The U.S. Intelligence Community’s Contrived Intelligence Assessment 1

So, back in January 2017, our U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) issued an “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) that found that Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy and claims that the Trump Campaign and transition team colluded with Russian intelligence to affect the outcome of the November 2016 Election.

While the mainstream news media and the anti-politicos are certain to play up a new Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena demanding former Trump administration National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn, USA (Retired) provide documents related to his private consulting business dealings with Russian as a major new development in the Congressional investigations of possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there is a much more important story that surfaced this week that no one is talking about, that being the mysterious hand-picked group of analysts chosen to write the damning, albeit sinister and deliberate intelligence assessment that found that Russia intervened in the election to help Donald Trump win. This conclusion, further raises the question that the much touted ICA document is a dubious and contrived concoction designed to support the political opposition opposed to President Trump and his administration.

So what has transpired? On January 6, 2017, the U.S. Intelligence Community issued an “ICA” that found Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump’s candidacy. The news media and anti-Trump critics on both sides of the aisle, yes Republicans included, have claimed this assessment ended the debate on this issue because it was the unanimous and objective conclusion of “all 17” U.S. Intelligence Agencies. Yes, we all remember that phrase — “all 17 Intelligence Agencies…”

Similarly, I recall a January 7th 2017, Fox News opinion article that stated that ‘there are compelling reasons to believe that this ICA was actually a politicized analysis that exceeding violated the normal rules for crafting intelligence assessments to ensure this one reached the bottom-line conclusion that the Obama administration was looking for.  Personally, in my extensive research and analysis, to which I have been writing about in America Out Loud with regard to the potential criminal activity involving surveillance, the unmasking the names of over 1,900 Americans in 2016 alone, and the relentless leaking of highly sensitive classified information associated with the surveillance and unmasking by suspiciously by Obama administration “Deep State” operatives — I firmly believe this even more strongly after former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s Senate testimony this week.

Last week in his May 8th testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Mr. Clapper confirmed that the ICA reflected the views of only three intelligence agencies — CIA, NSA and FBI – not all 17. In my experience this is highly unusual, in fact, it is extremely unusual since an ICA is supposed to according to policy reflect the “collected judgment” of all U.S. intelligence agencies, or at least include all agencies with “relevant expertise.” Mr. Clapper did not explain why the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research did not participate, let alone be allowed to review and comment on the ICA and its findings.

Let me also refer back to sourced reporting from January 2017 that indicated that the January 6thICA was suspicious because it more than obviously reached unusually clear judgments on a politically explosive issue with no dissenting views from any of the “hand-selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and the FBI … how unusual and questionable is that – to me it is mind-boggling and reeks of undue influence, biasedness and suspicion, to say the least.

I previously thought the ICA’s unambiguous, dissent-free judgments were the result of limiting the number of intelligence agencies which were allowed to participate in developing the assessment. But based on Director Clapper’s testimony, it appears that politicization of this assessment was much more serious, and quite clear to me that it was both intentional and deliberately designed to both support and to validate the Democrat Party’s narrative of the Trump campaign’s and transition collusion with Moscow.

Mr. Clapper further explained in his testimony that two dozen or so “seasoned experts” were “handpicked” from the contributing IC agencies” and collaborated and drafted the ICA “under the aegis of his former office,” that being the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Meaning, the ODNI had orchestrated, implemented and maintained oversight of the overall process to prepare the ICA.

While Mr. Clapper claimed these analysts, i.e.; “seasoned experts” were given “complete independence” to reach their findings, he added that their conclusions “were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me.” This process drastically differed from the IC’s normal process and procedures. During my time in Washington and during my career while serving in other key and critical intelligence assignments, I had the privilege to serve on numerous IC panels to debate, corroborated, draft, and prepare Intelligence Estimates, Special Intelligence Estimates, and ICA Assessments – in each and every case, all IC member representatives were always present and both required to submit and argue their respected agencies position and perspectives.

Of deep concern is this so-called “hand-picking” of a handful of analysts from just three intelligence agencies to write such a critical and controversial assessment. And to further allow it to go against standing rules to vet such analysis throughout the entire Intelligence Community within its existing structure. The idea of using hand-picked intelligence analysts selected through some unknown politicized process to write an assessment on such a politically sensitive topic carries a strong stench of politicization, unlike anything I have ever seen. I cannot understand how any member of Congress both in the House or the Senate who claims to have but a single once of integrity, would accept this ICA or Director Clapper’s explanation for the ICA’s methodology, process and findings. As a result, I must emphatically say; shame on them for continuing to tout and reference the ICA, and its politically bogus findings and its conveniently contrived conclusion.

