Transcribe your podcast

America's intelligence agencies have transformed dramatically in recent years with an increased focus on what they call violent extremism. Their critics say, however, that the agencies are undergoing an alarming case of mission creep that threatens the rights of American citizens. In this episode, we talk with former CIA officer Michael Waller, whose new book offers a deep dive on the way the CIA and FBI went from Cold War heroes to deep state villains. I'm Daily Wire Editor and Chief, John Vickley. It's Sunday, May 12th, and this is an extra edition of Morning Wire. Joining us now is Michael Waller, former CIA officer and author of Big Intel: How the CIA and FBI Went from Cold War heroes to deep state villains. Mike, thanks for coming on.


You bet.


First, I wanted to ask you big picture about your book since its theme is our topic today. What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish with this book.


Well, the purpose of big intel began to document what happened. How did the CIA and the FBI become radicalized and abused their power under Obama and Trump and Biden? Well, in figuring that out, you realize this has a lot of ancient roots to it going back 100 years. So big intel focuses on how critical theory, cultural Marxism, penetrated the CIA and later the FBI from roughly around World War II. When our first intelligence service was created, the OSS during World War II, and then into the CIA afterwards, and much later, the FBI, and then how this whole group of, it's not just bad actors, but it's an ideological takeover of the FBI and CIA of professionals who no longer believe in the American founding and in our founding principles. Yet their job is to protect our constitutional principles, and here they are reinterpreting them on a that does not put American interests first.


Let's unpack that a little more. Can you give us some background on the US intelligence community before and after, particularly 9/11? How did the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence services change?


Before 9/11, the US intelligence community was pretty much in a state of malaise. They hadn't gotten over the collapse of the Soviet Union and didn't really have a real defined mission, or at least they couldn't figure one out. And there was no leadership under the Clinton administration for it because the world was supposed to be just fine. And then 9/11 hit. And even though there were indicators that there would be such an attack, the intelligence services didn't talk to one another to share that information, which would have allowed them to take action to prevent the 9/11 attack. Then everything jumped into high gear. Now this is under President George W Bush, and he centralized the security services and the whole intelligence community, built a new Department of Homeland Security, and this giant central apparatus like we've never had before and made some massive hires almost without regard to character or grounding in American founding principles or anything. And that created a whole change in the ethos of the American intelligence community from one that had been pretty much devoted to serving American founding principles to something that became what was then politically correct and what morphed into what we call now Woke.


Really a case of severe mission creep here. How did the Patriot Act, in particular, affect the intelligence agencies? How did it change the direction goals purpose of the FBI and CIA?


The Patriot Act changed a lot because before you had a robust set of laws that prevented the FBI and CIA and others from abusing their authority and abusing the rights of the public. What the Patriot Act did was it broadened the authorities so starkly and gave authorities to new entities that they were able to now work with their wonderful new authorities to go after what they were told were terrorists. Parts of the Patriot Act were so dangerous that even Congress and the Bush administration acknowledged at the time, they were for emergency only, and they would sunset after a few years. So they would self-destruct after a few years, and Congress would have to purposely renew those parts of the law periodically to continue to grant those authorities under a state of emergency. The problem is every Congress and every President since then renewed those Patriot Act laws, the most dangerous elements of them. What that did was it gave really unlimited authority in many areas or the feeling of unlimited authority to go even further, to the FBI, to the Treasury Department, to the CIA, and elsewhere to find, quote, terrorists. Then once the jihadis were much less of a threat, they started looking for more enemies.


What were some of those newly the enacted powers that keep getting reinstated, as you said, under the Patriot Act?


They range for everything from, they say, Section 702 of the FISA law, expansions of certain of those powers for domestic surveillance to enable our foreign intelligence community, which is supposed to only spy on foreigners and targets abroad, to spy on American citizens and use that intelligence information as evidence to start cases and investigations of American citizens. Others rage all the way across the board. So when you go to your bank, your bank is reporting on you to the federal government under the Patriot Act, under the suspicion that you, as an American citizen, are a potential terrorist funder or money launderer Sure.


A very unsettling prospect there. Now, you mentioned the fact that under Bush, we had a centralization of a lot of power, and then Obama came to office and took that to the next phase. Can you explain what happened under Obama with this new authority granted the FBI FBI and CIA?


