How far will the CIA pursue the facts on Russia?

Jeff Stein writes: [Mike] Pompeo, a graduate of West Point and Harvard Law School [and Donald Trump’s choice to head the CIA], said all the right things at his confirmation hearing to quell resistance to his nomination. He rejected using torture on terrorist suspects, in contrast to Trump’s full-throated endorsement of it during the campaign. (It was his written responses to questions about “enhanced interrogation techniques” that gave Democrats pause and prompted them to hold up his conformation vote.) As for Russian intrigues, he pronounced the intelligence community’s report on Kremlin interference in the election as “sound.” He also promised to “pursue the facts wherever they take us” on Russia, including the new president’s doorstep. “I’m not saying he can’t do it,” Shapiro says, “but…you have to worry who he’s going to listen to, and right now it’s Flynn.”

As has been widely reported, Flynn has his own troubling history with Moscow, having been a high profile, paid guest of its propaganda TV outfit Russia Today. Only a week before Trump’s inauguration, he came under suspicion of helping orchestrate Vladimir Putin’s mocking response to President Barack Obama’s expulsion of Russian spies in December. Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer said Flynn had only talked with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about “the logistics of setting up a call” between Trump and Putin after he was sworn in. “That was it, plain and simple,” Spicer said.

Flynn “hates the CIA,” says a high-profile Republican who knows him well. He has suspected the CIA of covering up a (nonexistent) Iranian hand in the Benghazi attack and of minimizing Osama Bin Laden’s role as leader of al-Qaeda, said this person, who spoke only on condition of anonymity so as not to roil his relations with the incoming administration.

“All the other [Trump appointees] I can take,” the source said, “because they’re billionaires and at least I know they’re not going to steal. But Flynn scares me. I’m not lying to you. He scares me.”

CIA veterans shudder at the memory of another conservative Republican congressman who took over the spy agency with a vow to change and reform it. Porter Goss, appointed CIA director by President George W. Bush, arrived in Langley in September 2004 with a retinue of pugnacious aides who immediately clashed with the agency’s senior leadership. The foibles of his aides quickly made it into the press. He lasted only 20 months.

CIA veterans surveyed by Newsweek say Pompeo should avoid Goss’s error and leave his congressional staff behind. “If he needs them,” said one 25-year veteran of the agency’s operations directorate, speaking on terms of anonymity because he remains under cover, “he shouldn’t take the job.” But Shapiro and other close observers suspect Pompeo will arrive in Langley with a retinue of congressional aides. “I think the nature of a congressman is very different,” says Shapiro, who was initially the only aide Brennan took with him from the White House. “A politician [presents] a very different scenario.” If Pompeo and those aides bring an ideological agenda to the CIA — or try to block the Russian probes — look for leaks from the agency’s bowels. [Continue reading…]

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