On Wednesday, I asked if perhaps WikiLeaks had effectively become Donald Trump’s CIA. Well, actually I didn’t ask it, Max Boot, writing for Foreign Policy asked it, but I thought it was a pretty compelling question given the rather convenient timing of the WikiLeaks revelations (i.e. right after Donald Trump used a Breitbart article to posit a vast conspiracy against his – ultimately successful – candidacy).
Trump has of course praised WikiLeaks in the past and despite his own rather vexing problem with leaks, the President didn’t exactly go out of his way to decry the latest WikiLeaks dump. As USA Today wrote on Thursday, “President Trump preferred to talk about community banks rather than WikiLeaks [today], declining to comment on the purported leaks of CIA documents.” They continue: “The president, who praised WikiLeaks when it released Hillary Clinton-related emails during last year’s presidential campaign, just smiled when asked about the organization’s claim it is putting out documents on how the spy agency can hack into everyday devices like iPhone and televisions.”
Yes, “the president just smiled,” and I think it’s pretty f*cking clear what he’s smiling about. In case you need it spelled out in the most idiot-proof manner possible, here’s WaPo’s Charles Krauthammer (who I wouldn’t exactly call an “angry liberal”)…
When he was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz was once asked about the CIA’s disavowal of involvement in a mysterious recent bombing in Lebanon. Replied Shultz: “If the CIA denies something, it’s denied.”
Has there ever been a more dry, more wry, more ironic verdict on the world of espionage? Within it, there is admission and denial, smoke and mirrors, impenetrable fog and deliberate obfuscation. Truth? Ask the next guy.
Which is why my default view of espionage is to never believe anyone because everyone is trained in deception. This is not a value judgment; it’s a job description.
We learn, for example, from Tuesday’s spectacular WikiLeaks dump that among the CIA’s various and nefarious cybertools is the capacity to simulate intrusion by a foreign power, the equivalent of planting phony fingerprints on a smoking gun.
Who are you going to believe now? I can assure you that some enterprising Trumpite will use this revelation to claim that the whole storyline pointing to Russian interference in the U.S. election was a fabrication. And who was behind that ? There is no end to this hall of mirrors. My rule, therefore, is: Stay away.
The other storyline is simply fantastical. Congressional Republicans have uniformly run away from Trump’s Obama-wiretap accusation. Clapper denies it. FBI Director James Comey denies it. Not a single member of Trump’s own administration is willing to say it’s true.
Loopier still is to demand that Congress find the truth when the president could just pick up the phone and instruct the FBI, CIA and DNI to declare on the record whether this ever occurred. And if there really was an October 2016 FISA court order to wiretap Trump, the president could unilaterally declassify the information yesterday.
The bugging story is less plausible than a zombie invasion.