On Thursday, March 18, 2021, Former CIA senior officer Dr. James Bruce offered his perspective on the intelligence issues facing the new Biden administration.
- He pointed out that historically, intelligence has not been a campaign issue. Critically important to understand is that while intelligence may inform policymaking, intelligence itself is information and analysis, and should be policy-neutral.
- Intelligence is intended to provide policymakers with a decision advantage by providing warning or notification of opportunities as well as threats.
- Dr. Bruce spent some time providing an overview of the intelligence community structure and hierarchy. The big five agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Geospatial Agency, and National Reconnaissance Organization. In all, there are 17 agencies that comprise the intelligence community.
- Much of the work of these organizations is captured in studies and strategy documents. Representatives from these organizations also participate in committee and subcommittee meetings. Their contribution is to inform policymaking by supplying information.
- The core Biden team includes National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and Director of Central Intelligence Agency William Burns.
- The first priority of the Biden administration is to restore American global leadership and rebuild alliances.
- In assessing past president’s use of intelligence, Dr. Bruce rated Truman, Eisenhower, and Bush 41 as among the best. He rated Trump, Nixon, and Clinton among the worst. He elaborated on this point regarding Trump–who he assessed as in a class by himself.
- Dr. Bruce provided 4 instances where Trump publicly disputed findings by the intelligence community and instead accepted the view of authoritarian leaders. In each case the intelligence was sound, but the president publicly rejected it. Those instances were: Russian influence in 2016 election; North Korean willingness to give up nuclear weapons; Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA; and the role of the Saudi crown prince in the murder of journalist Khashoggi.
- Dr. Bruce stated that the Biden administration must “de-Trumpify” the intelligence community by once again de-politicizing intelligence. Biden must also restore morale, reinforce standards, and rebuild foreign liaisons.