former CIA Director John Brennan has not been summoned by the Senate Committee looking into Russia-gate. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has testified twice, while former FBI Director James Comey, current NSA Director Mike Rogers, and former Justice Department senior official Sally Yates have all appeared once. Brennan’s absence is conspicuous as he was the senior national security official most closely tied to the Obama Administration, may have had the tools at hand to fake the Russian connection, and has also been plausibly linked [9] to “encouraging” British Intelligence to provide damaging information on Michael Flynn.

I now suspect that there is indeed a group at the top of the U.S. national security system that wants to remove Donald Trump and has wanted to do so for quite some time. If that is true, I believe that they have been operating with that goal in mind for at least the past year. It is not a traditional conspiracy or cabal in that it does not meet and conspire together, but I suspect the members know what they are doing in a general sense and are intervening whenever they can to keep Trump off balance. Their program is simple: convince the nation that the president and his team colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 election in his favor, which, if demonstrable even if not necessarily true, would provide grounds for impeachment. They are motivated by the belief that removing Trump must be done “for the good of the country” and they are willing to do what they consider correcting a mistake made by the American voters. They are assisted in their effort by the mainstream media, which agrees with both the methods employed and the overall objective and is completely on board with the process.

Saving the country from Trump is certainly an attractive notion. I suspect the Comeys, Clappers, and Brennans, together with a host of former senior officers who appear regularly on television, if they were involved, see themselves as great patriots. But they must understand that the blunt instrument they are using is far more dangerous than the current occupant of the White House. A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more threatening to our democracy than anything Donald Trump or even the Russians can do.

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

58 Comments (Open | Close)

58 Comments To "Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?"

#1 Comment By john On May 21, 2017 @ 5:52 am

It’s beyond speculation; it’s a conspiracy. But these people are not interested in restoring a democracy. Until Trump there was no democracy. There was a two party system representing a single interest. The two parties gave the appearance of choice but there was no difference between them. And the people in the majority realized this and stopped coming to the polls thinking there was no way to change the situation.Trump brought these people back to the voting booth and they succeeded in electing The Donald. Trump thus restored real democracy. This of course upset the rulers who thought one of member of their elite, either Clinton on one side and perhaps Jeb Bush on the other would be the candidates. Trump won and proved the bums can really be thrown out if the people came back to the voting booth. They did and the elites planned to reverse the will of the people.The ellites represent anti American interests cannot win in a true democracy.

#2 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On May 22, 2017 @ 12:26 am

@MEexpert. The United States is a Constitutional Republic (aka, a Plutocratic Oligarchy, as I have argued). Not a ‘democracy’. Big difference.

#3 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 22, 2017 @ 11:01 am

“He is not much of a leader–rather a whiner and the like. How much loyalty would YOU pledge to a petulant five-year-old?”

Most parents re deeply loyal to their five year. Largely because they are five years olds, but entirely because they are their children.

That said Mr Trump is not a five year old child. And petulant, sure. And he should be to the rather peculiar expectations of those that oppose him.

To date, the petulance and childishness rests with those who are challenging the election based soley on how they feel.

#4 Comment By Brendan Sexton On May 22, 2017 @ 2:17 pm

MEexpert says:We either have a democracy or we don’t. If we have democracy then we should accept the will of the voters. The voters will have another opportunity to elect a “better” qualified candidate if they so desire. That is the proper way to do things ”
But someone has to provide the voters with legit information so they can choose the ‘better’ qualified candidate. If the Pres and his reps are lying, committing fraud, perhaps lying mostly to each other, don’ you think someone should be trying to find that out?

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 22, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

“If the Pres and his reps are lying, committing fraud, perhaps lying mostly to each other, don’ you think someone should be trying to find that out?”

First, there should be cause. To date there’s none. In other-words, stop and frisk is unconstitutional for political candidates as it is for the guy walking down the street, who is claimed to fit some profile based that in unrepresentative of the whole or so generic as to be meaningless. In this case, Mr Trump and others associated with talk to the Russians — not a crime and not anymore suspicious than the dealings of democrats, i.e., Sec Clinton who has engaged in private business dealings with the Russians.

Second, I think the legitimate information is fairly clear,

there’s no evidence . . . that the nonexistent information isn’t reflective of the reality.

There’s no collusion

There’s no attempt at collusion

There’s crime

There’s no attempt to commit a crime

There’s treason

There’s no evidence to engage in treasonous behavior.

No evidence is the evidence.

In fact there’s no evidence of DNC hack. The FBI, and the previous admin are echoing the accusation of the DNC and the security firm responsible for the system. Mountains of investigation about a black cat not in a room with no lights and no black cat.

#6 Comment By Keith Harbaugh On May 23, 2017 @ 6:38 pm

Giraldi writes: “If there had been such a gathering,
I would imagine that the Washington Post would have found out about it on the next day
as intelligence officers are gregarious and like to talk.”

OTOH, Phil has written several articles that, as I read them, claim that
working level IC analysts believe the MSM/WH story-line
about the Syrian “chemical attack” by Assad’s forces
is BS.
If “intelligence officers … like to talk”,
why aren’t we hearing about their dissents from the party line
in the MSM?

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 24, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

” . . . why aren’t we hearing about their dissents from the party line in the MSM”

For the same reasons, we didn’t them in preparation for the war with Iraq. The NIE report on Iraq did bot get a fine tooth reading from the press anymore than the details of chemical weapons attacks in Syria previously. It’s hard to grasp the agenda and its participation by the press to advance regime change and mayhem, but the evidence is mounting that what is meant by establishment has taken on a new and somber meaning for leadership.

#8 Comment By Soraya Ulrich On June 19, 2017 @ 10:22 am

I think we are all looking at things (including Phil’s article) with a degree of intelligence and integrity. These are absent in the world of “governing” (if you want to call it that) and America’s power projection. It may well be that this mad man was somehow enabled to carry out exactly what he is doing. Deepening the mess in Syria and the Middle East, Afghanistan, emboldening Saudis, writing a blank check for Israeli atrocities, and allowing America to OPENLY giving a finger to the world. After all, intimidating the world with a mad, unpredictable man is in itself a tactic. Maybe this is a lesson learnt from North Korea, though personally I give the thumbs up to the North Koreans. But we all know that the president does not formulate the foreign policy agenda. If America fails to achieve its various goals with Trump, the plan ‘B’ is to impeach him (which is in the works). This will enable the US to “reset” and give the false illusion of a ‘transparent democracy’. A food for thought: During the presidential campaign, the media managed to dig up an old ‘sex’ tape of his, but failed to dig up or show Trump stating that there was demolition at the towers on 911. Doesn’t seem odd to anyone? Also food for thought: his tweets then and now would all be but ignored were it not for the media. So you have to wonder why the media is promoting them (even in the negative) just as it is promoting ISIS.