tv Brookings Discussion on the Intelligence Communitys Role in Predicting... CSPAN October 16, 2020 2:57pm-3:38pm EDT
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the coronavirus, author chris recentlypoke about his released book "the spy masters" the c.i.a. director in the future. by the brookings institution, this is about an hour. >> hello, i'm director the intelligence of the project for institution and today we're having a program on covid-19, how well he intelligence community anticipates the worldwide pandemic which is now covering world.ire i'm very happy to say that my chris whipple, he is the author and published a a few years ago called most recently
publish "spy masters" which is a book about how policy directors shape history for the future. it's the first book that looks modern directors of .entral intelligence they have s how interpreted their jobs. in the ve time later program to talk about all of and to purchase we'll be e book, [indiscernible]. we're going to focus today, at least initially on the pandemic.
the intelligence community it ppears actually did a fairly good job of warning and pandemic was coming. should i ask you, chris, to give us some of the data? >> yeah, bruce, first of all i do, can i just say that the kind words i was lucky enough during this book to talk to almost every living cia director and i was even luckier to talk to you. you made a tremendous contribution. without you, i'm not sure the book would be as good as it is. i have an epilogue in the book. history -- ies the haven't epilogue at the end of
.he book. it talks about dust at the end of the book. we speak,fering, as the catastrophic consequences of a president who worn -- you ignored regular warnings about the coronavirus -- who ignored regular warnings about the coronavirus throughout january and february. specifically he was briefed on january 23 by the briefer at that time. trump later famously said to fox that -- he said this was the first he had heard of the coronavirus and his briefer said it was "no big deal."
there are so many things about that statement that are suspect to be in width, which is first daily, the president's briefings, by definition, everything in it is a big deal. when that item is briefed verbally, it's an even bigger deal. when i talked to intelligence officials, they all said this makes no sense that there would be something that is no big deal and the briefing. on top of that my sources tell me, and frankly, it's disappointing that this has and boarded in many places since trump made that statement without challenge. nobody has really -- a number of accounts have gone along with his version. my sources tell me that is not at all the case, the warning was should beand this taken very seriously indeed, and i think, bruce, you probably
unclear, did anyone else get this? some members of the congress at could have acted on it ways.ewhat deleterious that's very disturbing. wooden the warning be the norm ?or most elections be.es, it would it's almost unimaginable that any previous president would have ignored that kind of warning, which trump clearly did
. it's equally inconceivable that any previous president would not rather to read the residence daily brief, which is evidently the case with this president. real really, in my mind, a dereliction of duty. i also talk, bruce, as you know, in the book, i have a whole workup of the attacks on 9/11. case, these cia, as they say out at langley, as you well know, in this town there are only intelligence policy successes and intelligence .olicy failures director one that the told me was the cia will never be abolished because then the president will have no one to blame. i lay out in detail in my
book and the walk up to 9/11, there were multiple warnings, and not only george tenet and cofer black, who of course, whiteto warn the bush house, but also the head of the al qaeda unit goes on the record in my book as well. case famouslys a about "red lights flashing." sirens9 was a case of sounding, horns blaring, and a parade down main street by comparison. not just multiple warnings in b and the intelligence community, but warnings from the cbc, warnings from the head of hhs. calledpoint, azar trumpet mar-a-lago and try to
tell him how serious the coronavirus was and he was treated to a diatribe about e-cigarettes from the president. the president did not want to hear about it. i wrote a piece in " the washington post" that says essentially trump is unbrief able. he doesn't want to hear it. he brings a level of contentence community that nobody, not even richard nixon, had in the past. -- intelligence community contempt. analogy, they11 were driving all across washington, warning congress, warning the white house, warning everybody. that also took the opportunity
in the book, in 2020, there was no -- and you can read about it in the book, obviously, it was absolutely critical. those briefings are critical in a democratic society, especially ever since we had congressional oversight, which came about in the mid-1970's as a result of all of the scandal. it's essential the cia director be the honest broker of intelligence, not just to the president, but to congress and the american people. ta is an annual event. it's not required by law, but it has happened every year until 2020. i asked bob gates if he had ever wta not happening,
and he said, never, never before. it's not a coincidence it did not happen in 2020. if you will permit me i want to read a little excerpt from my the 2019 world widespread assessment that almost nobody noticed at the time. assess" -- and this is january 2019 -- "we assess that the united states and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, preparations may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious disease." that was in the 2019 wwta.
