In a May 2019 interview, Attorney General William Barr noted that U.S. intelligence agencies have come to identify “the national interest with their own political preferences.”
Feeling that “anyone who has a different opinion” is somehow “an enemy of the state,” Barr said, adding that the agencies now support their party in seizing power, “[convincing] themselves that what they’re doing is in the higher interest, the better good.”
The deepest part of the American deep state is its intelligence agencies, which are “the most immediate threat to representative government,” author and columnist Angelo Codevilla noted.
“They are also not very good at what they are supposed to be doing. Protecting the Republic from them requires refocusing them on their proper jobs,” Codevilla wrote in a Feb. 12 essay for The American Mind, a publication of the Claremont Institute.
Officials of the James Comey FBI and John Brennan CIA, many of whom remain embedded in the deep state “abuse their positions to discredit opposition to the Democratic Party, of which they are part,” Codevilla wrote. “Complicit with the media, they leverage the public’s mistaken faith in their superior knowledge, competence, and patriotism to vilify their domestic enemies from behind secrecy’s shield.”
U.S. intelligence agencies, Codevilla wrote, “have succeeded in restricting information about their misdeeds by ‘classifying’ them under the Espionage Act of 1921. Thus covered, they misrepresent their opinions as knowledge and their preferences as logic. Thus acting as irresponsible arbiters of truth at the highest levels of American public life, they are the foremost jaws of the ruling class vise that is squeezing self-rule out of America.”
New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer once said in a messaged aimed at President Donald Trump: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
Intelligence officials “have proved Schumer correct,” Codevilla wrote.
In its overview of the threats today’s intelligence agencies pose to self-government in America, the Claremont Institute found:
CIA is obsolete. Cables show agents’ intelligence takes are inferior to diplomats’. Agent networks are unprotected by counterintelligence. FBI success at counterintelligence ended when the Bureau was politicized and bureaucratized in the 1970s. CIA bottlenecks and incompetently controls strategic intelligence, while the Army and Marines show demonstrable tactical superiority.
As a result, CIA is ideologically partisan. Its strength is in leading or joining domestic campaigns to influence public opinion. FBI has followed suit.
Senior intelligence officials were the key element in the war on Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency. CIA used meetings that it manufactured as factual bases for lies about campaign advisors seeking Russian information to smear Hillary Clinton. Intelligence began formal investigation and surveillance without probable cause. Agents gained authorization to electronically surveil Trump and his campaign and defended their bureaucratic interests, sidelining Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and denying or delaying Trump appointments and security clearances.
Partisanship produces failure. FISA has incentivized political abuse. “Profiling” has failed repeatedly in high-profile cases like the Atlanta Olympics bombing and the anthrax mail attacks. Perjury trapping has become commonplace.
Codevilla outlined the Claremont Institute’s suggested steps that presidents and Congress might take to improve matters:
FISA must be repealed legislatively or through Constitutional challenge in court. It unconstitutionally mingles judicial and executive power in secret. It gave Intelligence a blank check. Hardly “an indispensable tool” for national security, it is now indispensable for partisanship. Broad consensus exists for a legislative “fix,” but none is possible. The secret court’s existence, the heart of the law, allows partisan bureaucrats and allied judges to do what they want in secret.
Functions currently performed by CIA should be sheared down. Data infrastructure and consultant networks should be eliminated. Bipartisan opposition to the Intelligence threat should use fierce resistance and lobbying from Intelligence as evidence of why cuts are in the national interest.
CIA must be disestablished. Its functions should be returned to the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury. FBI must be restricted to law enforcement. At home, the Agencies are partisan institutions illegitimately focused on setting national policy. Abroad, Agencies untied to specific operational concerns are inherently dangerous and low-value.
Intelligence must return to its natural place as servant, not master, of government. Congress should amend the 1947 National Security Act. The President should broaden intelligence perspectives, including briefs from State, Defense, and Treasury, and abolish CIA’s “covert action.” State should be made responsible for political influence and the armed services for military and paramilitary affairs.
The CIA’s “founding generation concerned itself with making national policy, arguably more than with anything else, and transmitted that concern to its successors. Today’s meddling in elections and trying to overturn their results is a logical consequence,” Codevilla noted.
“In short, CIA and FBI have become instruments of partisan power,” Codevilla wrote. “None of this, of course, has anything to do with the natural, proper functions of Intelligence.”