The Media and Intelligence Community Are Closer than You Think

An examination of national security website The Cipher Brief helps show this.

Journalists regularly publish stories based on information provided to them from intelligence community leaders. And retired IC leaders regularly appear on TV and in print, with recent rhetoric from some of them sounding like media talking points. This has shocked many people. But it shouldn’t have. The media and IC have developed quite a close relationship. A brief examination of The Cipher Brief, a national security website, helps demonstrate this.

As a brief disclaimer, I’m not making any accusations regarding any one person’s beliefs or actions. This also means I am not accusing anyone (named here or not) of wrongdoing. The purpose of this post is to show that the media and IC leaders are close, and therefore when media publish stories based on detailed information from IC leaders, or when a former IC leader sounds like a media activist, no one should be surprised. End of disclaimer.

The Cipher Brief currently bills itself as “a digital, security-based conversation platform that connects the private sector with the world’s leading security experts” on its “About Page.” But earlier this year, the “About Page” also included who the staff of The Cipher Brief are. Suzanne Kelly is the CEO and publisher. And (as of March 2018), Kimberly Dozier is/was the executive editor. Walter Pincus was listed as the senior national security reporter. If you go back to a 2016 view of the “About Page,” you’ll see that Pam Benson was the managing editor for news.

What’s the relevancy of these four people? Kelly, Dozier, and Benson are all CNN vets. Pincus is a Washington Post vet.

Now look at the “Our Experts” page. It’s a who’s who of former intelligence and defense leaders. Two of the people on the top line are particularly notable because they regularly appear in the news lately: Michael Hayden and James Clapper.

So you have many veteran intelligence and defense leaders now working for an organization founded and/or run by CNN and other media veterans. I don’t know when any of said people first met one another. But it’s reasonable to believe that some of the relationships between the journalists and IC/defense leaders formed (directly or indirectly) while the IC/defense leaders were still actively serving. Again, I’m not suggesting any wrongdoing; I’m simply noting that there is a close relationship between media and IC leaders.

Another great way to see how tight the media and IC leadership are is to go to the website of the Aspen Security Forum (which just held its 2018 iteration earlier this month). You can poke around the website and find all sorts of interesting things. In particular, check out the “Speakers & Moderators” page. It lists a bunch of people who have attended throughout the years, journalists (progressive and conservative) and intelligence/defense leaders (former and current) alike. Suzanne Kelly and Kimberly Dozier are among the many media personalities who have attended.

So as journalists continue publishing stories based on information provided by current and former IC leaders, and as former IC leaders continue making statements that sound just like media statements, don’t be surprised.

After all, the media and intelligence community leaders have a close relationship.

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