February 5, 2017

Intelligence Agencies ‘Trumped’

David Wingens ‘19



Since America’s founding, presidents – republican, democrat or otherwise – have relied on the intelligence community to supply them with the information necessary to make informed decisions that have worldwide ramifications. President Donald Trump, who took office January 20, has already begun to butt heads with much of that intelligence community.
There have been several points of contention for Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies, the first of which being Trump’s refuting of their claims that Russia attempted to affect the outcome of the election. The C.I.A. claims that Russia hacked into both the Democratic National Committee’s and the Republican National Committee’s emails and only released those of the Democrats, thus leading them to conclude that the Russians were trying to help Trump win the election.
Trump has vehemently denied this report saying that it is “ridiculous” and “No, I don’t believe that at all.”
Trump may actually have some basis for that argument, as neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – the agency that oversees U.S. intelligence – nor the F.B.I. have either endorsed or denied the C.I.A. report because of a lack of conclusive evidence.
The idea that Russia meddled in the election, in some way, however, is less controversial and is generally agreed upon by the intelligence community.
Despite that, Trump repeatedly refuted the idea that Russia might be trying to interfere with America’s election saying things like, “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Trump’s actions and words have been deeply troubling to some and encouraging to others.
“I think it is just Hillary Clinton and Obama reversing their promise to respect the results of the election,” sophomore Eitan Szteinbaum said.
This shows the deep distrust that many have in the current political establishment and how they would prefer an outsider, even if it means disagreeing with the intelligence agencies. Szteinbaum added that Trump is simply trying to “give the American people what they want, a great America.”
Others, like sophomore Josh Kalet, said that it is “very dangerous for Trump to disagree with his own intelligence agencies.”
Another issue is that Trump has only been receiving one intelligence briefing per week, as opposed to the traditional daily briefings received by past president-elects and sitting. Trump said that he is “a smart person” and therefore, he does not need daily briefings and he will know when he actually needs the information.
Many people were troubled by this statement, including former President Barack Obama.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are,” Obama said, “you have to have the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.”
GOA students had mixed responses to these actions with some defending Trump and some criticizing his naivete.
“Mr. Trump has a very busy schedule, and it’s still Obama’s responsibility to be fully immersed in foreign policy.” Szteinbaum said, defending Trump on the grounds that he is only president-elect and not yet president.
Kalet, however, said that it “shows how unprepared he will be.”
Junior Aaron Pearlstein sided with Kalet, noting that Trump’s comments and refusal of weekly intelligence briefings is “just plain stupid.”
Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the intelligence community may be an inauspicious start to a troubled presidency, a promising start to a new America, or somewhere in between, but it is certainly a sign of things to come.
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