Pentagon barred Biden’s intelligence transition team from meeting with agencies

The slowdown means Biden’s team has yet to meet with officials from the Department of Defense military intelligence agencies – including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency – even though everyone else Biden’s review team meetings seem to be going well now after weeks of delay.

The Pentagon denies any effort to thwart the president-elect’s team. A senior defense official told CNN briefings were held Friday for transition officials on military matters, including high-level politics and international security issues, but not on intelligence.

The Washington Post first reported on Team Biden’s problems with the Defense Department’s transition office, led by a Trump loyalist linked to efforts to spread conspiracy theories about the president-elect.

The delays come even as the General Service Administration gave the green light on November 23 to officials from federal government agencies to meet with the president-elect’s agency review teams, which is essential to ensure a smooth power transfer.

Last week, arrangements were made for the Biden agency review team to meet with the various defense intelligence agencies this week, the former intelligence official said.

But earlier this week, the Pentagon learned that Team Biden would not engage with defense intelligence agencies until they submitted questions in advance and listed people’s names. that she wanted to interact with.

At that point, Biden’s team’s requests would be considered by the Department of Defense attorney general and Kash Patel, the Trump loyalist appointed to lead the Pentagon transition last month amid the president’s purge. Donald Trump of the civil leadership of the department.

“This is a big FU from Defense to the incoming intelligence community transition team,” the former official said.

Defense Department spokeswoman Sue Gough denied there was an issue with the ability of Biden’s teams to meet with intelligence officials at the Pentagon.

“The DOD agency review team has not been denied any access,” Gough said in a statement. “We continue to work with DOD ART to schedule all requested interviews, briefings and updates.”

Biden transition team spokesman Ned Price declined to comment. The National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A defense official said Biden’s Transition Intelligence Team had “established direct coordination with DOD intelligence agencies for talks, briefings and site visits,” and the Pentagon then requested to contact Patel for all its requests for interviews and site visits. “by the statute, the directives of the GSA” and the memorandum of understanding between the White House and the elected president.

“In case it is not clear,” the defense official said, “the schedule change / delay occurred because (Biden’s team) did not contact DOD before scheduling a meeting with the DOD agencies, BY THE GUIDANCE and the MOU. They weren’t turned down, they just had to follow the proper procedure. “

Gough said in his statement that visits were “tentatively scheduled for early next week” and that Patel and the acting Deputy Defense Secretary for Intelligence and Security are working closely with others “and complete coordination “for Biden’s teams to visit.

The Defense Department’s position on the matter angered National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, according to the former intelligence official, who said Ratcliffe intended to take the matter to the White House.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created to coordinate the efforts of the administration’s intelligence agencies.

“Ratcliffe was hot. He saw insubordination in it,” the former intelligence official said. “It was his authority as DNI to prepare the ground and the processes for the transition.”

Vince Stewart, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and former deputy director of the US Cyber ​​Command who now co-leads Biden’s intelligence transition team, visited the office of the director of national intelligence this week to set the stage for a visit of Biden’s choice to replace Ratcliffe, Avril Haines.

Trump has appointed Patel and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, acting Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, to their posts as part of a series of major changes at the Pentagon, where he dumped much of the leadership civilians in recent weeks, replacing them. with political loyalists as his administration comes to an end.

Cohen-Watnick gained notoriety in March 2017 for his alleged involvement in providing intelligence documents to then-House Intelligence Speaker Devin Nunes, a Californian Republican who went on to say that U.S. intelligence officials had misguided Trump’s associates.

Since the sacking of Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweeting on November 9, the president has ousted at least three other senior officials and replaced them with suspected loyalists. Trump also replaced members of two advisory committees, installing his former campaign manager in one of them.

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