Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe appeared on the Kevin Roberts Show, a Heritage Foundation podcast, to discuss the myriad challenges posed by the creeping corruption of America’s intelligence network. In particular, Ratcliffe highlighted problems associated with Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
That intelligence agencies routinely abuse Section 702 is an open secret these days, but that should make it no less noteworthy when a former Director of National Intelligence validates it.
Prior to taking the nation’s top post in intelligence, Ratcliffe served as a Republican Congressman from Texas. Rep. Ratcliffe sat on the intelligence oversight committee, where he routinely interacted with intelligence agencies he’d later oversee. Contrasting these two perspectives, Ratcliffe exposed how much the intelligence agencies shield information from Congressional oversight.
“Congress has an oversight role over the intelligence community,” Ratcliffe said. “It wasn’t until I became the Director of National Intelligence and walked in and said ‘show me the intelligence that we have that says there’s Russian collusion, show me the intelligence that says that there’s support that [Covid] was a natural development from zoonotic transmission.’ The fact is the intelligence didn’t show that. As an elected official for the American people with oversight, I wasn’t getting the truth. I literally had to become the Director of National Intelligence to get the truth…”
Regarding Section 702, Ratcliffe noted that while “it does make America safer when used appropriately,” the policy needs firm guardrails to prevent abuse. “The problem is what we have seen, particularly in the Obama administration and now carrying forward into the Biden administration, and it occurred even during the Trump administration through these embedded partisans … was to turn that important tool inward on American citizens and even members of Congress.”
But Ratcliffe doesn’t think guardrails are enough. Regarding agency culture, Ratcliffe said, “I’m hesitant to now just say it’s a few bad apples, because it’s been a problem for so long that, if you talk about it that way, people think it’s a small problem. And it’s not. It’s become a cultural problem.”
Beginning with the Obama Administration, partisans have been embedded “at the highest mid-and-senior level management within these institutions…” With respect to solutions, Ratcliffe said “it’s going to require those major structural reforms…”
Whatever your political leanings, such statements from a former Director of National Intelligence should be deeply worrying. PPSA is pleased former Director Ratcliffe is calling for serious reforms to Section 702. As Ratcliffe says, both Democrats and Republicans have contributed to the sorry state of the intelligence community, and it is up to concerned Americans to right the ship.