Stormy Relations between the White House and the Intelligence Community


Intelligence Community (IC) leaders presented their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment to the United States Senate in an open hearing last week, which included judgments on Iran, North Korea, and Syria that contrasted with White House policy preferences. In response, President Trump tweeted that the IC is “naïve” and needs to “go back to school.” How unusual is such presidential criticism? How should intelligence officials deal with political pressure over their judgments? How dangerous is an open divide between the White House and the IC?

Three former Intelligence Community officials will provide perspective on the current controversy and offer their views on what is at stake.

Dr. Mark Lowenthal is a former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence and a former staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is the author of Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, and he is president and CEO of The Intelligence & Security Academy, LLC, a national security education, training, and consulting organization.

Dr. Paul Pillar is a former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University, a featured columnist for The National Interest, and author of Intelligence and US Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform.

George Beebe is a former head of Russian analysis at the CIA and a former advisor to Vice President President Cheney on Russia and on intelligence matters. He is the Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest and author of the forthcoming book, The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Catastrophe, to be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2019.

Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, moderated.

To read recap of this event in The National Interest click here.