During a previous highlight of his federal government career, the year he spent as the interim U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, no one thought of nominating John Ratcliffe as a permanent solution and submitting him to Senate committee hearings. He was just a band-aid.
Of course, to hear Ratcliffe, President Trump’s typically stunning choice for Director of National Intelligence, tell it, his work in that U.S. Attorney’s office is his credential for his new job. Ratcliffe claimed to have been “the prosecutor” of the famous Holy Land Foundation “support-for-terrorism” case, and he said he “arrested” more than 300 illegal aliens at a string of chicken processing plants.
Turns out he was a junior lawyer assigned to analyze why the first try at prosecuting the Foundation failed to convict and got only a mistrial. And on the big chicken bust, it was an ICE operation and his was just one of five U.S. attorneys’ offices involved as backup. And, records show, the Pilgrim’s Pride raids were themselves a legal bust with many cases dismissed and most settled for a $100 fine. No more than one immigrant was deported.
Connnoisseurs of Congressional hearings as a blood sport can’t wait to hear Ratcliffe explain himself. And, he’d better do a good job, because Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says “to take that very thin résumé and pad it, that would be clearly disqualifying.”
Trump nominates a self-aggrandizing liar for DNI? Well, it takes one to know one. Which is what worries a lot of people, especially professionals in the intelligence services, not that Trump has added another bullshitter, a classic all hat-no-cattle Texan, but that he’s hiring a mini-him to turn the intel agencies into a herd.
This is what Trump said he wanted from Ratcliffe: “We need somebody strong that can really rein it in,” he said. “Because as I think you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok.”
Run amok with the Goddamn truth is what they’re snarling at the CIA, DIA, and 15 other intelligence agencies supervised by the DNI… which is why the moments they are waiting for in Ratcliffe’s confirmation hearing are when he’s asked if he’ll just cover for the president or tell the truth to Congress and the public. “If analysts say Kim Jong Un won’t give up his nuclear weapons, would you so testify? If the analysts say Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement, would you so testify?”
Or put another way, on Twitter by a former CIA executive – “I wonder what Ratcliffe will do the first time he sees intel (say, for example, on Russia or N Korea) that he knows Trump will hate. Will he squash it? Take it to Trump but say it’s BS?”
Garrett Graff in Wired notes, not just honor and national security are stake here, but big money going to waste.
“The U.S. spends $60 billion a year on the nation’s intelligence apparatus, to ensure that the president of the United States is, in every conversation and decision, the most informed, knowledgeable, best-prepared person in the room.”
Trump’s spending the billions, but that’s not what he’s buying.
Shane Harris is a staff writer with the Washington Post, covering intelligence and national security. He has previously written about these topics at The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, and National Journal. Shane is the author of two books, The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State (Penguin Press, 2010) and @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex (Eamon Dolan /Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). He graduated from Wake Forest University in 1998. He lives in Washington, DC.Honors & Awards:Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense, 2010. Helen Bernstein Book Award For Excellence In Journalism, 2011