Best Defense

I worked at Flynn’s DIA, and I fear that he will put us on the road to war with Iran

I don’t say that lightly. But I am worried.

GRAND JUNCTION, CO - OCTOBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) jokes with retired Gen. Michael Flynn as they speak at a rally at Grand Junction Regional Airport on October 18, 2016 in Grand Junction Colorado. Trump is on his way to Las Vegas for the third and final presidential debate against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
GRAND JUNCTION, CO - OCTOBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) jokes with retired Gen. Michael Flynn as they speak at a rally at Grand Junction Regional Airport on October 18, 2016 in Grand Junction Colorado. Trump is on his way to Las Vegas for the third and final presidential debate against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

 

By Joshua Manning
Best Defense guest columnist

I don’t say that lightly. But I am worried.

As a former Army intelligence soldier and then analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, I believe that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the president-elect’s pick for national security advisor, presents a clear and present danger to our national security.

I first saw Flynn in 2002 and 2003 when he was then a colonel and leader of the military intelligence school in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I remember marching to class in formation and seeing this lone flat-topped, Ranger-tabbed machine doing pull-ups on the bars outside our dormitories.

A few years later, Flynn was the head of military intelligence for Afghanistan. He was one of the co-authors of a controversial essay on how to revamp our approach to intelligence operations. He suggested that analysts “get outside the wire” more so that we would understand what the people, towns, and cities we studied were actually like. It made sense, but made many civilians felt like the essay pitted them against their military counterparts.

Then I went to work for the Defense Intelligence Agency’s counterterrorism unit. In 2012, Flynn took over command of that agency. There was some trepidation among civilians who wondered if he was going to put them “outside the wire” everyday. But no one knew what he would do and there was more concern about the shutdown antics in Congress.

Later in my career at DIA there was a major terrorist attack outside the United States. Flynn brought our senior analysts into his office and asked them what happened. They explained how we were certain a local terrorist group carried out the attack and it was a solid connection. But Flynn wondered aloud to them if it was “black swan” event, which was his way of “dog whistling” us toward Iran being involved.

This “black swan” theory of his intensified concerns among my DIA colleagues that he was pushing raw intelligence — known as “stove piping” — to the White House. His fondness for spurious conspiracy theories put him at odds with the national security team at the White House. Sure enough, within a months of this chatter Flynn was out.

He “resigned,” but the reality is that the intelligence hierarchy, led by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, fired him. I was not surprised that Clapper resigned after Trump indicated that Flynn would be his national security advisor. My impression is that he wanted nothing to do with Flynn.

In choosing Flynn as his national security advisor, the president-elect has elevated a man who leans toward conspiracy theories as justification for action. Flynn wants to take assertive action in the Muslim world and I think he will push for that no matter what the facts may be.

My worry is that Flynn will start laying a path for conflict or war against Iran. He will have the ear of President Trump, not known as a reader, so Flynn will have a dominant role in telling the president what is going on.

For me, that represents a nightmare scenario. It is not a question of whether it will happen, it is when and how it will. I am genuinely fearful.

Josh Manning was an non-commissioned officer in the U.S Army and worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency. He served three deployments to Iraq. He is a member of the leadership team for Common Defense, a progressive veterans group that opposes Trump. These views are his own and not necessarily those of other members of the intelligence community.

Photo credit: GEORGE FREY/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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