Ronald Marks is an “oldschool” spook with some good advice from the spy community. His message is meant for the latest crop of legislative staffers. That’s because a whole herd of them are about to climb Capitol Hill. It also gives some unique insight to all of us, on the inner workings of what goes on “behind the green door” of classified national intelligence.
Advice from an old pro
Ronald Marks is well qualified to give spooky advice about the spy world to incoming staffers. He describes himself as an “aging member of the ‘Deep Swamp,’” who “witnessed every election in D.C. up close and personal since 1990.”
He was “personally involved with legislators and staff” in his role as a CIA Senate Liaison, Hill staffer and former lobbyist. Currently, he’s an “aging professor lecturing about it all.” At George Mason University. He published a lesson online for all of us.
America is faced with what could become a major overhaul of federal government, once the Republican House investigations get underway. The burning question on everyone’s mind is why can’t the FBI stop committing crimes long enough to solve some? Democrats are obviously in panic mode over the issues.
1. Thread: THE TWITTER FILES
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 2, 2022
Especially since the executive branch’s total control of social media has just been exposed by free speech absolutist Elon Musk, with his Twitter Files dump. There is about to be a bunch of bullsh*t flying around fast and Marks wants to give the incoming conservative staffers needed advice, to prepare for how the political game is played.
The battle of wits waged between legislative branch staffers and executive branch spooks in a whole alphabet of covert intelligence agencies is a lot like the old Looney Tunes Coyote and Sheepdog cartoons. They’re the best of “frenemies.”
Our Founding Fathers set that tension up on purpose as a way to balance out the power. Spooks provide the data and Congress pays for it. That gives staffers, the “power of the purse.” Marks’ advice for newcomers is to “help your member decide how the tax money of the people gets spent.” Do they spend it digging for Russian dirt on Donald Trump or diving through the slime in Hunter Biden’s laptop? We know which way the current batch leans.
They aren’t ALWAYS lying
Another piece of advice that Marks is hot to hand out is that the intelligence community isn’t ALWAYS “lying or hiding information” from Congress. Think Richard Grenell or John Ratcliffe, for instance. Not everyone who works for Charles Grassley or Jim Jordan wants to leap out from behind a bush to yell “gotcha,” either.
Everyone on both sides knows going in to any intelligence briefing that the spooks are all out to “promote, protect, and project the interests of their agency/department.” As in the case of Timothy Thibault, “sometimes cover over the flaws.” He covered over Tony Bobulinski and disappeared everything in Hunter Biden’s covered up laptop, too. Thibault quietly retired and is probably now “vacationing” in some country which frowns on extradition.
Your job as a staffer, Mark’s advice continues, “is to be the discerning consumer and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.” Newcomers are often daunted by the intelligence community as “a place shrouded in the mystery of secrecy and, frankly, the legend of too many spy movies.” Real life doesn’t have the right script writers.
In this universe, there is a lot of material out there, but “sometimes not as much as you might think.” Also just because it’s classified doesn’t mean it’s true. Some sources are better than others but bottom line, “there is rarely a whole story told in one bite. More likely the collection has to be assembled in bits and pieces to create a whole story.”
His most important piece of advice is “take nothing at face value.” Also the best analysts in the world get the real situation wrong pretty often. “It’s prediction, not crystal ball reading. They get it right. They get it wrong. Don’t be surprised by either. The world is a complex place, no matter how much information you collect, how classified it is, or time spent analyzing it.”
The reports are written “far more carefully than you’ll ever read it.” They take weeks and months making sure every word is proper. The staffer gets “five minutes in a cold, harshly lit secure facility to read it — and less than a minute to translate it for your boss.“