Michael Flynn is an unsettling choice
Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti, and Eric Schmitt report in the NY Times:
Days after Islamist militants stormed the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn reached a conclusion that stunned some of his subordinates at the Defense Intelligence Agency: Iran had a role in the attack, he told them.
Now, he added, it was their job to prove it — and, by implication, to show that the White House was wrong about what had led to the attack.
Mr. Flynn, whom President-elect Donald J. Trump has chosen to be his national security adviser, soon took to pushing analysts to find Iran’s hidden hand in the disaster, according to current and former officials familiar with the episode. But like many other investigations into Benghazi, theirs found no evidence of any links, and the general’s stubborn insistence reminded some officials at the agency of how the Bush administration had once relentlessly sought to connect Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Many of those who observed the general’s time at the agency described him as someone who alienated both superiors and subordinates with his sharp temperament, his refusal to brook dissent, and what his critics considered a conspiratorial worldview.
Those qualities could prove problematic for a national security adviser, especially one who will have to mediate the conflicting views of cabinet secretaries and agencies for a president with no experience in defense or foreign policy issues. Traditionally, the job has gone to a Washington veteran: Condoleezza Rice, for instance, or Thomas E. Donilon.
The Last Word
The new job will give Mr. Flynn, 57, nearly unfettered access to the Oval Office. Whether it is renewed bloodletting in Ukraine, a North Korean nuclear test or a hurricane swamping Haiti, he will often have the last word with Mr. Trump about how the United States should react.
For Mr. Flynn, serving as the president’s chief adviser on defense and foreign policy matters, represents a triumphal return to government after being dismissed as agency director in 2014 after two years there.
Heading the agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, was supposed to be the capstone of a storied career. Through tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Flynn had built a reputation as a brash and outspoken officer with an unusual talent for unraveling terrorist networks, and both his fiercest critics and his outspoken supporters praise his work from those wars.
In numerous interviews and speeches over the past year, Mr. Flynn, who did not respond to requests for comment for this article, has maintained that he was forced out as director for refusing to toe the Obama administration’s line that Al Qaeda was in retreat. The claim has made the general something of a cult figure among many Republicans.
“D.I.A. has always been a problem child and it remains that way,” said Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of Mr. Trump’s transition team. “Flynn tried to get in there and fix things and he was only given two years until they ran him out because they didn’t like his assessment.”
The congressman added: “They didn’t have an excuse to fire him, so they made it up. Nobody has been able to fix that place.”
But others say he was forced out for a relatively simple reason: He failed to effectively manage a sprawling, largely civilian bureaucracy.
At the agency, “Flynn surrounded himself with loyalists. In implementing his vision, he moved at light speed, but he didn’t communicate effectively,” said Douglas H. Wise, deputy director from 2014 until he retired in August. “He didn’t tolerate it well when subordinates didn’t move fast enough,” he said. “As a senior military officer, he expected compliance and didn’t want any pushback.”
The Boss Is Always Right
Founded in 1961, the Defense Intelligence Agency has long been in the shadow of the Central Intelligence Agency, and with the end of the Cold War it lost its primary mission of collecting and analyzing information about the Soviet military. Strained by a decade of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was performing an uncertain role within the constellation of American spy agencies when Mr. Flynn arrived at headquarters in mid-2012.
The agency’s system of human intelligence collection was perceived as largely broken. The effort to rebuild it was underway when Mr. Flynn took control in 2012, but he made it immediately known that he had a dim view of the agency’s recent performance.
During a tense gathering of senior officials at an off-site retreat, he gave the assembled group a taste of his leadership philosophy, according to one person who attended the meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss classified matters. Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his. The room fell silent, as employees processed the lecture from their new boss.
Current and former employees said Mr. Flynn had trouble . . .
Unfortunately, it gets worse. It’s almost as though a team were being put in place to destroy the United States in its economy and influence, and in the process make a nice buck for those at the top.