A former CIA director issued a sweeping rebuke of President Trump’s treatment of the U.S. intelligence community on Thursday, accusing the real estate mogul of politicizing and hindering intelligence gathering.
“The relationship between a new president and the intelligence agencies that serve him can be difficult in the best of times,” Michael Hayden wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. Hayden ran the CIA under former President George W. Bush.
“But it’s hard to imagine a turbulent transition than the current one, which has been marred by assertions that the administration has tried to both politicize and marginalize intelligence gathering.”
The piece highlighted the fraught relationship between Trump and the intelligence agencies that has developed in the months since Election Day. The president has routinely questioned the findings and conclusions of the intelligence community and has accused its officials of leaking sensitive and classified information to the press.
Hayden rejected that notion, criticizing Trump’s willingness to pin such leaks on the intelligence community without actually knowing who is responsible.
“Why would the administration reflexively and punitively blame its own services for leaks, since we do not yet know who is responsible for them?” Hayden wrote.
“The president has asserted that the leaking will stop ‘because now we have our people in,’ a choice of words that creates than a little shudder in the ranks of intelligence professionals, who prefer to work in the background for presidents, Democratic or Republican,” he added.
Hayden, who also served as National Security Agency director under President Bill Clinton as well as Bush, praised the “apolitical” nature of the intelligence community — a quality that he said is under attack by Trump. He lamented Trump’s implicit grouping of the intelligence agencies with the news outlets and journalists the president has deemed “dishonest.”
And he delivered a stern warning to current CIA chief Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats , saying that they must learn to work in an environment in which their boss has so far worked to undermine their agencies’ work.
“They must push back hard, because whether Mr. Trump appreciates it or not, he, and the country, need an independent intelligence enterprise, not a compliant one,” Hayden wrote.