can you imagine what would have been in the 2020 wwta? the intelligence community knew something was coming out of the wuhan province of china and headed straight at us? and everyone knew this could be another 1918. , i've huge desk this is an issue that has not been talked about enough, the fact that the wwii day -- wwta was canceled in 2020 and unfortunately, it seems to happen because the leaders of our intelligence community were afraid to challenge donald trump. >> i have experience. i challenged -- >> it was the beginning of the end for dan coats, when he went
before the cameras and said to his credit, told the truth about global warming and iran being in compliance with the nuclear accurately -- nuclear accord, and accurately described the assault on our elections in 2016. he told the truth than he was taken to the woodshed by tromp, i believe, it was the next day. truecond to the woodshed by mp. my reaction would be, tough luck. that's your job. you need to do it. and he did it, to his credit. >> [indiscernible]
intelligence directors -- or do indication the white house told them? i can prove it one way or the other, but at the end of the day on not sure it matters much. not the intelligence community leaders are censoring themselves or the white house saying you're canceling this refrain --this briefing, the result is the same. the result is the politicization suppressionnce, the of information the american people need to know, especially in a time of crisis, and either .ay, it's not acceptable
that is what richard nixon thought and richard helms -- richard helms, and the book, i was lucky because it was a cast carreracters john micla could not have come up with. he could walk into the oval office and tell obj what he did not want to hear. lbj would not always listen. the obvious comparison would be between trump and send. -- nixon. hisn blamed the cia for loss to kennedy in 1960. he was convinced the so-called missile gap john kennedy ran on accused he in fact eisenhower and nixon of allowing the soviets to get ahead -- it wasn't true -- but nixon was convinced that the cia had passed this to kennedy and kennedy of used it to win the
election. kennedy came -- nixon came in with similar contempt for the organization, but donald trump's campaign to politicize the intelligence community would make richard nixon wash. he has -- blush. he has been far more blatant, over, and successful the nixon. thelatest example is installation of john ratcliffe as the director of national intelligence. the only qualification he has is he pedals russian disinformation as fact. that's the only thing he is good at in this job. trump has- i mean, had success that nixon could only dream about. .ast-forward to 9/11
i was lucky enough to be on the "over of the "new york times book review and the review said i offered a damming portrait of george tenet. i thought, really? i thought i was nuanced and fair. the conventional wisdom is that he and the cia kowtowed to dick cheney and rumsfeld and the rest of them and, in effect, made up this case for wmd's in iraq. i don't think it's that simple. a lot of people believe it and trump exploded that believe in the 2016 election. i think you can make a very georgeargument that tenet wanted to please george w. bush, perhaps more than a cia
director should. he certainly failed in the infamous slamdunk meeting to presidentand told the that we just all have a very strong case, but having said point-blank, him did you cook the books? hardly ever gives interviews and he practically jumped out of the chair and denied it the stiff risley and i think it's hard to make -- every study has looked at this has said there's not any hard evidence that the books were cooked by the cia. they just got it wrong. which is different. >> i agree with you.
there's the career intelligence analyst. here is what we have got. and then the president says, that's it? that's all you've got? that's actually an important statement. subsequent interjection that it was a slamdunk -- [indiscernible] they reviewed that the day before he was fired, so he knew right away he was being set up. of course, he does not deny saying it, and he admits it was the day missed thing -- dumbest thing he ever said. >> [indiscernible]
the bush administration really iraq -- [indiscernible] cane, i think george rightly take the position that, we said no, that's not true. tenett's exactly what said to me when i said, did you cook the books? was, if weatement wanted to give the books, all we had to do was make the connection between iraq and al qaeda hijackers. we never did that. that would have been game, set, match, over. we never did that. he deserves credit for that. etuce, how you explain ten having signed off on what was so
obviously a terribly flawed estimate of wmd's? as i recall, the argument was can't fight the administration on every single issue. that means we're going to go with the president on wmd. we will not fight bush. iraq had thing was, had weapons of mass destruction. it wasn't a very difficult propaganda case. >> i want to go back to the pandemic.
