NEW YORK, ACCRA, Sept. 9 – (UPI/GNA) –
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump faced criticism Thursday for his
comments at a candidate forum he was able to read the body language of career
intelligence officers briefing him on security threats that they were unhappy
with Obama administration anti-terrorism policies.
Trump made the comment at NBC’s
Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday, saying briefers imbued their displeasure
with President Barack Obama’s handling of terror threats through nonverbal
“What I did learn,” Trump said of
his classified intelligence briefing, “is that our leadership, Barack
Obama, did not follow … what our experts said to do … And I was very, very
surprised. I could tell — I’m pretty good with body language — I could tell
they were not happy.”
Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, speaking
to reporters in New York before departing for a campaign rally in North
Carolina, criticized Trump’s handling of the question.
“I think what he said was totally
inappropriate and undisciplined,” she said.
Former high-ranking intelligence officials
who are familiar with how such classified intelligence briefings are handled,
but who were not a part of Trump’s briefing, were also skeptical of the
Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA
and National Security Agency, who is on record opposing Trump, told NBC News
the officials who handle candidate briefings are career intelligence officers,
both military and civilian, trained carefully in what to say and how to say it.
Hayden said the officials are specifically trained not to allow body language
to betray their words.
Hayden was critical of Trump for
politicizing an intelligence briefing and said he could not recall another
instance of a presidential nominee from either party invoking the briefings in
a political context.
“A political candidate has used
professional intelligence officers briefing him in a totally non-political
setting as props to buttress an argument for his political campaign,”
Hayden said. “And his political point was actually imputed to them, not
even something they allegedly said. The `I can read body language’ line was
quite remarkable. … I am confident [National Intelligence Director James
Clapper] sent senior professionals to this meeting and so I am equally
confident that no such body language ever existed. It’s simply not what we
Michael Morell, the former acting director
of the CIA who was tasked with giving then-Gov. George W. Bush his classified
intelligence briefings during the 2000 campaign, said Trump’s comments reflect
a lack of understanding of the intelligence community. Morell said briefers are
trained never to offer advice or commentary on the topics and only stick to the
facts about terrorist threats.
“His comments show that he’s got no
understanding of how intelligence works. Intelligence officers do not make
policy recommendations. It’s not their job and anyone running for president
should know that,” said Morell, a Clinton supporter. “The people who
briefed him, I’m pretty sure were career analysts — senior [intelligence] professionals. There is no way that they would in any way signal displeasure
with the policies of the president.”
Trump’s claims were backed up Thursday by
one of his advisers who attended the briefing. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn,
who was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he also picked up on
briefers’ displeasure with Obama administration policies when they described
the administration’s response to threats being outlined in the briefing.
“They would say, the intelligence
professionals would say, as they should, they would say ‘those are policy
decisions,’ so Donald Trump in a very, very sophisticated way, was asking tough
questions. They would back off and say ‘those are policy decisions the
administration is making.'”