(WASHINGTON POST) — “If I can’t use this information, then what good is it to have it?! Why even collect it in the first place?!”
It’s a cry of frustration, an angry rhetorical exclamation I heard many times during my 30-year career as an operations officer at the CIA. Usually it comes from ambassadors or senior members of the national security apparatus in Washington, and occasionally even from analysts in the intelligence community who have been provided with a truly stunning piece of information acquired clandestinely from human or technical sources. The sense of frustration among these consumers of intelligence is heightened when the topic is critical and timely, and when both the government and the American public are clamoring for answers to difficult questions.
This is precisely where we as a nation find ourselves when discussing the claim by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hackers attempted to influence the U.S. presidential elections. The White House has ordered a report on what the hackers did, and to what extent they were trying to help Donald Trump, before Trump is sworn in as president Jan. 20. News reports say officials at the FBI and the CIA have agreed that hackers targeted the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to boost Trump. President Obama suggested this month that Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about the hacks.
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