Thursday, May 18, 2017

Like a Fiddle at an Ozark Hoedown

Two of my favorite movies are RED and its sequel, RED 2. They detail the adventures of a group of aging intelligence operatives (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich) who are kept under close government observation because they have been designated as "Retired, Extremely Dangerous (RED)." One of my favorite lines (from RED 2) is delivered by John Malkovich, who explains that he knew Bruce Willis's old girlfriend, a Russian agent, would "play him like a fiddle at an Ozark hoedown."

Well, it seems that Russians are still playing us like fiddles at an Ozark hoedown.

Yesterday, Russian president Vladimir* Putin helpfully offered to help Mr Trump out of his latest self-inflicted crisis by offering to provide the US government with a transcript of Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak ... presumably to clarify whether the men's discussions included highly classified information Mr Trump should not have shared with his guests.

What a neighborly thing to do! I can hear the fiddles playing in the background.

First of all, I'll stipulate that Mr Trump has the inherent authority, as president, to declassify and release intelligence information. But as my mother was fond of warning us as we were growing up, the fact that you can do something doesn't automatically mean that you should do it. In this particular case, the information that Mr Trump is said to have revealed to his Russian guests appears to have been provided by an allied nation under an intelligence sharing agreement ... with the proviso that it not be further disseminated without that nation's specific permission, which had not been obtained.

Some of my more conservative friends insist that this is not an issue, and that the presence of classified information in e-mails that transited Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server is a far worse transgression. As I've agreed before, Secretary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server for official State Department business was stupid, and the fact that classified information was included in messages that transited that server was illegal, not to mention stupid. But to equate that activity to Mr Trump passing highly classified information directly to senior officials of a government that is suspected of meddling in our presidential election is also stupid. It is clear that Mr Trump does not understand the relationship between his authority and his responsibilities, and while one can argue that sharing some counterterrorism information with Russia may be helpful, it must be done within the limits and constraints that protect the intelligence relationships on which we depend.

I spent 23 years as an active duty Air Force intelligence officer, and another 20 years working as a contractor in support of Air Force intelligence programs. As a career intelligence professional, I don't like being played ... by the Russians or by my own elected officials who should know better.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Just as a linguistic aside, the Russian name "Vladimir" comes from the combination of two words: "vlad" (ruler) and "mir" (world) ... hence "Vladimir" means "Ruler of the World." Similarly, the Russian city of Vladivostok combines "Vlad" with "vostok" (east) to mean, "Ruler of the East." I should also note that "mir" can also be translated as "peace," in which case "Vladimir" can be translated as "Ruler of Peace" or perhaps, "Peaceful Ruler." I'm sure Mr Trump would go with option 2.


John Hill said...

Why bring the Ozarks into this mess?

Mike said...

I think comparing Clinton and trump is like comparing apples and watermelons.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Apples and watermelons. Both were lousy candidates for President.

allenwoodhaven said...

Exactly. Your extra time on this post paid off.

And those are fun movies!

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

We live in tiring times/