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These chats suggest pro-insurrectionist rot has infiltrated America's intelligence community

These men and women swear to defend the Constitution. But some may be cheering Jan. 6.
Photo illustration: Red text message bubbles over an image of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
A powerful cocktail of conspiracy theories and race-based hate has revealed itself among members of some of the U.S. intelligence community.MSNBC / Getty Images

The disturbing depth to which MAGA-related lunacy has penetrated the institutions responsible for our protection continues to reveal itself. It was already known that at least 13 percent of defendants arrested in the Jan. 6 investigation have current or former law enforcement or military affiliation. Now we’re learning that the powerful cocktail of conspiracy theories and race-based hate has revealed itself among members of some of the U.S. intelligence community’s 18 agencies.

At least 13 percent of defendants arrested in the January 6 investigation have current or former law enforcement or military affiliation.

In a March 11 report in SpyTalk by veteran national security reporter Jeff Stein, he writes about internal intelligence community (IC) chat rooms associated with the classified Intelink system. According to that report, “by late in the third year of the Trump administration the system was afire with incendiary hate-filled commentary, especially on ‘eChirp,’ the intelligence community’s clone of Twitter.”

Stein quotes Dan Gilmore, “a 30-year veteran of Navy and NSA cryptologic systems,” who had written a post on his own website called “Why I Left the Intelligence Community.” Gilmore, an administrator of the eChirp application called the app “a dumpster fire" of hate speech directed at minorities, women, gay people, transgender people and Muslims.

“Hate speech was running rampant on our applications,” Gilmore wrote on his site. “I’m not being hyperbolic. Racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamaphobic, and misogynistic speech was being posted in many of our applications.

“On top of that, there were many employees at CIA, DIA, NSA, and other IC agencies that openly stated that the January 6th terrorist attack on our Capitol was justified.”

In a separate March 26 SpyTalk post Stein says CIA veterans told him that “partisan political talk in the office was rare until Trump took office and appointed former Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo as its director.” According to Stein, those CIA veterans told him that “Pro-Trump sentiment arose mostly in the action arms of the counterterrorism programs staffed largely by military veterans.”

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees say they are aware of the allegations and are reviewing them. But it shouldn’t take congressional interest for the leaders of those intelligence agencies to start extinguishing the flames of their community dumpster fire. Here are three actions IC leaders — starting with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines — must take to police their own and preserve credibility.

First, the director should instruct each intelligence community agency head to cease sponsorship of chat rooms that permit anything other than work-related professional intelligence collaboration. Spies, spy-catchers and intelligence analysts don’t need a classified environment to exchange recipes, racism or radicalization.

The intelligence community agencies must make reviews of social media and chat room postings a regular part of background investigations.

Second, the directors of each intelligence community agency should initiate reviews of internal chat room postings to identify their employees and contractors who espouse violence or support attempts to forcefully overturn a valid election. If such dialogue would result in discipline or admonishment if it had happened in the employee break room, then it has no place in an employee chat room, and it should result in the same consequences.

Third, the intelligence community employees and contractors who have engaged in this un-American and potentially subversive conduct may hail from different three-letter agencies, but they all have something in common: They need security clearances to do their jobs. The intelligence community agencies must make reviews of social media and chat room postings a regular part of background investigations for employment, and for the periodic reinvestigations required for continuance of a security clearance. The Department of Defense has already included potential punishment for certain social media postings as part of its battle against extremism. It’s time our intelligence agencies did the same. And if they won’t, the intelligence community inspector general should start asking them why.

Intelligence community employees all have something else in common. They take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. They can’t preserve, protect and defend the Constitution if they become the domestic enemies referred to in their oath. We need to make it harder for them to become a threat while they’re supposed to be working against the threats. We deserve to hear from the intelligence community leadership on this issue now. Our national security depends on it.