EXCERPT: How the Great Cultural Revolution Transformed the CIA and FBI

An early Soviet active measures campaign took on a life of its own and survived the collapse of the USSR. It provided the philosophical and strategic bases for a cultural Marxist revolution so profound that it penetrated the cores of the CIA and FBI.

That is one of the startling findings of scholar J. Michael Waller in his new book, Big Intel: How the CIA and FBI Went from Cold War Heroes to Deep State Villains. Published today [January 16] by Regnery, Big Intel shows how the intelligence community failed to defend the United States against a decades-old Soviet covert operation to destroy democratic Western societies from within.

American Greatness is reprinting an exclusive excerpt of Big Intel to show how the Obama administration used the George W. Bush-era centralization of the intelligence community to impose critical theory and cultural Marxism on the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence services. The excerpt is slightly edited for context and clarity.

Excerpt from Big Intel: The Obama fundamental transformation

With a bipartisan and apparently balanced national security team named and confirmed by the Senate during a long post-inaugural political honeymoon in 2009, Obama aimed his first strike at the top of the centralized 17-agency intelligence community: Admiral Dennis Blair, the uncontroversial, nonpartisan Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Obama asked for his resignation in May, 2010.

Now came the revolution. As Robert Mueller had centralized the FBI, the new director of national intelligence post would centralize authority over all American intelligence agencies. Obama replaced Blair with one of the most radical, flawed intelligence figures since the Comintern infiltration of the World War II Office of Strategic Services.

James Clapper … made an ideal pick for President Obama in 2010 because he looked like a Republican but acted like a Marxist. Unanimously confirmed in the Senate as Director of National Intelligence, Clapper would remain in charge of the entire American intelligence community for the rest of the Obama presidency.

As DNI, Clapper found a devoted White House partner in John O. Brennan, the former CIA chief of staff and President Obama’s special assistant for homeland security. Brennan called Clapper “my foxhole buddy and good friend.” Before long, Obama would name Brennan CIA director.

Clapper provided the sheltering roof, what Russians would call the krysha, for the critical theorists in and around the administration to get to work…. Clapper’s cultural revolution of intelligence would be incremental, done small at first and escalated gradually, until finally becoming a fait accompli that all must accept if they wanted to continue to serve and keep their jobs.

The cultural revolution in the intelligence community, as with much of the rest of the government bureaucracy, began on August 18, 2011. On that day Obama issued Executive Order 13583. The title said it all: “Establishing a Coordinated Government-Wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce.” The shepherdess of the executive order was presidential confidant Valerie Jarrett.

Diversity order 13583 was a social revolutionary ukase. It made no reference to enhancing intelligence collection, analysis, operations, or capabilities. It gave no explanation as to how such a diverse force might strengthen the intelligence community with language skills or knowledge of domestic or foreign cultures or the benefits of varied personal perspectives, experiences and backgrounds.

On its face, 13583 looked like a virtue-signaling sop to the various identity groups that funded or mobilized voters for Obama’s presidency. But there was nothing superficial about it. It was an ideological coup. The executive order was a majoritarian decree to transform the culture of the entire federal bureaucracy through implementation of critical theory. Once the bureaucratic culture changed—as Italian Communist Party theoretician Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse had taught—the proper opinions and policies would follow. Obama knew that personnel is policy.

The Obama White House barely pretended to draw a correlation between increased diversity in the intelligence community and the upgrading of American intelligence capabilities. It issued no guidance on the actual skill sets that a more diverse workforce would require. The criteria kept shifting. First it was diversity and inclusion, later “equity” would be inserted between the two. Persons with disabilities, known as PWDs, became “persons with targeted disabilities,” or PWTDs, “targeted” meaning more severe – to include advancement for people with psychological disorders and mental illness.

Agency meetings advertised as inviting open exchanges of ideas fizzled into presentations that mandated policies and stifled discussion and constructive feedback. All personnel were invited to voice concerns, but it was clear that any intelligence professional who did so risked paying a price. One might mark oneself for professional oblivion by dissenting at all.

