One of the nicer side effects of the 2016 election has been the trashing of the reputations of US intelligence agencies, specifically the FBI and the CIA. During the election, of course, it became apparent that there was some sort of tug-of-war within the FBI which led James Comey to first declare that no “reasonable” prosecutor would ever go after Hillary Clinton. Then, as election day approached, Comey came back and, contrary to the usual protocol, waged a PR war against Clinton, implying that this time, new evidence suggests she is, in fact a crook. Naturally, the Democratic party has declared the FBI to be corrupt and has even accused FBI direct James Comey of covering up Russian crimes.
In the wake of the election, the CIA has now decided that the Russians were influencing the election and an attempt to cast doubt on the validity of the election itself. In response, Donald Trump simply dismissed the CIA as incompetent, declaring “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” It is entirely possible that the Russians attempt to influence American elections. Unfortunately, the CIA is not exactly a reliable source from which to draw any conclusions.
Today, the FBI and the CIA remain at war, with the FBI slamming the CIA’s “fuzzy” and “ambiguous” remarks about the elections.
Indeed, the whole CIA story remains primarily based on nameless sources and leaked comments, with no evidence provided. Even the Washington Post admits the CIA functions on a model of “drawing inferences” and isn’t overly concerned with presenting actual facts.
The lesson to be learned from all of this is that the CIA and the FBI are nothing more than typical government agencies that spend much of their time fighting little battles on Capitol Hill and are motivated primarily with protecting their own agendas, their own budgets, and their own empire-building. As with the FBI, the CIA behaves exactly as Public Choice theory tells us a self-interested collection of government bureaucrats would behave.
For far too long has the intelligence community received a free pass from astoundingly naive advocates for “free markets” who claim for be for limited government one minute, and then sit back and blithely defend everything the CIA does the next minute because “they keep us safe.”
While obviously motivated by his own self interest, Donald Trump has been right to not regard the CIA as a sacred cow, especially since his attacks on the CIA’s questionable record are based in reality.