President Donald Trump tweeted at the nation's intelligence agencies on Wednesday, calling them "passive and naive" about the dangers posed by Iran, and defending his handling of Afghanistan, North Korea and the Islamic State.
Trump is making us less safe
By Karen Hobert Flynn
Americans expect and deserve a president who puts the nation and its security before his personal interests and whims. President Donald Trump's approach to international affairs has been indifferent at best, and at worst, openly hostile to more than 70 years of bipartisan agreement on global alliances that have kept us safe. His fascination with dictators and so-called strong men is dangerous. The president's well-documented lies and exaggerations are disturbing and unprecedented, but when he openly ignores and ridicules the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, he puts American lives at risk, diminishes our role in the world, and makes us all less safe.
In several cases, U.S. intelligence has been at odds with Trump and his public statements. Trump has, for reasons still under federal investigation, chosen to listen to Russian President (and former KGB officer) Vladimir Putin rather than top U.S. intelligence officials. The investigation dates to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Heads of the major intelligence agencies say that the interference is ongoing, and that foreign actors will view the 2020 presidential election as an opportunity to advance their interests.
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On Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials alerted the country that China and Russia are working together to challenge U.S. leadership. Whereas Trump has indicated that we are headed for peace with North Korea, U.S. intelligence officials reported that North Korea isn't giving up nuclear weapons.
Intelligence leaders have not identified a security crisis at the U.S. border, even as the president has said that he is considering an emergency declaration forcing the military to build his border wall. Intelligence has warned that the Islamic State is capable of attacking America despite Trump's declaration that ISIS has been defeated.
Lastly, U.S. officials have said that Iran is actually not trying to build a nuclear weapon in violation of an international agreement with the United States, which is the opposite of what the Trump administration has stated and then walked back.
One read of these circumstances is that Trump wishes to be allies with the very countries U.S. intelligence is most concerned about. Whether the president wishes to acknowledge it or not, U.S. intelligence has made it clear that the U.S. role in the world is on the cusp of being seriously challenged. He is making us less safe.
The intelligence community's work is vital to our national security and our international interests. Congress must be ready to step in to prevent further erosion of our global standing. No judicial confirmation or tax cut is worth jeopardizing the safety of our democracy. Every member of Congress must put country before party - Americans, our global allies and all freedom-loving people around the world are watching.
Karen Hobert Flynn is president of Common Cause. You can follow her on Twitter: @KHobertFlynn
What others are saying
Josh Campbell, CNN.com: "President Donald Trump's true motives in destroying public confidence in the national security sector remain unknown. ... Whatever the rationale behind his effort, his attacks risk undermining the morale and effectiveness of the intelligence professionals charged with keeping this nation safe. For their part, it was refreshing to see the agency heads conjure the courage to speak the truth, regardless of whether their professional assessments ran counter to the president's."
Cindy Otis,Twitter: "Any narrative painting (Tuesday) as some kind of battle between the intelligence community and the president is absolutely incorrect. The IC was asked to provide its analysis and it did. If IC analysis conflicts with the administration's assessment, it's because facts point ... in a different direction. The IC analyzes all intelligence available and makes its best judgment on issues. If a policymaker asks for its analysis, IC will give it regardless of what the administration wants or how the president personally feels. ... Honestly, anyone who tries to tell you the IC is at war with the president is just trying to get invited to appear on a cable news show. The IC is doing its job. It was here before this president, and it will be here long after he's gone."
The Washington Post,editorial: "Will overseas adversaries be emboldened by the sight of a president who feels compelled to publicly disparage his own intelligence community of 17 agencies and more than 100,000 people? Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director, deserve credit for not ducking the responsibility to brief Congress and the nation forthrightly on the threats they see, even though they must have known Trump was likely to disagree. They did leave one serious threat off their list: that of a president mired in his own delusions who refuses to hear the truth."
What our readers are saying
So President Donald Trump is smarter than the collective intelligence agencies. Trump supporters, is there anyone Trump is not smarter than? How do you not see the craziness in his comments?
- Paul Goldblatt
Once again, Trump belittles and disrespects our intelligence agencies. But he believes anything Russian President Vladimir Putin tells him. The crisis in the U.S. is Trump himself.
- Michael Q. McFadden
Of course Trump disputes his intelligence chiefs. If it's an answer Trump doesn't like, they must be wrong, because Trump has a very large brain and is the smartest person in the room, always.
- Bruce Miller
Even if Trump is right, it's kind of weird (and not at all helpful) to publicly call out your intelligence agencies. Like any successful sports organization, you keep that stuff in-house.
- Marley Denver
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump jeopardizes national security by ignoring intelligence community: Today's talker