I'm a Democrat (and ex-CIA) but the spies
plotting against Trump are out of control
By Bryan Dean Wright
February 18, 2017
Over the past few months,
America has lurched from partisan warfare to the cliffs of an existential
Multiple reports show that my former colleagues in the
intelligence community have decided that they must leak or withhold classified
information due to unsettling connections between President Trump and the
Said an intelligence officer: “I know what's best for foreign
policy and national security… And I'm going to act on that.”
Some of us might applaud this man, including a few of my fellow
Democrats. In their minds, this is a case of Mr. Smith Goes to Langley to do
battle against a corrupt President Trump.
small problem. The intelligence officer quoted above was actually Aldrich Ames, a CIA traitor
whose crime of treason in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in the compromise of
more than 100 assets.
Many were tortured and executed as a result.
Ames’ flawed logic is eerily similar to that of his present-day
colleagues who are engaged in a shadow war with their commander in chief. They,
too, have decided that their superior judgment is more important than following
For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that these
officials are somehow different than Ames. Let’s suppose that they have
compelling pieces of information that indeed suggest Trump or his staff have
When you’re trained as a spy, you’re taught how to handle these
kinds of situations. Upon learning the information, it gets tightly
compartmented (restricted) and sent to the Department of Justice or Congress
for investigation. If the evidence is found to be credible, the constitution
makes clear what happens next: impeachment.
That’s how American democracy should work.
that’s precisely how it has been
working. According to former Vice President Biden, there’s been an on-going
investigation into the alleged connections between Trump and Russia. All of us
should take heart in knowing that the system is functioning exactly as
some of America’s spies are deciding that that’s not enough. For reasons of
misguided righteousness or partisan hatred, they’ve taken it upon themselves to
be judge, jury, and executioner. They have prosecuted their case in the court
of public opinion, with likeminded media outlets such as CNN, The New York Times, and the Washington Post serving as court stenographers.
Elected by no one, responsible only to each other, these spies
have determined that Trump is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.
ago, they delivered their verdict. According to one intelligence official, the
president “will die in jail.”
I understand how this might feel appealing to deeply partisan
Democrats. After all, I didn’t want Trump to win either. But the solution to
fighting this subpar president cannot be encouraging a network of spies to tip
the scales back in our political favor. We must instead let the system continue
to work, as it has, and make our case to the American people during future
you’re not convinced, imagine the consequences of letting spies decide not just
Trump’s fate but other political winners and losers too. Imagine how they might
treat our candidates next.
Flash-forward to November 4, 2020, where Senators Bernie Sanders
and Elizabeth Warren have defeated Donald Trump and Mike Pence for the White
House. Democrats will celebrate in the streets. The liberal spies will smile.
Conservative spies, however, will take a darker view. To them,
their liberal colleagues will have gotten away with political murder. They’ll
be looking for revenge.
to the new America. It’s now their turn to
burn democracy down. And they’ve got the tools and motivation to do it.
the slippery slope of political tribalism that, up until a few months ago, I
would have thought impossible in America. Certainly it happens in third world nations but not here. I was trained to
believe that we were exceptional.
In the culture of America’s spies, you live and die by a set of
rules. One of them is a sacred pledge of allegiance to the constitution and
commander in chief. Spies may not like a president or their policies but they
must salute their leader nonetheless. If they cannot, they are told to resign.
Spies also take a vow of secrecy, specifically to keep classified
information hidden from anyone who doesn’t have an authorized need to know.
It’s a commitment one keeps for a lifetime. And should that vow be violated,
the consequences are dire. Prison time. Colleagues and informants killed.
Enemies emboldened. The country less safe.
Spies also accept and embrace a final rule: there must be an
unbreakable wall between government workers and the democratic process.
many spies have access to powerful tools that, if used improperly, could cause
incredible damage to the nation’s stability. Accordingly, clandestine officers
have a special covenant with the American people – codified by the Hatch Act –
that limits their participation in politics.
During my time as a CIA officer, I quickly learned why all these
rules were in place. I read people’s emails. I listened to phone calls. I recruited
assets that told the dirtiest and most embarrassing of secrets. I came to
realize that my power was both an awesome responsibility and, at times,
Some of us faltered in our commitments. I remember colleagues who
believed themselves above the rules, conducting quiet investigations into
cheating wives or ex-boyfriends. They were eventually discovered and rightfully
thrown out. They had demonstrated an inability to handle the burden of power.
And that is precisely what we are experiencing today. The spies
who are plotting against President Trump are breaking U.S. laws. They’re
violating their oaths. And they’re committing treason to remedy (perceived)
They likely don’t see it that way, of course. But, then again,
neither did Aldrich Ames.
With luck and aggressive investigations, these renegade spies will
join their fallen colleague at the Allenwood
Correctional Facility for the remainder of their lives.
I look forward to watching the gates forever close behind them.
Bryan Dean Wright is a former CIA ops officer and member of
the Democratic Party. He contributes on issues of politics, national security,
and the economy. Follow him on Twitter @BryanDeanWright.