Blogs: Paul Pillar

Trump Goes All In With the Settlers

Educating Trump with Intelligence: Questions are as Important as Answers

Heartstrings and Aleppo

Partisan Tribalism and Attitudes Toward Russia

Why Intelligence Briefings Matter

Paul Pillar

The first line of defense against misuse of intelligence lies within the agencies themselves. The CIA has an “ombudsman” for politicization, which is typically a former senior professional who is responsible for reporting cases of politicization to the Congress. This individual’s status should be elevated and given more independence to explore alleged instances of politicization on the part of the administration. Also playing an important role are the inspectors general of the intelligence agencies, who have an independent reporting line to Congress.

The other major safeguard must be the intelligence committees of the House and Senate, which serve a vital role as surrogates of the American people in overseeing intelligence work that must take place behind closed doors. The Congressional committees first have an obligation to press those nominated to senior intelligence positions on how intelligence will be delivered to President Trump and what measures they will support to prevent the kind of politicization of intelligence we have seen in the past. Then the committees must continue vigorous oversight to help ensure that facts and not fiction are the basis for important foreign-policy decisions.       

Paul Pillar and Roger George are former national intelligence officers. Dr. Pillar recently taught at Georgetown University and Dr. George teaches U.S. foreign policy at Occidental College.

Image: President Barack Obama studies a document held by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper during the Presidential Daily Briefing. Flickr/The White House