At the Times, self-parody strikes deep

In today’s New York Times Matthew Rosenberg seeks to disparage and undermine DCIA Mike Pompeo. Rosenberg’s article runs on page one under the headline “Trump’s Man in the C.I.A. Adds a Political Tone.”

At the Times, self-parody runs deep. This is what we have in Rosenberg’s profile.

It purports to present Pompeo’s “mixed reception” at the CIA without a single quote to this effect from inside the agency.

It brings in the Koch brothers.

It notes that Pompeo has gone so far as to praise the president. This must not stand!

It cites the obligatory “current and former officials” to assert its thesis:

Current and former C.I.A. officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their careers, said there had been no overt pressure from Mr. Pompeo to shade intelligence on any issue since he took over the agency. But they also said Mr. Pompeo had made little secret of his own opinions — something that could impede the kind of intelligence the agency produced, according to Paul R. Pillar, who spent nearly 30 years at the C.I.A. and is now a fellow at Georgetown University.

Pillar is one “former official” who apparently isn’t worried about protecting his career. Students of ancient history may recall that Pillar himself made “little secret of his opinions” that stridently, repeatedly and falsely, in my view, criticized the Bush administration while he served as a senior officer of the CIA.

Rosenberg further quotes Pillar: “When analysts are preparing their assessments, they can’t blot out of their mind their awareness of what will be welcome and what will be not welcome,” Mr. Pillar said. “There is the hazard of a bias creeping in, even subconsciously.” Do tell.

According to Rosenberg, Pompeo is “perhaps the most openly political spy chief in a generation — and one of President Trump’s favorite cabinet members.” What does that mean? It apparently means that he is a former Republican congressman. He didn’t rise through the ranks of the agency to embody its biases a la John Brennan.

Readers with a memory that extends back to the Obama administration may recall that Brennan gave a mind–boggling speech before a Muslim audience at NYU in 2010 as part of “A Dialogue on Our Nation’s Security.” The speech was part of a public forum co-hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Islamic Center at New York University.

Brennan testified to the beauty and goodness of Islam in a speech full of the apologetics, false equivalences and straw men that represented the characteristic mode of the Obama administration in addressing these matters. As he instructed the faithful in the meaning of Islam, he didn’t quite get around to the subject of jihad.

Brennan decried “violations” of the PATRIOT Act, surveillance that has been viewed as excessive, policies that have been perceived as profiling, and the creation of an “unhelpful atmosphere” around Muslim charities. Brennan didn’t mention the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity surrounded by a particularly unhelpful atmosphere when it was shuttered by the government as a terrorist front (and later convicted on the same ground). The pandering and evasions that permeated Brennan’s speech have to be seen to be believed.

Brennan sought to address the subject of jihad elsewhere. As Kerry Picket recalled, Brennan followed up on his NYU remarks in an aborted meeting with the editors of the Washington Times. Unable to avail himself of his usual evasions, Brennan walked out of the meeting with the editors for which he himself had asked.

Mike Pompeo — no John Brennan he. Thank God.

When Rosenberg lets Pompeo speaks in his own voice, Pompeo is compelling. His views are, in Rosenberg’s words, “certainly clear.” See, for example, this quotable quote from Pompeo’s interview with Bret Stephens at the Aspen Security Forum on which I dwelled last month:

Mr. Pompeo went hard at leakers, saying he had moved the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence operations directly under his control in part to combat the problem. He said it was “unconscionable” that The New York Times had published the name of the agency’s Iran operations chief, a senior official who works in Langley but whose identity is classified.

Rosenberg thoughtfully links to the Times article disclosing the identity of the agency’s new Iran operations chief.

Back to Aspen:

He accused the Obama administration of “inviting” the Russians into Syria, a claim with little traction outside right-wing circles.

Does “little traction” mean Pompeo’s “accusation,” as Rosenberg puts it, was false? I don’t think so.

At Aspen Pompeo cited Obama’s resolution of the the Syrian “red line” dilemma in which Obama found himself in August 2013. Readers with a memory that extends back to the Obama administration may recall that Obama resolved his dilemma by “formally plac[ing] international decision-making about Syria into the purview of Russia, one of Mr. Assad’s staunchest supporters and military suppliers.” That’s how Michael Gordon put it in the New York Times.

More from Pompeo at Aspen:

He also strongly hinted that the United States was considering ways to seek regime change in North Korea. And he all but said Iran had no intention of complying with the nuclear deal.

Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal is like a bad tenant,” Mr. Pompeo said. “They don’t pay the rent, you call them, and then they send a check and it doesn’t clear. And then the next day there’s this old, tired sofa in the front yard.”

Rosenberg doesn’t challenge Pompeo’s use of the simile. He doesn’t call on “current and former officials” to protest Pompeo’s use of figurative speech.

And the conclusion:

As for Russia’s role in the election, he acknowledged that it had meddled, yet he also played down the significance of the interference because it had meddled before.

“It is true, yeah, of course” the Russians had meddled in the election, he said. “And the one before that, and the one before that. They have been at this a hell of a long time. And I don’t think they have any intention of backing off.”

Mike Pompeo can’t say that, can he?

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