No secret entrenched bureaucracy is plotting to overthrow Donald Trump
As Donald Trump’s White House fumbles mounted in his first month in office, including several insults casually aimed at our Intelligence Community, something close to all-out war between the president and the country’s spies has broken through the surface. Faced with a commander-in-chief who compares them to Nazi Germany and accuses them of being “very anti-American,” intelligence professionals have fought back with leaks, per time-tested tradition.
In particular, IC sources have informed journalists—this one included—about signals intelligence intercepts of phone calls to the Russian embassy in Washington which led to the early downfall of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. Additional SIGINT collected by the National Security Agency demonstrated that several members of Trump’s inner circle maintained contacts with Moscow in the months before the November 8 election. In neither case did anyone inform the media of the content of those calls, but the mere fact that they had been intercepted posed problems for the new administration.
These revelations have been highly embarrassing to the White House, and led to denunciations of leakers by the president on down, as well as assurances that the malefactors who talked to the press without authorization will be tracked down and punished. This drama has an unavoidably Nixonian flair, since that vindictive president, too, waged a war on leakers—ultimately leading to the break-in at the Watergate, which unraveled Richard Nixon’s presidency.