Angelo Codevilla, senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of international relations, argues for the disestablishment of the CIA and the transfer of its authority to multiple other branches of government.
An author, former U.S. Navy officer and staff member of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Senate, Codevilla spoke Monday with the Daily Caller to further discuss his beliefs on the powerful intelligence agency.
So can you give a summary of the CIA’s role in the 2016 election, what led up to them being a more politically driven organization and what can be done to remedy that?
About that I don’t know more than anybody else, I know the CIA very well having superintended it for 8 years and continuing contact with it, for better or worse it really hasn’t changed very much, it has changed some, in the same direction. Look when I was involved in it, it’s interference in politics was through the policy process, you see, now they’ve gone directly to ad hominem involvement, which is something else, not that you couldn’t see this happening, but it really hadn’t happened yet.
So you’ve written that ‘senior intelligence officials were the key element in the war on Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency.’ Could you expand on that?
Oh absolutely, yes of course. I mean look, the talk about the so called uncertainty about who sicced [professors] [Joseph] Mifsud and Stef Halper onto the Trump people is nonsense, both of these people were strictly CIA assets. I mean I’ve known Stef Halper for 40 years. This had to be done by Brennan. (RELATED: Mueller Claimed Joseph Mifsud Lied To The FBI About Papadopoulos Contacts, But He Wasn’t Charged)
Is this the first time the CIA has interfered in an election or taken action in a political matter that should be outside of their purview?
Oh no, heavens no. They do that all the time, they did it primarily through policy. Now I’ll give you … most recently what they tried to do to George W. Bush and ended up merely screwing poor Scooter Libby. I mean that was a straightforward direct interference in the presidency. Let me tell you how they worked into that from the policy angle. (RELATED: Former CIA Officer: Whistleblower ‘Is An Anonymous Source’ For House Democrats)
After 9/11, the practical question for the US government was ‘who do we hit … who in the Middle East do we hit and why?’
The Department of Defense, Rumsfeld and others and yours truly, strongly believed that that the regimes of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, from different standpoints, were responsible for anti-American terrorism coming from their jurisdictions and so we said look, tell these people you cut it out or we will get you, you personally, you the rulers. And CIA was totally opposed to that, hence George Tenet’s statement that Osama Bin Laden had done it, game, set and match. Parenthesis, by the way, to this day, no one knows what Osama Bin Laden did, that’s another long story. But The CIA wanted to preclude any and all retaliation against regimes. And so it went out of its way using its usual tools in the press and the bureaucracy to say look, these are rogue individuals, religiously driven, got nothing to do with regimes. Well, it so happened that Scooter Libby got Dick Cheney to take up the views of the Defense Department. And CIA fought against that, they swung from that into attacking Bush, hence the Valerie Plame affair.
Now the Valerie Plame affair was a straightforward attack, and by the way, many of the elements of the Valerie Plame affair were replayed in 2016, there was no crime committed, the whole Valerie Plame/Fitzgerald investigation was not premised on any crime. How do I know that? Because the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is something I helped to write and we damn well made sure- liberals, conservatives, everybody who was involved in writing that act made sure to exclude from the coverage of the act any disclosure made in the course of a political argument. But the CIA and the New York Times together deleted that and put pressure on poor, stupid, weak, dumb George W. Bush to appoint a special prosecutor who then … I don’t know if you know the story of Patrick Fitzgerald, but all of that followed. So the answer to your question is ‘no,’ this is not the first time that it was done, and no it was not the first time that a non-crime was the premise for the interference.
The CIA was originally founded to be, as it’s name literally describes, a Central Intelligence Agency. So could you summarize what led to the CIA turning from that original mission to being a more politically driven organization?
Oh, very simple. In the hearts and minds of the founding generation, CIA was to be the mind of the president, the mind of the government, the official mind, mind you. Wrap your mind around that concept, the official mind of the government. And they tried in every possible way, usually through the press, the number one thing they did, day in and day out, the one thing they did successfully I should say, because they did a whole bunch of other things unsuccessfully, but the one thing they did successfully was to manage the president of the United States.
Is there anything we can do to fix the CIA, does the CIA have any kind of redeeming successes that would justify an attempt to reform them?
Look, the old saying is that everyone knows about their failures, nobody knows about their successes. Bullshit.
I had more clearances than just about anybody except the director. And because I am a student at heart and really want to understand the phenomenon, and by the way, I’ve written probably more scholarly stuff on intelligence than anybody else — scholarly, nothing sensational. I’ve dug into all kinds of histories. Why? Because I was interested. No sir, no, especially there weren’t any successes in intelligence gathering, which is supposed to be their number one thing. And the reason for that is very simple, the CIA never had a core of case officers capable of any kind of penetration, and they never had — and the little bit they had they kicked away— a respectable counterintelligence arm to protect their operations.
The other word for counterintelligence is quality control, another word for it is operational security. There’s an excellent book called Legacy of Ashes, which I highly recommend. Has U.S. intelligence had successes? Absolutely, but most of them, nearly all of them really, that I can think have been by the military or the early days of the FBI. Now, military, I, to this day, know a whole bunch of super secret stuff which would be criminal, truly criminal, to let out. But CIA stuff? Eh.
So it would be fair to say you think that abolishing the CIA would be beneficial to the country?
‘Abolishing’ is not a word I use, it’s a word the editor uses to put a title in there. What I’m saying is transfer the functions of CIA to the operating branches of government.
Just to wrap up here, and this might be a bit of speculation, what do you think we can expect from the CIA in the 2020 elections?
Look they’ve been knocked back a bit by really that element of the press that remained free, and by Devin Nunes. By the way, I met Devin Nunes just as he took over and I told him what he was in for and he said, ‘No, really?’ I said ‘oh, yeah.’ One of the things you ought to note is that the intelligence committees have ended up acting towards the agencies the way that congressional committees traditionally act towards people they’re supposed to oversee, they get into bed with them and with their contractors. The staff, at the end of the day, they want a job either with the agency or with the contractors and the members want the contributions from the contractors. That’s how things work in DC.
So you’re saying that we shouldn’t expect as much interference because they’ve been knocked back a bit?
Yeah, I think so. They’re on their guard, and who knows what John Durham is doing. But look, in that regard, keep this one thing in mind. As I point out in that article, it is not a crime in the United States to divulge classified information, it is not per se a crime. The espionage act does not make divulgence of classified information a strict liability crime, you have to prove actual damage or recklessness regarding actual damage, but we do have some laws that are strict liability crimes. For example, the comments statute, affectionately known in the business as the 10 & 10, meaning you violate it, you get ten years and a 10,000 dollar fine. It’s a serious law. Except, that John Brennan and Clapper both have obviously, without doubt, violated the comments statute, 18 US Code 798 with regards to The New York Times and The Washington Post.