Trump transition was ‘far and away’ most difficult in CIA history, internal report claims

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THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the electoral victory of Donald Trump in 2016 was “far and away the most difficult” transition between administrations in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is the conclusion of a recently declassified CIA analysis of how American presidents-elect are briefed. The term ‘president-elect’ refers to individuals who have won the US presidential election, but have yet to assume the presidency. Presidents-elect are briefed by the CIA during the transition period, which typically lasts about 75 days, from early November until late in January of the following year.

The CIA analysis appears in the most recent edition of Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect, 1952–2016. It is authored by John L. Helgerson, a 38-year veteran of the CIA, who retired in 2009 as the Agency’s Inspector General. The volume contains lessons learned by analysts who briefed presidents-elect in over sixty years. Chapter nine of the book, which contains an assessment of Trump as president-elect, was released [pdf] last week.

The chapter chronicles some of the challenges faced by the CIA in the days immediately after Trump’s electoral victory in 2016. Such challenges included CIA analysts having to wait for over a week for the Trump team to begin communicating them, its members “apparently having not expected to win the election”. Additionally, the Trump transition team had not thought of a way to safeguard printed documents shared with them by the CIA, which necessitated the Agency having to install a safe in the Trump transition team’s headquarters.

Eventually, president-elect Trump began receiving the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a highly sensitive classified document produced each morning for the eyes of the president, vice president and a limited number of senior administration officials. However, unlike his vice-president elect, Mike Pence, Trump did not read the PDB, and eventually told the CIA he wanted a less text-heavy approach to the document if he was going to read it. The CIA complied with the request, as it tries to adapt its briefing method to the intelligence consumers’ preferred mode. Read more of this post

Lawsuit exposes rumored CIA-NRO turf war

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After the CIA’s ongoing turf wars with the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DCI), a new federal lawsuit appears to substantiate rumors of another turf war, this time between the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Eric Feldman was recently removed from his position as inspector general of the super-secretive NRO, the agency that builds and operates the US government’s spy satellites, after he was found to have filed for the same travel expenses on two separate reimbursement accounts. But he now claims that his removal was part of a conspiracy by “senior officials in the CIA” to get rid of him. In his lawsuit, Feldman names former CIA inspector general John Helgerson and CIA agent Anthony Cipparone, who Feldman says “had a personal vendetta against him [because he] had passed him over for his deputy assistant position”. The former NRO inspector general claims Cipparone and Helgerson, along with other CIA officials, managed to terminate his position by illegally leaking information from the internal investigation into his reimbursement filings, in an attempt “to hurt his reputation”. Read more of this post

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