Russian shenanigans and a U.S. President lacking confidence in the American intelligence community. Sound familiar? It was actually in the 1950s and the U.S. President was Dwight Eisenhower.
When Donald Trump takes the oath of office as our 45th president this week, he can learn much from President Eisenhower’s example as he confronts intelligence community challenges of his own.
During the 1950s, relations between the CIA and NSA were bad and the two agencies could not get along. The NSA Archive, which is housed at George Washington University, documents how the CIA deliberately cut the NSA out of one operation, which NSA leadership read about in the newspapers when discovered by the Soviets in 1956.
Declassified CIA documents from the 1950s show a number of intelligence failures relating to the USSR and Eastern Europe. And the American intelligence community failed to provide sound intelligence on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s hydrogen bomb program or an adequate warning of its detonation in 1953.
Dwight Eisenhower, the no nonsense architect of the Normandy invasion, had had enough.
He wanted to bring in respected Americans from outside the federal government who knew intelligence and who would give him sound advice on how to improve America’s intelligence capabilities.
In 1956, Ike established the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities. President Kennedy renamed it the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and today it is known as the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
President Carter abolished the board in 1977, but President Reagan reestablished it in 1981. Sadly, President Obama has made little use of it during his eight years in office and drastically cut its membership.
Today, we have a situation where the incoming U.S. president was presented with "fake news" by U.S. intelligence officials. Further, it was leaked to the media.
President-elect Trump blasted intelligence agencies for allowing a "false and fictitious report" to be leaked into the public and called on U.S. intelligence chiefs to apologize.
Famed journalist Bob Woodward called the "fake news" a "garbage document" not worthy of being a part of an intelligence briefing and said that the incoming president was right to be upset.
Even Vice President Joe Biden was surprised that this discredited dossier was pursued by the FBI. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich went further and said that top political appointees of the intelligence agencies "absolutely betrayed and undermined the intelligence community" and acted inappropriately.
Today, the incoming president of the United States lacks confidence in the intelligence community as did President Eisenhower in the 1950s.
President Trump could send a bold message to the intelligence community and the media by following Eisenhower’s example and reinvigorating the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He can start by naming a strong Chairman and the other members. These should be people who know intelligence and how to reform government.
They need to be outside the box thinkers who are not bureaucrats, ones who can’t be co-opted by the institutional bureaucracy.
President Trump can also lead by telling his senior intelligence appointees that when they take office, they can check-in their political hats at the door.
By working closely with a reinvigorated President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, President Trump will send a strong message to America’s allies and enemies.
Following the example of Eisenhower, President Trump can make it clear that under his administration, America will have a non-partisan and highly effective intelligence apparatus fully focused on providing the best intelligence to keep America safe.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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