On Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily, SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam asked former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton if the U.S. intelligence community had conclusive evidence Russia was “involved in any way, shape, or form” in the exposure of documents from the Democratic National Committee.
“I don’t know whether they have conclusive evidence or not,” Bolton replied. “I haven’t seen any of it. Of course, neither have any of us who don’t have the appropriate classification to have access to it.”
“I would say this: a lot of people I respect have looked at this information and concluded that they did. Donald Trump will be briefed by the leaders of the intelligence community tomorrow. He’ll make up his own mind,” Bolton added.
“Let me just say this: I don’t think, in my experience, there’s almost ever anything that you say is conclusive information. This is part of dealing with national security. You don’t have absolute certainty. You can say, ‘Well, I’d rather wait until I get more information.’ You can always do that. In which case, you have events driving your policy while you wait around for information, rather than trying to take steps to protect yourself,” he said.
“I think there is a legitimate concern with the politicization of intelligence that we’ve seen under the Obama administration,” Bolton said. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s why, back during the campaign, when the White House was saying they have evidence of Russian efforts to meddle in our election, I asked why they were so sure. Might it be a false flag operation? Might it be somebody else doing it? Might there be more at work?”
“We’re still stuck with the problem that Obama has so abused the powers of the presidency – politicizing intelligence, politicizing the Internal Revenue Service. I mean, the list goes on and on – that few people now give credence to much of anything that comes out of the federal government,” he noted.
“I guess I would say this: having been in the government many, many times, underneath the political level, there are clearly people who are biased, who have a definite liberal ideology, who are delighted when they serve Democratic masters in the White House. There are also tens of thousands of people who are just trying to protect the country. In the intelligence services, there are a lot of people like that. They don’t follow a political agenda. If anything, they’re probably more conservative in their views. They just keep quiet about it to be safe under Democratic administrations,” Bolton observed.
“I think once the 20th of January comes, and you have a new Trump-appointed leadership in the national security community, you have both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and other committees all controlled by Republicans conducting these investigations, we’re going to see a lot more facts come out, one way or the other,” he predicted.
“I want to come back to this point on what is conclusive intelligence. Intelligence is not a block of granite. It’s not something you put on the table and say, ‘There is revealed truth. Therefore, policies flow from it without any debate.’ Facts are facts, and people can interpret facts in different ways. And they can look at the same set of facts and draw different policy conclusions. So the intelligence is not conclusive in that sense. This is the same argument we had about the Iraq war, ironically, and what’s conclusive. If you’re waiting for conclusive evidence, you’re going to be an old, old man or woman before you get it,” Bolton said.
He said there was reason to consider restructuring the office of Director of National Intelligence, advising President Trump to “reduce levels of bureaucracy and get more agents in the field.”
“I think that’s something you would see a lot of agreement on, on a bipartisan basis. And I think it’s something absolutely to take a look at. There’s no government agency that exists that can’t be better-organized and better-run. And God knows, after eight years of Obama, there are a lot of candidates vying to be the number one agency or community of agencies to be reorganized.”
Kassam asked if such reorganization might be seen as “vindictive” after the Russian hacking controversy.
“I’m sure some would say that, and I think, therefore, it depends a lot on how any reorganization, and even how any analysis of how to transform the intelligence community is undertaken,” Bolton replied. “It’s going to require legislation in any event, so you’re going to have to be able to present evidence in public about what the improvements would be and how things would work better.”
“My own view is that there have been a lot of different theories – and I speak as a consumer of intelligence, so I don’t have a stake in this game for, or against, any particular component of the intelligence community. I speak as somebody who uses their product, and, therefore, has a very high interest in getting the best product possible. There are a lot of esoteric, near-theological theories about how to reorganize intelligence. I don’t think they relate terribly well to the real world,” he said.
“I think the real answer, whatever the bars and lines on an organizational chart look like, is clear direction from the National Security Council,” Bolton said. “The purpose of intelligence is ultimately to guide the president and his assistants throughout the bureaucracy, and to do it effectively, make sure that the intelligence being gathered is what we really need, and that it’s followed through on, rigorously scrutinized. I think that leadership has to come from the president first, obviously, acting through the National Security Council.”
Kassam asked about Donald Trump’s assertion on Twitter that a “14-year-old” could have hacked the computer system of Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta – who, according to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, was using a slight modification of the word “password” as his email password.
“I don’t think the fact that Podesta’s an easy victim excuses the conduct of trying to penetrate his computer in the first place,” Bolton pointed out. “It may well be that a 14-year-old hacked his computer, and if so, it serves him right, but it may have been somebody else, as well.”
“I think this meeting tomorrow between the President-elect and members of the intelligence community is a very big deal. I think the rubber meets the road in a certain sense, in the evidence they present, and how he reacts to it. I say again, as a consumer of intelligence, the president and his subordinates, his advisers, have every right – indeed, an obligation – to question intelligence, to ask about it, to argue about its implications,” Bolton contended.
“My experience with the intelligence community has been that its intellectually honest members welcome probing questions. They’re in the business of trying to find the proof. They don’t have a vested interest, or they shouldn’t have a vested interest, in one particular line of analysis. If somebody comes up with a better idea, they should welcome it and accept it because ultimately, they want to get the best information they can to the top decision-makers,” he said.
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