It’s November 9th, the day after the election. That means a lot of things to a lot of people. But for a small group of high-level government employees, it means a sobering walk to the Trump campaign headquarters. There, they will give the President-elect his first glimpse at this country’s most important secrets.
Trump will hear the daily security briefing that Obama has received every day during his office. He’ll also see satellite photos, learn about cover CIA operations against terrorists halfway around the world, read communications intercepted from world leaders, and probably hear about a few things that would shock a regular citizen.
And though these meetings are supposed to give a new president an insight into exactly what operations the U.S. government has their hands in, there’s likely to be a tense overtone to them. On one hand, there’s a group of men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting American interests. On the other, a new president who has shown nothing but contempt for their work.
Several senior intelligence officials have spoken about this unique situation, according to the Washington Post. For obvious reasons, they’ve done so under the condition of anonymity.
According to one senior U.S. security official:
‘It’s fear of the unknown. We don’t know what he’s really like under all the talk… How will that play out over the next four years or even the next few months? I don’t know if there is going to be a tidal wave of departures of people who were going to stay around to help Hillary’s team, but are now going to be, ‘I’m out of here.’ I’m half-dreading, half holding my breath going to work today.’
Former CIA director Michael Hayden also chose to comment on the place his former colleagues find themselves in.
‘I cannot remember another president-elect who has been so dismissive of intelligence received during a campaign or so suspicious of the quality and honesty of the intelligence he was about to receive.’
Hayden further elaborated, telling The Post that the meetings in the following weeks would be characterized by “a little caution, a little concern.”
Trump caused widespread consternation among members of the intelligence community with a variety of actions he proposed during the election season. Among these was his idea to resume missions to capture suspected terrorists and subject them to “enhanced interrogation” procedures, including waterboarding. Such operations would be illegal under measures passed since the program was disbanded in 2009.
According to former CIA general counsel John Rizzo, though, Trump would, at the very least, face an uphill battle were he to try to reenact such practices.
‘There would be such pushback. Given what it cost the agency [reputation-wise] there would be extremely strong resistance.’
Most recently and perhaps most worryingly, U.S. intelligence officials have been frightened by Trump’s calls to have Russians interfere with the election and his refusal to believe they were associated with cyber attacks on Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Trump treated the revelation by security staff as an unfounded rumor, saying, “I don’t know if they’re behind it and I think it’s public relations, frankly.”
Another senior U.S. intelligence official encapsulated the issue nicely.
‘[Trump’s comments have] put us in a difficult position, but the flip side is there is an institutional ability to survive. Bureaucracies chug along and take lumps and have conflicts. If you ask about rank and file, for a long time there has been a sense that [presidents and administrations] come and go, but we’re still here. You’ve got to assume that the Foreign Service at State, generals at the Department of Defense, have that belief. There’s an institutional stability built into the system that can withstand spasms.’
Featured image courtesy of Mark Wilson on Getty Images. All rights reserved. Image has been modified from its original form.