On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan challenged Donald Trump’s suggestion last week that he could read “disapproval” of President Obama’s policies in the body language of US intelligence officials who provided secret national security briefings to the candidate on August 17.
“What I did learn,” Trump said at NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief forum,” “is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow … what our experts said to do … And I was very, very surprised. I could tell — I’m pretty good with body language — I could tell they were not happy.”
In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Brennan told host John Dickerson that he was “fully confident” that his colleagues in the intelligence community had operated in a way entirely consistent with protocol, explaining that they remained non-partisan and objective during their briefing with Trump.
“I know the briefers that have been briefing the candidates,” he stated. “They are the quintessential professional intelligence officers. They do their work very well.”
We don’t comment on policy. We don’t give policy recommendations, so I am fully confident that they comported themselves with the utmost professionalism and demonstrated their real breadth and depth of intelligence capabilities.
The criticism didn’t stop there. Several members of the intelligence community, both active and retired, voiced their outrage after hearing Trump’s version of his intelligence briefing experience.
“Our friends in the intelligence community were quite upset to hear that sort of talk,” said former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Col. Steve Ganyard. “I think if there was any discomfort, it was not signaling any personal preference or policy. It was more because they understood that what they were saying might be used against them in a way that was untrue.” Ganyard routinely attended classified briefings during his time at the State Department.
George W. Bush’s own briefer, former CIA director Michael Morell, also added to the chorus of condemnation.
“This is the first time that I can remember a candidate for president doing a readout from an intelligence briefing, and it’s the first time a candidate has politicized their intelligence briefing,” asserted Morell. “Both of those are highly inappropriate and crossed a long standing red line respected by both parties.” A Hillary Clinton supporter, Morell didn’t hold back any punches, adding: “To me this is just the most recent example that underscores that this guy is unfit to be commander in chief.”
His comments show that he’s got no understanding of how intelligence works. Intelligence officers do not make policy recommendations. It’s not their job and anyone running for president should know that. The people who briefed him, I’m pretty sure were career analysts — senior intel professionals. There is no way that they would in any way signal displeasure with the policies of the president.