Sure. Well, first, the FBI was set up to be, despite having a strong leader, a bottom-up organization. So the criminal cases, were not started from Washington headquarters. They were started from local field offices. The CIA and the FBI were supposed to be always separate from one another, and they could talk to each other, but there was no commingling that caused a danger. And then we had 17 or 18 different intelligence services that Bush put together under one leadership called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Well, that's okay, perhaps when you're fighting terrorism in an emergency, but when it becomes permanent, it creates a danger. So any president with the temptation to abuse central authority or any president coming in with a revolution military ideological agenda will use that to manipulate the intelligence services politically from the top, which is just what Obama did.


We've seen the term violent extremists used a lot by the FBI in particular. Can you explain how that concept stems from this mission creep and how it's been used by these intelligence agencies?


Right. So the first target after 9/11 was terrorists. But then over time, people within the counterterrorism community, once there were fewer and fewer terrorists to worry about, they coined the term violent extremism, and the term counterterrorism was changed to CVE or countering Violence Extremism. So that could be anybody. So if you view speech as violent and somebody's point of view is as as extreme, then they are a violent extremist, and so are their friends, and so are their social networks. So it becomes necessary, in the view of these proponents, to spy on them through their social media, to see who they're talking to, through their other forms of communication, who their associates are, their friends are, their family members are, and then to draw up networks of these, quote, violent extremists, and therefore counter them, using the counterterrorism laws that were designed to go after Osama bin Laden.


This me where the ideology component really comes into play because this definition is so fluid. What is extremist? What do you define as violent threat? A lot of times that's going to be seen through an ideological lens. How has that definition morphed under the various administrations.


You see terminology morph all the time to suit whoever's in power, and you see the alphabet soup of, say, the diversity coalition. It starts out as equity or inclusion or diversity, and then DEI, and then they keep adding on. In that in that regard. It's the same thing with violent extremism. It's whatever you want it to be. The term terrorism, for example, is defined by statute. You can't redefine terrorism as a bureaucrat, but you can redefine violent extremism. So if somebody is watching certain social media, following certain news organizations that, say, object to FBI abuses, object to government power grabs, those people then become suspected violent extremists who need to be monitored. And this is even going a step further now, where you have a move by the Securities and Exchange Commission to monitor real-time the stock transactions of every single American and monitor who's investing into what real-time. And then right this month, the Federal Communications Commission is going to decide to weaponize their power to take laws that Congress never provided and to force Internet service providers to be able to censor content according to what the government dictates to them in the name of national security.


Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, actually. How are they going to do that? What's their rationale? What's their mechanism?


The rationale is being consumer friendly. It's all wrapped up in really nice friendly language. The rationale is diversity and equity, meaning certain communities are not well-served because they're not profitable for Internet service providers to build towers and build high-speed systems and so forth to serve those communities. So they're underserved. Therefore, it's racist to underserve those communities, and therefore, it's a civil rights crime. So if you, the Internet service provider, do not spend a lot of your money into these unprofitable areas, then you become guilty of federal crimes. And conversely, the government incentivizes companies to go into certain communities as well with the positive incentive of saying, you must change your offensive content being provided your servers and your fiberoptic lines to comport with diversity and equity and inclusion so that you're not going to be sending offensive content, meaning news, meaning Daily Wire, meaning podcasts, meaning emails. This can all be governed under these new FCC diktats that are coming up.


Truly chilling. You say these agencies have been radicalized over time. Is this about the administration or is this about the deep state, the entrenched bureaucracies? How have they been radicalized? What's caused it?


It's all of the above. Any government bureaucracy is generally going to be liberal anyway, but they were still liberals who, as biased as they were, they weren't out to wreck our Constitution. When you had the real the tolerant, woke element thrown in, whether it's new people, say, techies coming in with San Francisco values coming in from the bottom, or people fresh out of the Latin America and Islamic Studies departments at, say, Columbia University and coming into the systems. That's being radicalized from below. But you have a management system from the top that was radicalized. It actually began under Bush, but it was deliberately accelerated under Obama for the purpose of fundamentally transforming America. Obama brought in a CIA director, John Brennan, who had been an unrepentant voter for the US Communist Party right before he enlisted into the CIA. He never drew that as a counterintelligence lesson. He never said, This was youthful indiscretion that I made. We all need to watch out for this. He treated it as how diverse the CIA is. In fact, he had briefed the whole Congressional Black Caucus on the CIA is now so diverse, they welcome in actual individuals who would support a Communist government into the CIA.


