The Great and Multiple Sins of the IC Were on Display at Hunter’s Trial

The major strategic problems that the U.S. now confronts, including a formidable challenge from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), an aggrieved Russia with potent nuclear capabilities now in a de facto alliance with the PRC, and a U.S. military, defense industrial base, and nuclear infrastructure beset by the challenges of great power politics, including waging high-intensity conflict against significant foes, are united by a common thread. All were threats deflated by the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). The U.S. is not prepared to address the strategic realities of the 21st century, including existential threats, because, broadly speaking, the IC has and continues to fail. There is not a single reason why the IC failed; it is a complicated issue, but leadership and the mores inculcated within the IC by that leadership go a long way to explaining why the culture of failure came to dominate America’s national security.

Now that Hunter Biden’s laptop has been entered into evidence for his trial and conviction, it is time to reflect upon the actions of the FBI, the Department of Justice, which had the laptop in its possession since December 2019, the Treasury, which had knowledge of bank transfers, and the 51 former senior intelligence officials who stated that the laptop was a potential Russian disinformation operation. The remarks of those leading officials of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which conveyed that they believed its contents were Russian disinformation, were undeniably election interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. What they did, using their prior positions of leadership and trust within the IC, is nothing short of a damning act. But an additional problem is what some of these 51 now say. That the laptop might have been Russian disinformation, as they said, that it had all the hallmarks of Russian disinformation, but not that it was Russian disinformation. This kind of prevarication epitomizes the untrustworthiness that has come to define the IC, to the detriment of America’s national security.

There is a stark contrast between the presidential election of 2020, when the contents of the laptop were deemed to be Russian disinformation and the change of assessment in 2024, when its legitimacy was vouchsafed by the FBI in federal court. This glaring inconsistency is a bright reflection of a corrupt and politicized IC. Now the IC’s leaders stubbornly insist that what they said was that the laptop might be Russian disinformation. In 2020, these 51 “experts” did not say that the laptop was illegitimate, yet they implied it was, even without ever having seen the laptop or its contents. Worse still, by 2024, these same refuseniks continued to assert that the laptop was somehow the product of a Russian disinformation campaign.

These so-called leaders and the culture they developed has been undeniably politicized. Two profound implications stem from this. First, they hollowed out the great strengths of the IC from the Cold War that were forged by great leaders into a system that valued truth above all else and that protected the United States, the American people, and U.S. allies and partners for decades.

Second, these careerists jeopardized the national security of the United States. Due to their narcissistic egotism and the culture they created, the IC failed in its principal mission. The IC’s reason for being is to provide intelligence and analysis of future threats to the United States and options for addressing those threats without regard to domestic politics or interference in domestic politics. Accordingly, the IC threat deflated year-after-year. Most worrisome today is the rise of the hyperaggressive PRC, which is now undeniably an existential threat. The arrogance and narcissism of these IC elites have now placed U.S. national security in great peril.

The IC and the military must be professional forces, as they are pillars of U.S. national security—pillars that are founded in unquestioned devotion to truth, honesty and integrity. When they are politicized, they jeopardize national security, and by putting their thumbs on the scale of American elections, they directly place American safety and security at great risk. Worst of all, these self-appointed guardians of freedom have trampled on the Constitution by placing their positions of trust as some kind of divine right of superiority over the very people that have given them the privilege of serving the nation. Should Trump win the election on November 5th, one of his many priorities must be to right the ship—to return to the professional responsibilities of the IC and never again allow this elitism to become a threat to the American political system and thereby aid the enemies of the U.S. by aiding them through sophistries such as “threat deflation,” which denies the motivations of our enemy and diminishes their capabilities.

In the sea services, there is a phrase of derision towards those who equivocate, quibble, hedge, evade, and outright lie to avoid being held accountable for their actions—these people are referred to as “sea lawyers.” Sea lawyers are infamous for their efforts to lie and cheat to retain the appearance of being upright and with integrity. Unfortunately, their actions always reveal their true, selfish motivations, so it is with these 51 “sea lawyers” who willingly used their positions of trust to affect the outcome of a presidential election. These actions are criminal, but more importantly, they have ripped a huge hole in the keel of America’s national security. To save the ship, these miscreants must be held accountable for their days of sea lawyering, never to serve again on the quarterdeck of the ship of state.

James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer are authors of Embracing Communist China:  America’s Greatest Strategic Failure.

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About James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer

James Fanell is a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Bradley A. Thayer is a Founding Member of the Committee on Present Danger China and the coauthor with Lianchao Han of Understanding the China Threat.

Photo: WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JUNE 06: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, arrives to the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 06, 2024 in Wilmington, Delaware. The trial for Hunter Biden's felony gun charges continues today with additional witnesses. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. Two words: Jamie. Gorelick.

  2. But let’s do an Ike and make the problem bigger.

    Is the IC that was developed to fight world wars against Nazis and Commies the right tool to fight a resurgent China and a Sevastopol-or-Bust Russia?

    What do the experts think?

Continue the discussion at community.amgreatness.com


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