Commentary: Biden Administration Abuses U.S. Intelligence Community to Undermine Netanyahu’s Leadership

President Joe Biden and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
by Fred Fleitz


Something reprehensible happened this week during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s annual worldwide threats report. In addition to discussing threats to our country from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and terrorist groups, the report questioned the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said large protests in Israel demanding his resignation could drive him from power.

This finding caused an unnamed senior Israeli official — believed to be Netanyahu — to allege that the Biden administration is trying to overthrow the Netanyahu government. The Israeli official’s response was reasonable in light of growing tensions between Biden and Netanyahu over the Israel-Hamas War and Netanyahu’s refusal to give in to the Biden administration’s pressure to end the war early because this conflict is deeply unpopular with many of Mr. Biden’s supporters.

Following up on the intelligence report’s language, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday called on Israel to hold new elections and said Netanyahu has “lost his way” and is an obstacle to peace.

Such public criticism by a top U.S. politician of the leader of a close ally is inappropriate. But it is unacceptable for the U.S. Intelligence Community to do this.

One has to ask why criticism of Netanyahu and the prospects of him remaining in power would be part of an unclassified intelligence report on worldwide threats to the U.S. Shouldn’t such a report be devoted to the analysis of nations and groups that threaten our country?

This was politicization of intelligence, pure and simple, and followed a long tradition of Democratic administrations using intelligence agencies as proxies to promote their policies. By asserting that U.S. intelligence is strictly nonpartisan, expect White House officials to claim these findings are authoritative and nonpolitical.

Unfortunately, it has been well established — especially during the Trump Administration — that U.S. intelligence agencies are far from nonpolitical. From distorting analysis to undermine the Trump administration, to leaking intelligence to hurt Trump campaign and administration officials, to fabricating a false narrative of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia — which included spying on Trump campaign officials, no sensible person in this country believes the myth that U.S. intelligence agencies are nonpolitical and above politics.

And let’s not forget the October 2020 letter by 51 former intelligence officers that falsely claimed the Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation — a letter that was cleared for publication by Intelligence Community officials.

This is not the first time that worldwide threat hearings have been politicized. For example, during a 2019 worldwide threat briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats questioned President Trump’s policies to counter the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs and suggested that they would fail, positions consistent with the foreign policy establishment and government careerists. President Trump didn’t appreciate his intelligence chiefs publicly criticizing his top national security initiatives. As a result, Trump canceled open worldwide threat briefings for the remainder of his presidency.

Given how closely the report’s criticism of Netanyahu tracks with Biden Administration policy, I believe this language wasn’t just reviewed by National Security Council officials; it was drafted by them. In effect, this was an attempt by the Biden White House to dress up their criticism of Netanyahu as an intelligence assessment.

This is not the first instance of tawdry treatment of Israel by the Biden Administration. Every time Biden officials try to smear and undermine this close friend of America, they fritter away what is left of their credibility. This is why global instability is rising as U.S. deterrence fades away.

The worldwide threat report’s criticism of Netanyahu comes at a time when the U.S. Intelligence Community is still suffering from an erosion of trust because of its inappropriate political activities during the Trump administration. The report’s Netanyahu language makes this worse by blurring the line between intelligence analysis and political commentary.

For America’s intelligence agencies to do the job they were created to do and be taken seriously by presidents and U.S. officials, they must strictly stay out of U.S. politics. Their continuing refusal to do so could lead to painful reforms starting in January 2025.

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Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst, and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.



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