Kate Brannen writes: If there was any question about who is largely in charge of national security behind the scenes at the White House, the answer is becoming increasingly clear: Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet, and now White House advisor.
Even before he was given a formal seat on the National Security Council’s “principals committee” this weekend by President Donald Trump, Bannon was calling the shots and doing so with little to no input from the National Security Council staff, according to an intelligence official who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution.
“He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” the official said. He described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized.
The intelligence official, who said he was willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt when it took office, is now deeply troubled by how things are being run.
“They ran all of these executive orders outside of the normal construct,” he said, referring to last week’s flurry of draft executive orders on everything from immigration to the return of CIA “black sites.”
After the controversial draft orders were written, the Trump team was very selective in how they routed them through the internal White House review process, the official said.
Under previous administrations, if someone thought another person or directorate had a stake in the issue at hand or expertise in a subject area, he or she was free to share the papers as long as the recipient had proper clearance.
With that standard in mind, when some officials saw Trump’s draft executive orders, they felt they had broad impact and shared them more widely for staffing and comments.
That did not sit well with Bannon or his staff, according to the official. More stringent guidelines for handling and routing were then instituted, and the National Security Council staff was largely cut out of the process. [Continue reading…]