Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell penned a scathing response to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in a letter released Tuesday.
Schiff had sent a letter to Grenell on April 7 complaining he made staff reductions at the National Counterterrorism Center without consulting Congress, and condemned the removal or departure of every Senate-confirmed official at the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI ).
He also accused Grenell of allowing his staff to interfere with briefings on 2020 election security and politicizing intelligence, and asked that he keep Congress updated on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on election security.
And he complained about President Trump’s decision to fire intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and said his committee was reviewing Atkinson’s dismissal, and asked Grenell to certify that he would not interfere with the future inspector general.
Grenell responded to the allegations in an April 20 letter:
Thank you for your letter of April 7 with suggestions for reforming the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI),” he wrote.
I must begin by voicing my surprise that your four-page letter said nothing about the historic appointment of the first female Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Instead, you expressed concerns regarding the retirement of the former male Director. You erroneously cast judgment on the reason of his departure while ignoring the accomplishments of NCTC’s new leadership, two highly qualified female officers serving as the Acting Director and the Acting Deputy Director. Diversity of the IC workforce should always be celebrated, and I am proud that we increased diversity within the ODNI’s senior ranks, to include more women and members of the LGBT community.
"I must begin by voicing my surprise that your 4-pg letter said nothing about the historic appointment of the first female Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
"Instead, you expressed concerns regarding the retirement of the former male Director"
— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) April 21, 2020
Grenell also reminded Schiff of his oversight role versus an administration role.
“I must disagree with your proposals to divest the DNI of managerial competence and personnel decision-making authority and to replace your committee’s mandate for Intelligence Community (IC) oversight with a mandate for IC administration,” Grenell wrote.
He added that career intelligence community officials have conducted four studies in the last two years calling for reforms at the ODNI and the career officials are eager to implement the recommendations.
“It is my duty to listen to these ODNI career employees who have ideas on how to improve the work we do for the American people,” he said.
“Going forward, I encourage you to think of the relationship between your committee and the IC as that between the legislative and executive branches of government, rather than that between a hedge fund and a distressed asset, as your letter suggests,” he wrote.
Grenell also defended members of the career intelligence officers at the ODNI, whom he said Schiff was accusing of politicizing intelligence:
I am compelled to defend these career officers from unsubstantiated indictments of their motivations and judgment. Many are offended by the accusations that they did not share unvarnished assessments. If you share with me the reports you believe provide evidence for these claims, I can promise you that I will review them with the seriousness such accusations demand.
Grenell took a subtle dig at Schiff for his suspected leaking.
He noted in his letter the intelligence officials who briefed members of Congress on March 10 on election security left behind an unclassified fact sheet because some members of Congress had asked for publicly releasable information to share with constituents and the media — and also to protect themselves from subsequent media leaks.
“We must continue to provide the American public this information to enable them to decipher the information that appears in the media,” he said.
The UNCLASSIFIED fact sheets also protect career intelligence briefers from any subsequent media reporting which might not otherwise do justice to the quality and integrity of their work.
Lastly, I strongly agree with your statement of a bipartisan legislative commitment to the IC. I would hope to see this commitment reflected on the signature line of your future letters.