Cockburn’s friends at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. are used to hearing bizarre recordings, but they can’t believe their ears when President Trump says that he wouldn’t let US intelligence spy on portly paranoiac Kim Jong-un, the nuclear nutcase from North Korea.
Trump is telling a dangerous dictator with an aggressive chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program that he can operate with impunity. Cockburn has been down to the nuclear bunker beneath The Spectator’s headquarters, just to check his stock of foie gras and gin.
The spooks are baffled by Trump’s response to a report that ‘Rocket Man’ had executed an alleged CIA spy: ‘I see that, and I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un. I think the relationship is very well…I saw the information about the CIA with regard to his brother or half-brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.’
Clearly Trump hasn’t been reading the President’s Daily Brief (the PDB), the Top Secret report prepared for the most senior government officials by the CIA. In fact, Cockburn hears that the CIA long ago gave up trying to get Trump to read the PDB. Shortly after he entered the White House, they began producing an edited version with a heavy emphasis on pictures and video. But it seems that even this format challenges the president’s exceptionally short attention span.
CIA briefers tell Cockburn that they have yet to convince Trump to sit through a full briefing on the most dangerous threats to the United States. This contrasts with President Obama, who would read every PDB from cover to cover, ask detailed follow-up questions, pause for a moment to look philosophical, and only then award himself an ‘A’ grade for effort.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, as Cockburn said when he looked at this morning’s New York Times. If Trump had bothered to read, listen or watch, he would know that North Korea is the target of one of the American intelligence community’s largest covert operations.
The National Security Agency has listening posts in South Korea which intercept all communications. The CIA runs agents inside the secretive regime. Allies, including Japan and South Korea and even, occasionally, China, all provide valuable intelligence.
This massive undertaking involves the spending of billions of dollars. Its aim is to give an early warning if Kim Jong-un intends to invade South Korea or plans to launch a missile attack against America or its allies. The idea that Trump believes that he can simply turn off this vast data flow is laughable. The idea that doing so would be in the interests of the United States is about as sensible as calling the Elton John biopic Rocketman North Korean propaganda.
It’s at times like these that Cockburn appreciates that a vast, unaccountable bureaucracy of spies remains on the job while the president’s mind wanders. Two cheers for the Deep State, says Cockburn.