Leaker: Bannon running ‘Shadow NSC’ with no paper trail
Foreign Policy has a chilling analysis from an intel community leaker: Bannon makes Dick Cheney look like Honest-Abe-meets-Lord-Gladstone:
Even before he was given a formal seat on the National Security Council’s “principals committee” this weekend by President Donald Trump, Bannon was calling the shots and doing so with little to no input from the National Security Council staff, according to an intelligence official who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution.
“He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” the official said. He described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized.
The intelligence official, who said he was willing to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt when it took office, is now deeply troubled by how things are being run.
“They ran all of these executive orders outside of the normal construct,” he said, referring to last week’s flurry of draft executive orders on everything from immigration to the return of CIA “black sites.”
The lack of a paper trail documenting the decision-making process is also troubling, the intelligence official said. For example, under previous administrations, after a principals or deputies meeting of the National Security Council, the discussion, the final agreement, and the recommendations would be written up in what’s called a “summary of conclusions” — or SOC in government-speak.
“Under [President George W. Bush], the National Security Council was quite strict about recording SOCs,” said Matthew Waxman, a law professor at Columbia University who served on Bush’s National Security Council. “There was often a high level of generality, and there may have been some exceptions, but they were carefully crafted.”
These summaries also provided a record to refer back to, especially important if a debate over an issue came up again, including among agencies that needed to implement the conclusions reached.
If someone thought the discussion was mischaracterized, he or she would call for a correction to be issued to set the record straight, said Loren DeJonge Schulman, who previously served in former President Barack Obama’s administration as a senior advisor to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Schulman is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
“People took the document seriously,” she said.
During the first week of the Trump administration, there were no SOCs, the intelligence official said. In fact, according to him, there is surprisingly very little paper being generated, and whatever paper there is, the NSC staff is not privy to it. He sees this as a deterioration of transparency and accountability.
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