Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about a wide range of national security issues, beginning with what Gaffney called “the persistent and seemingly escalating difficulties that the president is having inside his own White House.”
Gaffney said those difficulties included everything from the routine conduct of White House business to “interactions with foreign dignitaries” and “relationships within the administration itself,” famously including President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“Without the incessant leaking of that information to the press, in the most—let’s be honest—unfavorable light imaginable, and there’s reporting now in places like the Washington Free Beacon that the president is surrounded by subordinates who don’t like him. I’m not sure that’s a newsflash, but it is troubling,” he said.
“I think the bigger pattern that is unfolding here is of dysfunction. That is very troubling as the world, for reasons that we talk about each week, is becoming I think by the moment a more dangerous place. We need clarity on the part of our government and leadership about those various challenges. Our sense of direction in its being at best hampered, and at worst seriously undermined by this dysfunctionality, for want of another word for it, inside the administration itself,”
Marlow asked if Gaffney has seen anything in the leaks currently driving news coverage that proves President Trump is “mishandling his incredible access to classified information.”
“I guess I’d have to say at the moment that the jury is out, as far as I’m concerned,” Gaffney replied. “I’m mindful of a pattern that we’ve seen in previous presidencies, not just this one, where the president or senior subordinates of the president have dealt with highly classified information in ways that compromise not only the information itself, but the sources and methods by which that information is obtained.”
“We have a swirling controversy now, about did this president do that in the Oval Office with Russian emissaries the other day? I don’t know. As I say, the jury is still out,” said Gaffney.
“It’s being roundly denied by people in the room, notably General McMaster, the National Security Adviser to the president, and his deputy Dina Powell,” he noted. “And yet, there are continuing suggestions that something was disclosed that would perhaps complicate our intelligence sharing with a foreign government, said to be Israel – again, I don’t know if that’s true – and done in ways that might have in fact compromised the source of intensive intelligence about the Islamic State and some of the threats that it poses to us. “
“I’m troubled about these kinds of instances in which what we have – and you mentioned ransomware a moment ago, this recent attack that sort of introduced the same theme there – this is said to have transpired because of leaks of incredibly sensitive tools that the National Security Agency has used to try to collect intelligence to protect our country, and that’s now been disclosed, and it’s now being used to our detriment or the detriment of hundreds of countries around the world, businesses by the thousands, and so on,” Gaffney told Marlow, referring to the WannaCry ransomware attack.
“We’re obviously in an environment that is very troubling, in which the handling of sensitive information by officials – maybe the president himself, certainly by people around him, certainly by others who have held these kinds of positions in the past – may be an instrument of political warfare against our own country and interests, by people who wish us harm. That’s a profoundly troubling thing, and I think we’ll know more later about the truth behind all of this, but that’s what I’m concerned with at the moment, I must say,” he declared.
Marlow said such concerns should be evaluated carefully, with the best possible information, but the establishment media is “at a point where they merely are using hysterics to try to distract from actually getting at the truth, and the crying wolf is just getting so intense that you almost can’t keep up with whichever hysteria du jour they are on.”
Gaffney agreed that the current tactics of political warfare “require much greater scrutiny.”
“What you’ve described, of course, is a manifestation of it, but we generally don’t think about it that way. We don’t talk about it that way. It’s all breathlessly seen as ‘just the facts, ma’am’ reporting, and I think the press has in fact – by and large, with notable exceptions like yours – become instruments of a concerted effort by the enemies of this president to destroy him,” he told Marlow.
“That’s what causes me to be very cautious about assessing and trying to answer important questions like yours. A) we don’t have enough information, and B) the very process in which the information is obtained, and reported, and digested, and vetted is now so loaded with this kind of agenda that I think it requires us to be very cautious in making judgments on the basis of the information available at the moment, at least,” Gaffney advised.
Marlow turned back to the WannaCry ransomware attack, asking Gaffney for lessons that might be drawn about information security and cyberespionage.
“I’m no cyberwarfare specialist, but as I say Alex from what we’re hearing, what made this attack possible is that people who hacked the National Security Agency’s sensitive information – and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the fruits of their efforts – have made tools that have been used for the purposes of trying to safeguard our security into instruments of piracy, I guess is one way of putting it, and perhaps worse, by people who were shaking down governments and health care systems and private corporations around the world,” Gaffney said.
He saw the attack as a reminder of “the vulnerability of our society, and specifically the infrastructure that is absolutely critical to its continued survival.”
Gaffney stressed this was about the literal survival of Western society, which could swiftly collapse without electric power and other infrastructure vulnerable to hackers.
“The fact that these kinds of cyber capabilities are now migrating to Heavens knows who – not just foreign governments, but substate actors – to use advanced cyber techniques to turn things off or make things inaccessible to their owners or their operators is of the greatest concern to me,” he said. “I think the vulnerability of our grid to such attacks – among others, by the way, physical sabotage, electromagnetic pulse, even solar storms – is one of the great untold stories and great unaddressed public policy crises of our time.”
“If people who are using our own techniques against us continue to do this, in ways that are far more devastating than just ripping people off for their Bitcoins, then I think we’re entering a very, very dangerous period,” he warned.
Gaffney added that he was excited about “efforts being made in the state of Texas as we speak,” commending State Senator Bob Hall for working to “get the grid of Texas protected against these sorts of attacks.”
“It’s the kind of thing that should happen not only in Texas but across this country,” he said. “It’s a matter of the utmost urgency, especially in light of what we’re seeing playing out with this ransomware business.”
Marlow asked what Gaffney was keeping an eye out for as President Trump begins his first extensive overseas trip.
Gaffney pointed to Trump’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington on Tuesday, and said he fears Trump’s meetings with the monarchy of Saudi Arabia will also reveal Trump is not being clear enough about “the dangers posed by people who are, at their core, sharia supremacists, and therefore deeply hostile to our country and to its vital interests.”
“I think keeping that in perspective as he interacts with them and negotiates with them, as he seeks to pursue deals and understandings with them, is vitally important,” he said. “I personally think it was incredibly critical to his success as a presidential candidate that he told the American people he was going to take a different course than had President Obama, notably, on these guys,”
“There’s less evidence of that than I’d like to see at the moment,” Gaffney lamented. “We’ll be watching closely how he conducts himself, what kind of initiatives come out of these conversations with the Saudis and others who are in the Gulf States and so on, who are sharia supremacists first and foremost, as is Erdogan – and therefore, I’m afraid not reliable allies. We need to be mindful of that.”
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