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I spent decades as a covert CIA operative – this is my new mission

Former CIA officer and counterintelligence expert Brad Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Brad Johnson).
April 07, 2020

As someone who spent a career in the shadowy world of intelligence, I have a deep understanding and respect for the value and importance to our national security of espionage and the intelligence community.

After retiring, I now have a new mission and I want to explain why.

Over the previous decades, I have observed the Intelligence Community turn away from its core responsibilities for the safety and security of all Americans to a far more political agenda. The intelligence community’s (IC) quadrennial report about global trends published in 2017 is a poster child example of what is wrong with intelligence today. It overwhelmingly focuses on things like global government integration to face future issues. It argues the positives of what is known today as the globalist movement, a hardcore leftist philosophy that is deeply political. Perhaps even more revealing, the document spends more time and focus on global warming than it does on terrorism. Even if you believe in the concepts of globalization and global warming these are political issues, not intelligence issues. The IC is here to obtain important information about what other countries and hostile groups are doing and should not have an opinion on or any involvement with the formation of policies. They must remain neutral and report the facts as they come, that is their one and only job. The fact that the IC not only takes political positions but promotes certain policies, shows stunning incompetence but even worse a complete lack of understanding of why we even have an IC.

A key indicator of concerns centers around the CIA’s so-called “modernization” plan that was implemented under the previous administration by former CIA director John Brennan. Brennan has spent much of his time since leaving the CIA doing television and radio programs and has revealed himself to be a bitter partisan and critic of President Trump.

This damaging modernization never received the attention it should have from the agency’s congressional overseers and the public. The modernization plan systematically dismantled and destroyed the CIA’s operations division — the heart of the agency’s central mission of using people to steal vital secrets around the world. Historically, the operations division was staffed by an elite cadre of highly trained specialists schooled in the dark arts of espionage and capable of operating around the world under any conditions. Many of us who devoted our lives to the clandestine service as CIA operations officers were stunned to hear Mr. Brennan announce that based on his modernization plan, he no longer regards the CIA as being in the espionage business. “We don’t steal secrets,” Mr. Brennan astonishingly stated in an interview with NPR.

The Brennan plan instead called for other nations’ intelligence services to provide the CIA with spies as intelligence collectors. Real espionage is the direct recruitment of spies or reporting sources who steal information from other countries or organizations such as terrorists. An important feature of this process is that no one should know that our spies are stealing the information. Keeping the operations clandestine is fundamental to the credibility and reliability of the information. When another intelligence service selects spies for the CIA, the information provided could easily be mixed with damaging disinformation and we have no way to be sure of who else is aware we are receiving the information.

These factors combined make the IC fundamentally unreliable and marginalized when they are so desperately needed for our National Security.

I’ve now started Americans for Intelligence Reform (AIR) and it is devoted to reversing these trends and taking politics out of the intelligence services.

Brad Johnson retired as a Senior Operations Officer and Chief of Station with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations. He has served domestically and abroad with numerous assignments often during periods of armed conflict. He has served overseas in direct support of the War against Terrorism. Mr. Johnson is a certified senior expert in Counterintelligence issues with extensive direct experience in the field. He is a senior expert in surveillance and surveillance detection issues. He has proven expertise in dangerous operational environments with the highest level of training and extensive direct experience in tradecraft for dangerous areas. His proven expertise also extends to denied operational environments (most difficult and restrictive) with the highest levels of training offered anywhere in the USG or the world and extensive direct experience. Mr. Johnson has served overseas as Chief of Station multiple times. He is an enrolled member of The Cherokee Nation, a Federally Recognized Tribe and is currently the President of Americans for Intelligence Reform.

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