Last week, American Greatness reporter Debra Heine reported a bombshell story that a “highly credible” CIA whistleblower has told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the CIA “bribed” six of its analysts with significant financial incentives to change their initial conclusion that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a biolab leak in Wuhan, China and to instead conclude that the virus emerged naturally.
This is the latest of a growing number of reports in recent years of politicized analysis by U.S. intelligence agencies that are not just undermining their credibility but may also be doing grave damage to U.S. national security.
The new allegation helps explain several examples of biased Intelligence Community analysis of the pandemic’s origins that appeared to favor the natural origins theory over the lab leak theory for political reasons. It appears that U.S intelligence agencies were determined to support the view of the mainstream media, the liberal elite, and the Biden Administration on the origin of the virus and not the view of American conservatives and former President Trump that it was created by China in a biolab and leaked from that lab.
The most recent unclassified Intelligence Community report, released on June 23, 2023, said five intelligence agencies determined the COVID-19 pandemic likely emerged naturally and was not linked to a Wuhan biolab. Two other agencies, the Energy Department intelligence office and the FBI, concluded the virus originated from a “laboratory-associated incident.” CIA reported that it could not determine the origins of the COVID-19 virus due to conflicting reporting.
According to the Washington Times, Dany Shoham, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, assessed that the June 2023 intelligence assessment appeared to be “deliberately agnostic regarding the virus’s origin” and “designed to support the Biden administration’s new policy of engagement and lowered tensions toward China.”
There also was controversy surrounding an April 2020 intelligence assessment that concluded the virus “was not manmade or genetically modified.” Not only was this assessment probably issued to discredit President Trump’s statements about the virus origins, it was reportedly hurriedly issued without White House approval to get it out before John Ratcliffe, an outspoken critic of China for its role in the COVID pandemic, was confirmed as Director of National Intelligence in late May 2020.
In a May 2021 American Greatness article, the late Angelo Codevilla, a former American Greatness contributor, slammed another Intelligence Community assessment that he claimed was written to support President Biden’s statements about the origins of the virus:
Joe Biden’s instruction to the U.S. Intelligence Community to report whether the novel coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a comical attempt to avoid being discredited by the unraveling narrative that China’s role in the pandemic is another manifestation of racism.
As a former CIA analyst and former staff member with the House Intelligence Committee, I find the allegation that intelligence analysts have been “bought off” to support politicized Intelligence Community corporate lines to be credible. This is not a new problem. I have seen the CIA retaliate against analysts who did not provide the political conclusions their managers were looking for. In the 2000s, a senior CIA official told me there was a growing problem of the best jobs, perks, promotions, and bonuses going to analysts who dutifully stuck to the Agency’s corporate line in their analytic conclusions.
This corporate line almost has always promoted the foreign policy of Democratic presidents and undermines the policies of Republican presidents. This politicization of intelligence analysis worsened in 2016 when intelligence officers promoted a false narrative of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia to help Hillary Clinton win the presidency.
One of the most blatant examples of this concerned an intelligence assessment issued just before the end of the Obama Administration in January 2017 that found Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help elect Donald Trump. This assessment was issued at the request of the Obama Administration, apparently to sabotage the incoming Trump Administration. It was later learned that Intelligence Community rules to ensure neutral and well-vetted assessments were not followed in drafting this report. This included the fiercely anti-Trump CIA Director John Brennan handpicking a small group of analysts loyal to him to write this analysis. Brennan also reportedly overruled dissents to this analysis by senior intelligence officers.
There were two major instances of political interference by U.S. intelligence analysts in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe revealed in January 2021 that CIA analysts politicized their assessments of possible Chinese and Russian meddling in the 2020 election because of their bias against President Trump and to defeat his reelection. These analysts did not want to validate Trump’s criticism of China and hoped to continue the false collusion narrative between Trump and Russia.
What may have been the worst example of meddling by intelligence officers in a presidential campaign occurred in October 2020 when 51 former intelligence officers sent a letter to the press that asserted a New York Post story about a laptop owned by President Biden’s son Hunter was Russian disinformation. Although the signers had no evidence to back up this claim, it was used by the Biden campaign to convince the press and social media to censor coverage of the laptop story. While former intelligence officers signed this letter, it was cleared for publication by the Intelligence Community’s prepublication review process.
It is important to put the new report of the CIA “bribing” its analysts to politicize their analysis of the origins of the COVID-19 virus in perspective as part of a dangerous trend inside the U.S. Intelligence Community. U.S. intelligence analysts are trusted to use their vast classified resources to provide the highest quality analysis that is truthful, objective, and nonpolitical to help the president safeguard the security of the United States. This mission is vitally important in an increasingly dangerous world with committed U.S. adversaries.
The above instances and other examples of politicized intelligence analysis and meddling in presidential elections by U.S. intelligence agencies have damaged the reputation of the U.S. Intelligence Community so severely that many Americans and Members of Congress have called for abolishing or breaking up the CIA. This includes the late Angelo Codevilla, who called for this in 2020
I don’t think we are near the point where the CIA or any other intelligence agency will be shut down because it has politicized its work. However, the self-inflicted damage to the U.S. Intelligence Community’s reputation as trustworthy and nonpolitical is significant. This damage could endanger America’s national security by discouraging presidents and senior U.S. officials from acting on, or even listening to, crucial intelligence on significant threats to our nation.
Fixing and depoliticizing U.S. intelligence will require house cleanings of intelligence agencies, cutting and streamlining massive intelligence bureaucracies, and implementing rules and standards to keep politics out of their work. To do this, the next administration must implement robust intelligence reforms and put in place a group of exceptional senior officials to implement them to ensure that America has a capable and trustworthy intelligence service that will provide the president with the intelligence he or she needs to protect our security and freedom.