There appears to be a chink in the narrative armor about the nomination of Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence. Most criticism comes from the fact Ratcliffe has no real intelligence experience (valid, despite his role in cybersecurity and on the House Intelligence Committee) or concerns he’ll be some sort of rubber stamp for President Donald Trump due to his criticism of the Russia investigation and ex-FBI Director James Comey.
Reality is a bit different, especially for those who with the notion Ratcliffe will ignore Russia as some sort of geopolitical threat. Via POLITICO:
John Ratcliffe, the congressman Trump has tapped to fight the “deep state” from within, has worked closely with one of the men Russian President Vladimir Putin wants most to see in prison: Bill Browder, an American-born businessman who has been on a decade-long campaign to expose Russian corruption…
“Ratcliffe was one of our lawyers at Ashcroft dealing with the fallout from Magnitsky,” Browder told POLITICO on Monday, referring to the law firm former Attorney General John Ashcroft formed with Ratcliffe and another former U.S. attorney in 2009. Browder described Ratcliffe as “a highly sophisticated guy” with “no illusions about Russia” who is “professional, capable, and deserves respect.”
While he wouldn’t delve into the legal advice Ratcliffe gave him over the years, Browder seemed confident in the congressman’s bona fides. “All I can say is that he’s a top professional, highly trained, and understands what’s going on in Russia through the Magnitsky case.”
Another former Ashcroft employee who worked on the Magnitsky case corroborated Browder’s recollections, describing Ratcliffe as active and helpful on the issue.
In July 2009, Browder hired Ashcroft Sutton & Ratcliffe, which had been formed months earlier, to represent him in New York in a case that would quickly snowball into one of the biggest corruption scandals of Putin’s tenure, implicating high-level Kremlin officials and Putin allies.
Ratcliffe has been more than willing to criticize Russia and China over various issues, so it’s really doubtful he’ll look the other way when it comes to any sort of cyberthreat. He is a politician, so anything is possible, especially if the worries he will be a “yes man” for Trump are correct. The New York Times reported there are people who believe he will put his politics aside should he get the job.
Mr. Ratcliffe’s Republican defenders insisted he is fair. His political bite is largely virtue of circumstance, they said, adding that he harbors greater respect for the law enforcement and intelligence communities than many House Republicans in his circle.
In private, his allies said, he is inclined to give national security officials the benefit of the doubt and has defended — sometimes against his political allies — the need for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to have access to tools like domestic surveillance. And despite his criticisms of the Russia investigation, they pointed out, he did not join calls for Mr. Mueller’s removal as special counsel or question the evidence of Russian election interference.
Democrats’ criticism of Mr. Ratcliffe is “more reflective of the political environment we are in than John Ratcliffe,” said Trey Gowdy, the former congressman from South Carolina who like Mr. Ratcliffe is a former federal prosecutor.
Mr. Ratcliffe has not always toed the Trump administration’s rhetorical line: He said Americans were more at risk from a digital attack than from someone crossing the southern border and has told associates that his focus as director of national intelligence would be on cyberthreats and counterterrorism.
This doesn’t mean Ratcliffe should be confirmed as DNI. His stance on #FISA720 legislation is troubling and he even complained about changes to the re-authorization bill in 2018. One would think someone who has questioned the use of FISA during the 2016 election would be resistant to any potential future abuse. Ratcliffe is not, unfortunately, which is a lost moment for those who want to see FISA brought in line with the Fourth Amendment.
There should always be worry about an alleged nonpartisan position ending up becoming partisan. It’s the nature of politics and government. The DNI position doesn’t need to exist even if the idea was to protect the country from threats by making sure the heads of FBI and CIA reported to him/her who then reported to the president. It would be better if the role was just eliminated to reduce the size of government. Too bad that won’t happen.