For nine years, it was my job to inform our national-command authority — senior civilian and defense officials — about Soviet intentions and capabilities to wage strategic nuclear war against the United States.
HOW will we know if there is a threat of attack? Who will we trust to tell us the truth?
Today, I believe our nation’s leaders are unwilling to examine intelligence analysis that describes threats to our security. Through their inaction, our leaders are failing to perform their duty to protect the nation against foreign and domestic threats.
The work of an intelligence analyst is a lot like being Sherlock Holmes. Analysts are voracious readers and researchers. They collect pieces of information but cannot know whether, how or when the data will begin to tell a story. Every day, the analyst reads reports from many different sources. Some analysts are country experts. Some analyze military-force structures. Some track terrorist groups or regime change.
Intelligence analysts live with the inherent uncertainty of not knowing how they will solve the mystery. No one is telling them the answer. Their managers must trust them to follow the clues and figure out if those clues are reliable and accurate.
Then one day, after weeks, months or even years, something appears in a classified report from a military attaché. Perhaps there is a piece of imagery. A ship intercepts a random conversation, and this sheds light on a previous piece of information from an unknown source.
In a moment of insight, an analyst is no longer playing the role of detective because the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. The clues form patterns. Information becomes intelligence. Intelligence provides indicators. Those indicators become warnings about an adversary’s plans, intentions, and capabilities to take action.
An intelligence analyst’s primary job is to provide indications and warning of an adversary’s intentions or plans to do harm to the United States, our citizens, our military, or our allies at home or abroad.
I was one of those intelligence analysts. For nine years, it was my job to inform our national-command authority — senior civilian and defense officials — about Soviet intentions and capabilities to wage strategic nuclear war against the United States. I received a national intelligence medal of achievement recognizing my analytical work and exceptional service to our national intelligence community.
More than 25 years have passed since I left the national-intelligence community to move to Seattle.
Today, I believe our intelligence analysts are facing a terrible truth: they do not know whom they should trust in the White House or Congress.
It is the intelligence community’s responsibility to provide intelligence assessments to the president, national security adviser, chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
For months, I have watched as senior leaders in Congress have ignored warnings from our top intelligence officials about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and cyber attacks on U.S. networks and organizations.
For weeks, I have waited for Congress or the White House to acknowledge these findings from U.S. intelligence agencies and to take these threats seriously.
Now, the U.S. national security adviser has resigned after lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador.
A resignation should not be the end of this story.
Any intelligence analyst will tell you: This is an attempt to cover tracks. Where there are attempts to conceal and deny information, we must demand further investigation.
On Wednesday, the intelligence community reported that the Russian Federation violated a 30-year treaty. Russia has secretly deployed cruise missiles that now threaten U.S. citizens, military forces and our allies in Europe.
Any intelligence analyst will tell you: these Russian actions collectively now form a pattern. This pattern is hostile to U.S. national security interests at home and abroad. Where there is clear and compelling evidence that Russia has adopted an adversarial posture toward our nation, we must demand that Congress act.
Our intelligence analysts cannot appeal to the public. They cannot reveal their sources. They have a job to do, but they have reason to believe they cannot trust their leaders. Intelligence officials have only one path forward now, and that path is through Congressional action.
If our leaders will not listen to those who give them indications and warnings of threats to our nation, then who will protect our country?
I trust our intelligence analysts. I trust the people who are putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Congress, do your job. Investigate. Examine the evidence. The American people need to know how this story ends.
We can handle the truth.