So what you have then from the bottom coming down and from the top being imposed is people who don't believe in our constitutional values, in our constitutional theory and founding principles principles, they view the Constitution as a living document that they can reinterpret any way they want to.


In your view, was there any progress under President Trump?


Trump really dropped the ball on this. He appointed Christopher Ray as FBI director, and Ray is part of the problem. Ray is just a weakling who's letting the militants inside the FBI bureaucracy push him around. It's, sorry to say it, but Trump was effectively Obama's third term when it came to CIA and FBI. Day.


Do you have a sense that he's going to approach things differently this time around if he gets back into office?


Yeah, I've talked to a lot of people close to him, and he has certainly learned his lesson on this. He had so much going on and so many other policy issues that he thought, you just put the right people in the right spots and things will change. He now knows that's different, and he is actively searching out for people to draw up the strategy and the action plans and the executive orders to get things done from day one.


The national spotlight on abuses of this Biden has really grown stronger. What have we seen under Biden in terms of misuse of the intelligence community?


You have a sense of impunity now within the FBI and the CIA, where they can do whatever they want as long as they do it against the right people, and they're not held accountable. For example, the revelation that the Richmond field office had been targeting traditional Latin-right Catholics as potential violent extremists. Then the FBI just brushed that off as, Oh, it was just one field office and one analyst and let it go. When in fact, yes, it was the analyst at the field office, but her analysis was signed off by the special agent in charge. That means the top agent running that field office and spread throughout the entire FBI, meaning it had approval throughout the entire FBI. But when you see FBI Director Ray and other officials go to Congress, they're openly contentuous of the questions. They don't even answer the questions. They lie even on the stand, and then they don't follow for written answers, so they're not being held accountable. As long as Congress isn't holding them accountable, and the Justice Department won't hold it accountable, then the FBI acts as a state within a state.


Now, we've seen in the Republican-led house, the weaponization of the government subcommittee formed. They've done a lot of digging, they've released a lot of information, a lot of documents. Do you feel there's some progress made in terms of Congressional attention on this issue?


Some people have tried their best, but when it was packaged, that weaponization subcommittee was packaged as a church committee like the one Senator Frank Church had in the mid 1970s to go after the CIA. The house raised a lot of expectations with a church committee because there you had over 130 investigators and litigators and counsel. You had a cooperative CIA director, Bill Kolby, who was revealing these secrets. He went up to testify to Congress about 50 times. You don't have any of that now. The weaponization subcommittee has, what, four, five, six staff and a lot to do and a completely uncooperative bureaucracy. Now, of course, you see in the House where it looks like the Democrats are running so much of the House now that the FBI, which Weaponization Committee and House Judiciary Committee was going to have its headquarters, its new headquarters budget, cut to zero, and its actual annual operating budget severely cut between 15 and 30 %. And instead, the House just caved at the very end and then gave the FBI what it wanted.


Final question. Are there solutions here? Is there any hope of some real changes? Is a Trump presidency part of that answer?


If Trump is allowed to take office, if he's elected, yes, there is great opportunity, but he has to move fast. He will need a Senate on his side to block a lot of bad things and to confirm the right people to take the positions that he needs to take. But he really needs to divide the FBI into different organizations. You can't just say abolish the FBI because we need a lot of those functions. But a lot A lot of those functions are unnecessary. A lot of those functions should be handed down to the states. Then the FBI should also, special agents should return to their original role as investigators, which means unarmed investigators. Then when they go into the states, it would be the state authorities and the county sheriffs who would be the armed component of any federal investigation. That way, you would make sure that the FBI is not abusing its power at the local level.


Is there a need to decentralize in terms of the overlap or the connections between the CIA the FBI?


Yeah, they need to be completely severed in all things except for national security investigations, which means that it's not aimed at American public, but it's aimed at real terrorists, real spies. That's going to take a lot of sorting out to do. We also need to apply the criminal sanctions that already exist against government officials who abuse their power. Those statuts are not being enforced, and we need to enforce them. And a lot of people in the FBI and CIA need to go to jail.


Well, Mike, thank you so much for coming on.




That was Michael Waller, Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy and author of Big Intel. This has been an extra edition of Morning Wire.