National Security

Security Troops on U.S. Nuclear Missile Base Took LSD

“One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, ‘I absolutely just loved altering my mind.’”

“Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in America’s arsenal. Air Force records obtained by the Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. After investigators closed in, one airman deserted to Mexico.”

Haspel Confirmed as CIA Director

“The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel to be the first woman to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, elevating a career clandestine officer to the directorship despite bipartisan misgivings about her role in the agency’s brutal detention and interrogation programs in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,” the New York Times reports.

Washington Post: “Lawmakers approved her nomination 54 to 45, a wider than expected margin, with six Democrats voting yes and two Republicans voting no.”

FBI Warned of Spy Links To Oligarch Who Paid Cohen

“The FBI warned four years ago that a foundation controlled by the Russian oligarch who allegedly reimbursed Donald Trump’s personal lawyer might have been acting on behalf of Russia’s intelligence services,” NPR reports.

“FBI Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote an unusual column in the Boston Business Journal in April of 2014 to warn that a foundation controlled by Russian energy baron Viktor Vekselberg might be part of a Moscow spying campaign that sought to siphon up American science and technology.”

Homeland Security Chief Nearly Resigned

“Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, told colleagues she was close to resigning after President Trump berated her on Wednesday in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to adequately secure the nation’s borders,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Trump’s anger toward Ms. Nielsen at the cabinet meeting was part of a lengthy tirade in which the president railed at his entire cabinet about what he said was their lack of progress toward sealing the country’s borders against illegal immigrants, according to one person who was present at the meeting.”

McCain Urges Senate to Vote Against Haspel Nomination

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) wants the Senate to reject the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, Roll Call reports.

Said McCain: “I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,”

Haspel Will Pledge Not to Restart Interrogation Program

“Gina Haspel is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that she ‘will not restart’ the CIA’s brutal interrogation program if confirmed to lead the agency,” the Washington Post reports.

“Haspel’s hearing comes just days after the nominee offered to bow out, to avoid discussing in a public setting her role in the agency’s enhanced interrogation program, which many have likened to torture.”

Officials Make Backup Plans If Haspel Nomination Fails

CNN: “One of the contingency plans being discussed involves preparing Susan Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence, to potentially take Haspel’s place in case Republican senators or Trump balk…  Two additional sources who spoke with Republican strategists and lawmakers were also aware of general contingency planning. It’s unclear how formal these conversations are, but two of the sources said Gordon was in varying stages of being prepared.”

Trump Almost Brought Nunes Into His Administration

New York Times: “The Trump team was so impressed with Nunes that, according to the transition official, it considered bringing him into the administration. A few weeks after the election, the congressman traveled to Trump Tower, where, according to transition officials, he and Trump discussed the possibility of his becoming the director of national intelligence and overseeing an ambitious reorganization of the intelligence community. But Trump ultimately decided to shelve those plans and appoint as director a less disruptive figure, Dan Coats, a former Indiana senator. Besides, with Pompeo leaving Capitol Hill for Langley, Trump’s circle believed that Nunes would be even more valuable to the administration if he remained in Congress, running the Intelligence Committee.”

“Some 17 months later, that looks to have been a remarkably prescient decision — as Trump appears to have been able to influence Nunes to a remarkable degree.”

Russia Is Jamming U.S. Drones Over Syria

NBC News: “The Russian military has been jamming some U.S. military drones operating in the skies over Syria, seriously affecting American military operations, according to four U.S. officials. The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area.”

Trump and Generals Have Different Ideas on Warfare

Washington Post: “Trump and the military hold frequently opposing ideas about exactly what winning means. Those differences have played out in heated Situation Room ¬debates over virtually every spot on the globe where U.S. troops are engaged in combat, said senior administration officials. And they contributed to the dismissal last month of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster who as national security adviser had pressed the president against his instincts to support an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to Afghanistan.”

“Trump’s words, both in public and private, describe a view that wars should be brutal and swift, waged with overwhelming firepower and, in some cases, with little regard for civilian casualties. Victory over America’s enemies for the president is often a matter of bombing ‘the shit out of them,’ as he said on the campaign trail.”

Trump Gets Testy at National Security Team

President Trump “grew irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit,” CNN reports.

“In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”

Can Mattis Hold the Line In Trump’s War Cabinet?

New York Times: “A year into Trump’s tenure, Mattis has become a quietly central figure in an administration of near-constant purges. He may be the lone cabinet member to have survived with his status and dignity intact, and in the process his Pentagon — perhaps the one national institution that is still fully functional — has inherited an unusually powerful role in the shaping of American foreign policy.”

“The removal of Tillerson and the national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, has further reduced the core of the group once known as the ‘committee to save America,’ underscoring Mattis’s unique position and putting even more weight on his relationship with the president. Although their conversations are a tightly guarded secret, Trump is said to consult Mattis regularly about a wide range of subjects.”