2003. an error ofere's omission here. [indiscernible] the american public is not even consulted and people like you and me are at a loss. we about how dangerous the virus was. 200,000 other americans, it seems to me, in the history of hadlligence, yes, we have intelligence failures. this is a failure of omission.
they knew, but they didn't do anything. if you don't mind i will make another distinction between 9/11 and the covid crisis. in the case of the 9/11 warnings in the book -- and i think you agree with me on this, bruce -- that all condi rice had to do when warned, as no was, on no -- in uncertain terms of an imminent attack, all she had to do was call of principals meeting and if there was a principals meeting where you got all of the heads of the departments around fbi, cia, and so forth and shake the trees, stuff falls out. in all likelihood, i think what would have fallen out, among other things, was the fact that there were two al qaeda terrorists on u.s. soil for
months prior. that could have resulted in rolling of the whole plot before september 11. there was a process failure there. with covid, it's something much more egregious, not only in the number of americans who died, but it's much more of a process foul. i was in a program who used totroy -- work for vice president pence and is now a whistleblower, and she said there were plenty of meetings and everyone knew how serious this was. the problem was at the top. the fish rots from the head. not haveesident does interest in governing, if the president believes and magical
in a way, she stood up for the president there. that really stood up to them this day in october. half the people have a right to what diddid they know, they do about it? >> i agree with you. this is something i read about in the book. helms famously said it's not enough to ring the bell. you've got to make sure the president hears it. that is one of the toughest things, if not the toughest
thing, for every cia director, because it's almost an impossible balancing act. you have to tell the president hard truth. you've also got to have his ear. that's difficult in the best of times. it's almost mission impossible with this president. i would never want to underestimate or minimize the challenge that gina haspel faces with this president. her inere high hopes for the beginning among a lot of people. told me, boy, if anyone can get through to this guy, i think she has got a shot. blah, blah, blah. it has been disappointing. her, we don't know what she says behind closed doors to trump for sure.
we don't know how much she has pushed back, and we probably never will know. dick allen was set -- helms said he would never write a memoir and he ended up doing that. in other cases, the failure to testify in public, she has been awol on a number of occasions when she should have in speaking to the public. keep her head down and not get it shot off. but i feel the cia director has to be that honest broker of
intelligence. , it to give you one example spoke to one former acting director of the cia who said if the president had said what he said about the briefer and thrown or under the bus, then he, if he had been in charge -- thrown her under the bus, than he, if you been in charge, would have come to her defense four, at the very least, picked up the phone, called the national security advisor in it, if that happens again i'm out of here and i'm out of here making all , and b, trouble for you call every national security reporter and at ground brief the hell out of it, supporting your briefer. none of that happened.
this may be a case of doubt she is a covert operative in her dna. she is that her whole career trying to be invisible. it does not come naturally to her. became much more naturally to the leon panetta's of this world new have to deal with the white house and the public. she has been disappointing in that respect. and one other quick thing, the -- director also has to be honest brokers who do not put their thumb on the scale of policy. by all accounts she was gung ho on the lethal targeting of general solemani, the iranian general. you can argue the merits of that, either way, whether
soleimani should have been taken out. by all accounts, she was very gung ho about that reportedly. that's really not the role, in my view, of the honest broker of intelligence. >> it's troubling. it's troubling. [indiscernible] goodhave gotten extremely at taking out terrorists. [indiscernible] leadership in bringing osama bin laden to justice is one of the cia's
different ways. , not a morning person. he never got an oral briefing. or rarely got an oral briefing. he was. listened, may have ignored warnings, but he loved having the meetings. morale went through the roof. i can only imagine with trump. there is the take-home he does not read. you're the first person on the job and then trashing -- [indiscernible]