Make no mistake: Binney is nothing short of a crackpot:
Binney is a former official at the National Security Agency (NSA) who later became a whistleblower and now belongs to Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of former intelligence officials who are skeptical of the intelligence community’s conclusions. He has occasionally been a guest on Fox News, where it seems Trump may have seen him, and where host Sean Hannity once seized upon the inside-job theory and tied it — dubiously — to the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. The appeal of Binney’s theory to Trump is clear: It suggests Russia’s interference wasn’t nearly so broad or influential as the intelligence community contends.
Pompeo also had to recently back down from a statement that our intelligence service confirmed the Russia interference did not affect the outcome of the election. The intelligence community has previously said such a judgment is out of its purview. Pompeo was forced to walk his statement back.
Foreign policy gurus and ex-intelligence officers are greatly disturbed by this. Congress should be too, but it is controlled by GOP sycophants such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), widely rumored to be Pompeo’s replacement if Pompeo takes Rex Tillerson’s place at the State Department. “Usually, the director of the CIA does not personally interview crackpot conspiracy theorists at the behest of an equally crackpot president,” Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official and staunch #NeverTrumper, told me. ” But this is the Trump administration. What is worrisome is the question what other daft — or more dangerous — directives he would also follow.”
Former CIA director Michael Hayden, in a rare on the record criticism of a successor, said, “I am sure … Director Pompeo would not have wanted to do this. Clearly this was at the direction of the president.” He continued, “He knew that this would create a [problem] for him with his own workforce because of the appearances the visit would have created. Equating a conspiracy theory with the high confidence judgment of the intelligence community. And there was no way that Binney would’ve kept it quiet.” Hayden adds, “And yet it appears that the president insisted he do it. This whole episode says more about the president than it does anyone else.” The only saving grace was the CIA’s retreat. “It was a good thing that the agency reiterated its support for the intelligence community assessment,” Hayden said.
The greater concern is that Pompeo, a frequent presence in the White House, is more interested in buttering up the president than in managing his agency in a fair and impartial manner. Pompeo is a former congressman, a politician, but if he is to succeed and earn the trust of his agency and the country he needs to put politics aside.