Target: Critical race theory at CIA

In its 2009 report on intelligence reform, released under Director Leon Panetta’s name, the CIA made no mention of diversity, equity, inclusion, gender, sex, LGBT, or anything similar. That would change. The CIA director seemed powerless to moderate the radicalism of what would follow.

Panetta wrote in his memoir that the Obama White House staff displayed what he diplomatically called a “penchant for control” over the CIA and the intelligence community at large. He named no names. The White House seemed more obsessed with taking over the levers of power through its cultural Marxist revolution than it did with terminating bin Laden.

Georgetown University Professor John Gentry, a former CIA analyst, penned several studies in a professional journal about the forces Obama was unleashing. Panetta, he recounted, “wrote a letter that Obama’s White House staff tightly controlled the policies and activities of agency heads, including himself as DCIA [Director of the Central Intelligence Agency], making it clear that Obama was behind the IC’s diversity initiatives. By the end of the Obama administration, such efforts had appreciably altered the demography of the IC.”

The intelligence community and military’s extraordinary work in destroying al Qaeda and killing bin Laden in May, 2011, called for a victory lap and changed everyone’s focus. The next month, with his mission complete, Defense Secretary Gates resigned. Panetta left the CIA to replace Gates at the Pentagon. Obama named former Army General David Petraeus as the next CIA chief. Petraeus lasted only 14 months and resigned in a scandal late in 2012. Obama waited until his second term, in March, 2013, to appoint his aide John O. Brennan as CIA Director.

The team was being pieced into place to execute fundamental transformation.

He may have been career CIA man with the nonpartisan credentials of serving at the top of the CIA under presidents Clinton and Bush, but Brennan had a radical past. He shared Obama’s views that the administration transform the country through incrementalism. He also had a political background not unlike those of Attorney General Eric Holder and especially Jarrett. When Brennan first enlisted during the Carter administration, the CIA somehow cleared him despite his recent vote for a controlled Soviet asset, Communist Party chief Gus Hall, as President of the United States. In his memoir, Brennan drew no lessons from the experience, dismissing it as a “lark.”

After a shipboard United States Navy Islamic ceremony carefully prepared, prayed over, and buried bin Laden’s body into the Indian Ocean, Director Brennan executed Obama diversity order 13583 with gusto. He mandated diversity offices be set up within CIA components. He increased hiring and promotions consistent with Obama’s critical theory criteria. And he instituted explicit preferential promotion by sex (not gender) in response to a study on the status of women at the CIA, regardless of the best qualified for a particular job.

Managers on the CIA Directorate of Support punished their subordinates who failed to comply with the new politicized atmosphere. Even female employees felt threatened. Retired CIA analyst Nicholas Dujmovic said that some in the analysis directorate called Brennan’s politicization “soft totalitarianism.”

Nowhere in his 400-page memoir did Brennan ever claim that the goal was to make intelligence more efficient or its deliverables more productive. According to Gentry, excellence was never the plan. “Brennan did not argue that Obama wanted to improve the performance of government in general, let alone the IC,” Gentry wrote.

Yet Brennan began a constant refrain, a lie, that the cultural revolution in the CIA would make America’s intelligence machinery stronger. He just never explained how.


J. Michael Waller is Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy.

Follow @JMichaelWaller on Twitter/X.

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About J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is senior analyst for strategy at the Center for Security Policy. He holds a Ph.D. in international security affairs at Boston University and for 13 years was the Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 8: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Before being fired by U.S. President Donald Trump, Yates testified that she had warned the White House about contacts between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russia that might make him vulnerable to blackmail. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. I have said–and keep saying–that the election of Obama was THE worst thing to ever happen to this country. He and his administration have proved so toxic to this country that I doubt we survive.

  2. Avatar for Huey65 Huey65 says:

    Me too!! Obama is one of the worst things to happen to the his rapidly declining country. His awful presidency and continuing influence is right up there with Pearl Harbor and Nine Eleven, and is much more insidious and sinister because it doesn’t just consist of one cataclysmic event.

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