Price insists that his decision was not about politics, but about the lack of respect for the work done by intelligence professionals. “What intelligence professionals want most is to know that the fruits of their labor — sometimes at the risk of life or limb — are accorded due deference in the policymaking process,” wrote Price. He also criticized the appointment of senior adviser Steve Bannon to the National Security Counsel, calling out Bannon as a “champion of white nationalism.”
Price’s explanation offers a litany of times in the last year that President Donald Trump has demeaned and undermined the work of the intelligence community. Price calls out Trump’s refusal to believe that Russia hacked the DNC’s emails, the assessment of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. He also respond’s Trump’s justification that the CIA was wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002, saying “the intelligence community had long ago held itself to account for those mistakes and Trump himself supported the invasion of Iraq.”
Trump’s speech at the CIA on January 21 also contributed to Price’s decision to leave. The speech that Trump characterized as being received with a standing ovation, was not a success at bridging the gap between Trump and the CIA according to Price:
Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my former colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief. I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark contrast between the bombast of the new president and the quiet dedication of a mentor — a courageous, dedicated professional — who is memorialized on that wall. I know others at CIA felt similarly.
Trump has blamed the media for the deterioration of his relationship with the intelligence community. In a that same CIA address, he said of reporters, “They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth. And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And just want to let you know that the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite.”
The core of Price’s issue is that “the White House’s inclination was clear. It has little need for intelligence professionals who, in speaking truth to power, might challenge the so-called “America First” orthodoxy that sees Russia as an ally and Australia as a punching bag. That’s why the president’s trusted White House advisers, not career professionals, reportedly have final say over what intelligence reaches his desk.”
It seems unlikely that this will change soon.