The New York Times recently reported a story claiming that the United States intelligence services have increased America’s ability to launch cyber-attacks on the Russian energy grid. The Times also reported – based on unnamed sources – this new more aggressive approach was intentionally kept from President Trump out of fear that he may countermand the new policy or may blurt it out to the Russians. They just cannot stop spinning every news story into anti-Trump political propaganda.
The spin on the story — as it rolled across the anti-Trump media — is that the President is so inept and reckless that seasoned bureaucrats cannot tell him what is going on. That was the message seeded by the Times and dutifully carried on both MSNBC and CNN by the networks politicized anchors, hosts and panelists.
As he is want to do, Trump responded in an attack on the Times – accusing them of treason. It is yet another unfortunate example of the President using Twitter to expose one of his less attractive qualities – his knee-jerk combative and pugnacious style. In doing that, he takes the oxygen out of the room for a more specific and persuasive response – and provides more grist for the anti-Trump media mill. In that regard, Trump is his own worst enemy.
Trump went a bit too far when he accused the Times of treason. Those – and other provocative words– are being used (misused) entirely too often these days. Trump has been accused of treason, an asset or agent of Russia, a criminal without any basis in fact. It is just all mindless name calling and should stop.
Despite Trump’s New York street response, there are a number of things very disturbing about the Times reports – and they could be, and should be, articulated in a more effective manner.
To the unbiased minds, the major concern with the story is that the Times – apparently with the aid of unidentified past and present employees of “the intelligence community” –has given a lot of publicity to a classified activity that should have been carried out away from the public forum – and especially away from the ears and eyes of the Russian government. There does not appear to be any reason why the Russian government should be informed. This has all the markings of what should have been a covert operation. But then, keeping the national security as the key consideration would prevent a political attack on Trump.
In all the reports, it remained unclear if the story in the Times was built on illegal leaks from within the intelligence community. Or was this something that was formally announced? Since it was an exclusive with the Times, you can probably discount an official announcement.
Trump may have responded badly, but that does not mean that the Times can be absolved of doing harm to the country. Would this story have received the “breaking news” treatment if not for the media’s ability to spin an anti-Trump narrative? That is a more than fair question.
The other disturbing element is the fact – if the story is correct – that Executive Branch bureaucrats would take such action and conceal such major activities from the boss – the head of the Executive Branch. As described by the Times, the informants all work for the President. Distress that Trump actually IS the President has led Democrats and major portions of the press to promote a belief that senior officials within the Executive Branch are somehow independent – or quasi-independent — of the President.
Like Trump or not, for employees of the Executive Branch to intentionally operate outside the constitutional authority of the President is minimally inappropriate and arguably illegal. To beef up the cyber attack on Russia is not some midlevel management decision. It clearly must be authorized by the President. It is something the bureaucrats can recommend, but not implement themselves.
One of the concerns expressed in the Times article is that the President would countermand the actions. He could – and would have every right and authority to do so. Those who think otherwise need to study the Executive Branch organization chart and the Constitution.
Finally, we are told by the Times that those involved were concerned that Trump would intentionally or inadvertently reveal the program to officials of other governments – including Russia. That can hardly be a concern since the bureaucrats and the Times have already done that.
To conspire against the President’s authority in this way is figuratively a mutiny aboard the ship of state. It is not, by definition, treason, as the President declared, but it is a betrayal of the Constitution and those bureaucrats’ sworn duty to “obey and defend” it.
Trump’s specifically calling the Times the “enemy of the people” is again too hyperbolic, but it is not easy to absolve the Times of wanting to hit at Trump regardless of any damage to the country – and to do it with unnamed sources is more than shameful. It is a gross violation of what used to be called journalism.
So, there ‘tis.