Further, it should be noted that FBI Director James Comey said in his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that, “the conclusion that Russia tried to affect the outcome of the November election to help candidate Donald Trump win was based on logic, not evidence.”  So we now know this was a subjective judgment made again, by the so-called hand-picked group of intelligence analysts. Again, this raises the questions;

– So to further validate or attempt to validate, if at all possible the ICA, we have to ask how these hand-picked analysts were picked. As well as, who picked them? Who was excluded and why were the other fourteen IC agencies excluded?

– Additionally, we must also know; what was the selection criteria used, the justification established, and who were the senior leadership that made the ultimate decision to only use CIA, NSA and FBI — and not all 17 intelligence agencies of the Intelligence Community.

– Finally, I am also concerned that the conclusions of these hand-picked intelligence analysts were later vetted and approved by Mr. Clapper and three other intelligence agency directors.

Let me also add that a major problem with this process is that it gave John Brennan, CIA’s hyper-partisan former Director, enormous influence over the drafting of the ICA. Given Brennan’s blatant bias and his scathing criticism of Mr. Trump before and after the election, he should have had no role whatsoever in the drafting of this assessment. As a result, I highly suspicious and suspect based on his total disregard, distain and anti-Trump stance that Mr. Brennan more than likely selected the CIA analysts who worked on the ICA and reviewed, influenced, and approved their conclusions, as well as colluded with ODNI, NSA and the FBI senior political-appointed leaders to flesh-out the analysts and orchestrate the findings and conclusions of the assessment.

As a career senior and strategic intelligence officer, who served across the intelligence community at all levels for nearly 30-years, I am well aware and more than anyone believe Russian cyber warfare operations are a serious threat to our national security, our cyber and internet system and our democratic processes, including our elections. That said however, I find it difficult to believe that Russia meddled in the election as part of a scheme to help Donald Trump win because this assumes the Putin government believed Trump had a reasonable chance of winning when the entire mainstream media and almost all U.S. political prognosticators thought otherwise. I doubt the Russians were so clairvoyant. Further, based on the numerous failed policies of the Obama administration and the equally numerous failed foreign policies overseen and implemented by Hillary Clinton, it is more logical to rational to understand and expect that Putin would certainly rather want to have Mrs. Clinton in the White House rather than Mr. Trump. Mrs. Clinton’s egregious escapades such as the “Russian Reset”, the removal of our Defensive Missile Shield from Eastern Europe, and the transfer of Crimea to Russia are but of a few examples of Mrs. Clinton eating out of Mr. Putin’s hand.

Secondly and finally, I find it ever harder to believe the Intelligence Community’s “logical” conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to help Donald Trump win since this conclusion was the result of intelligence officials breaking the rules on the processes and production of the Intelligence Community’s assessment. An assessment purporting to be an objective and authoritative analysis of such an extremely controversial subject should have gone the extra mile to consider the points of view from all of the seventeen intelligence agencies and their respective intelligence experts, and not be limited to a small group of analysts hand-picked through some unknown political and agenda-driven process. Likewise, as in any and all ICA’s, there also should have been dissenting views allowed and an annex with evaluations of this assessment by outside subject matter experts and reviewers from other areas of the national security community, federal election political experts, independent information and communications specialists and social media analysts.

The unusual way that the January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment was drafted raises major questions as to whether it was rigged by the Obama administration to produce conclusions that would discredit the election outcome and Mr. Trump’s presidency. As a result, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees therefore should add investigations of whether this ICA was politicized to their investigations of Russian interference and meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and whether this is part of bigger agenda collaborated with and by the Democrat Party, the Obama Administration and his Deep State operatives, the Clinton campaign, and even Establishment Republicans and Democrat member’s in both the House and Senate – it certainly appears and sounds like it based on the comments coming out of the institutions from both sides of the aisles.

Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served combat and combat-support tours in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as on numerous special operations and special mission intelligence contingencies in Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units, and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force, as well as in international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism. He is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC -- which provides strategic and operational security analysis and assessments to governmental and private entities, as well as media organizations on national security issues, policy, and processes. He currently provides advisory and consulting services on national security, international strategic policy, and strategy assessments for the U.S. and foreign private sector and governments entities, media groups and outlets, and to political groups, forums, and political candidates. He is an author and writer providing regular commentary and opinion to national and local TV, radio networks, and for both print and online publications, as well as speaking engagements to business, political, civic and private groups on national security matters – focusing on international strategic policy and engagement, and strategic intelligence, and subject matter expertise on special mission intelligence and operations, counter-terrorism, and asymmetric warfare and conflict.