Donald Trump has undermined the credibility of our intelligence community through his rejection of the CIA assessment of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. He claimed it was “ridiculous,” but the only thing ridiculous about it is his gratuitous demeaning of the intelligence community and the courageous people who work there.
From 1993 to 1995 I was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Over the course of those years I came to respect the highly qualified folks who served our nation across the world in the intelligence agencies. The intelligence community has some of the most talented, apolitical and professional civil servants in the federal government. Their work protects the lives of Americans on a daily basis and often goes completely unrecognized despite the great personal risk to their safety that many of these men and women encounter every day.
Of course any group can make a mistake. As President-elect Trump notes, the US intelligence community thought that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction during the run-up to the Iraq War. But this is the same group of people who were instrumental in uncovering information that led to the air strikes against terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, uncovered the location of Osama bin Laden, and allegedly played a major role in containing Iran’s nuclear capability prior to the Iran Nuclear Agreement. And that is only what we know about. After all, this is a community which operates in the shadows and fringes, pressing the US advantage against our enemies and providing critical information to us and our allies.
As chairman, I did not always agree with the assessments of the analysts I spoke with, but I always respected their factual basis. Donald Trump should trust our intelligence community when they warn him that Russians are seeking to destabilize our country. This is not about re-litigating the election. Once you become president you have to represent this country and its interests; the American intelligence community gives you the tools to perform that duty well.
Dan Glickman is the executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and cited sources, and don’t necessarily represent the views of the Aspen Institute.