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Pentagon denies report it blocked spy agency meetings with Biden transition team

US Pentagon building. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 07, 2020

Over the weekend, the Pentagon responded to a Friday report alleging it was blocking Joe Biden’s transition team from meeting with the leaders of the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other military intelligence agencies.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that President Donald Trump’s administration was refusing the Biden team access to intelligence agencies overseen by the Pentagon, citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials. In a statement provided to reporters, the Pentagon called the accusations “demonstrably false and patently insulting.”

“The accusation by anonymous sources that DoD has not been fulfilling its commitment to professionally assist any of the Agency Review Teams (ART) is demonstrably false and patently insulting,” read the Saturday Pentagon statement. “Stories run in the last day fail to reflect the dozens of interviews and meetings that have taken place and the many dozens more that are planned in the coming weeks — including interviews on Monday and Tuesday with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.”

The Washington Post report alleged Biden’s transition team was being delayed in some cases from meeting with intelligence offices and agencies over procedural barriers.

One source said the Pentagon asked for rosters of those who would be in attendance during visits of specific agencies, as well as lists of topics to discuss and estimates of the time to be allotted for those visits — information they said in some cases had already been provided to the Pentagon.

One current defense official told the Washington Post that issues with the transition are actually attributable to Biden’s transition team, rather than the Pentagon. The official said Biden transition officials had tried to directly contact agencies to arrange their visits and briefings and were instead told they needed to submit requests to the Pentagon.

In its statement, the Pentagon said, “The DOD ART has provided the list of persons to interview, interviewers and topics to cover, and the Intelligence Community ART has now also contacted the DOD Agency Transition Director regarding their interview requests. This is the normal process. We continue to work closely with the DOD ART and other Agency Review Teams to schedule requested by-name interviews of DoD leadership, both political appointees and career civil servants.  We have provided thousands of pages of documents, including classified materials, for their review and follow-on questions, in accordance with statute, policies, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the White House and the Biden-Harris Transition Team – and we will be providing more as appropriate. The Department of Defense transition team – led by Tom Muir with support from the Department’s Chief of Staff – is committed to an orderly and professional transition, and fulfilling our statutory requirements as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Also addressing the allegations, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said, “Leadership transitions, be they from one company commander to the next or one presidential administration to another, are an area in which the Department boasts a long record of bipartisan excellence. The DoD and its transition leadership are fully cooperating with the Biden transition team, placing national security and the protection of the American people at the forefront of any and all discussions.”