A week after expressing his concerns about the capacity of U.S. intelligence agencies to counter terrorism, Russell Travers, former Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), was removed from his post—the latest administration official to be sidelined by the Trump administration.
Travers had gone to a meeting with Richard Grenell, acting Director of National Intelligence, for a discussion on the future of the NCTC.
He was surprised when Grenell fired him, Reuters reported.
So were two of Congress’ top lawmakers on intelligence, who have rushed to his corner with a defense of whistleblowing that indirectly criticizes inside White House politicking.
“The whistleblower is an essential channel for ensuring evidence of wrongdoing rising to the level of urgent concern,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) respectively acting chair and vice-chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a joint statement.
In a mostly classified briefing, Travers had warned that America’s intelligence agencies risked slipping back into “pre-9/11 habits.”
Travers also expressed concerns over increased budget pressure, gaps in intelligence that could leave America vulnerable, and NCTC underfunded technology.
“How do we establish a government that works on behalf of the American people and deals with issues that, frankly, are not very sexy?” he said.
Travers’s statements regarding gaps in American intelligence are concerning given the rising tensions between the United States and China.
“I would predict that there will be a clash [between the U.S. and China] within the next three to six months,” said Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, the top Republican on the House of Foreign Affairs subcommittee for Asia, in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
Former NCTC director Nick Rasmussen agreed with Travers’s sense of urgency and supported his concerns: “[Travers] is absolutely right to point out that it is past time for a reckoning of resource allocation across the Intelligence Community when it comes to terrorism and counterterrorism.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, called Travers “yet another victim… at the hands of an administration insistent on punishing whistleblowers and other public servants who sound the alarm.”
Sarah Rose George is a TCR reporting intern