The Morale Inside U.S. Intelligence Agencies Scott Simon talks with former senior CIA lawyer John Rizzo about how the intelligence community is reacting to new leaked documents from the group WikiLeaks, and President Trump's frequent criticism.

The Morale Inside U.S. Intelligence Agencies

The Morale Inside U.S. Intelligence Agencies

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Scott Simon talks with former senior CIA lawyer John Rizzo about how the intelligence community is reacting to new leaked documents from the group WikiLeaks, and President Trump's frequent criticism.


It's been another rough week for U.S. intelligence. WikiLeaks released a massive trove of CIA documents that apparently detail the agency's own hacking tools. This comes after weeks of pointed criticism by President Trump of people in the intelligence community for leaks. We're joined now by John Rizzo. He spent more than 30 years - forgive me - working as a lawyer at the CIA. Mr. Rizzo, thanks for being with us.

JOHN RIZZO: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Do stories like this and leaks like this make people in the security establishment worried about going about their work - that someone's going to leak it, someone's going to rat on them, someone's going to put their name and what they're doing into the New York Times?

RIZZO: Oh, yeah. It has a destabilizing effect. You know, Scott, I was in CIA for than three decades, and there were leaks constantly throughout my career. It's an unfortunate fact of life in the intelligence community. But this particular one, which I should note occurred after I left, so I have no insider knowledge of it - you know, it's particularly devastating because the scope of it and the fact that, at it's very core, it's the purest of compromises of intelligence sources and methods.

SIMON: But let me ask this from the viewpoint of the - of the administration at the same time - can you understand why they feel a little bit beleaguered 'cause most of these leaks are coming at their expense and feel that people in the national security establishment are out to undermine them?

RIZZO: Yeah. I mean, I think - I think that that's understandable. President Trump would not be the first president who was - who would be frustrated justifiably by leaks. So, sure, but I must say this this idea that there is some sort of deep state, quote-unquote, you know, is a fantasy to me. There is no such thing as the deep state inside CIA. CIA is composed overwhelmingly of career intelligence professionals who served under various presidents.

SIMON: But do you have any concern about - I mean, civilian control of the military and the defense and security establishment is an important constitutional principle. What happens when you have elected authority enunciating one policy, and then the next news cycle, you have people in the security establishment undermining it?

RIZZO: Well, it sends - it sends a inconsistent and potentially dangerous message, not just to the American people, but to around the world - governments around the world about, you know, whose voice can we depend upon.

SIMON: Yeah.

RIZZO: So it can be - you know, it can be not just confusing, but potentially compromising.

SIMON: And let me ask you this, if I could, at the same time, very carefully, Mr. Rizzo - what about having a chief executive in charge of national security policy whose credibility is doubted at every turn?

RIZZO: Well, that, you know - that, you know - that leaches down into the intelligence community. Intelligence community works for the president. So if guy - if the guy in the Oval Office is being questioned about his credibility or his motives, then inevitably that will - that will seep down to the - to the intelligence professionals.

SIMON: Any one or two bits of advice you want to give Mike Pompeo, who the president has chosen to head the CIA?

RIZZO: Well, I must say, I talked to people who are still in the CIA, and uniformly they've they've had a very positive first impression, at least, of Mr. Pompeo. I mean, what I would tell him is to - is to trust the professionals there. They have - they have no agenda. They want to - they want to serve the president, whoever the president is, and they want to serve the CIA director. And the extent that Mr. Pompeo has any influence on the president's thinking - I would urge him to make that point clear to Mr. Trump because the statements Mr. Trump has made - not just recently, but over the past several weeks - are certainly not helpful to the morale of the career people who are serving him to the best of their ability.

SIMON: John Rizzo, former chief legal officer at the CIA - his memoir, "Company Man" - thanks for being with us.

RIZZO: Thank you, Scott.

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