Why Trump’s CIA speech was simply inappropriate

President Trump complained about “unfair press” at the intel equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

While Trump’s speech would otherwise be perceived as just one of his typical rambling and patronizing talks that attempt to make a crowd believe what his administration is now referring to as “alternative facts,” it is the location of the speech that makes his nobody-treats-me-fairly speech utterly despicable.

Trump gave his talk in front of the Memorial Wall at the CIA. The wall has 117 stars etched in stone that represent employees of the CIA who died in the line of duty. It represents that danger that CIA operatives and other employees face on a daily basis.

The most appropriate way to describe it is the equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the intelligence community.

The wall is in the lobby of the main CIA building, and people pass it on a daily basis to remind them of the sacrifice of others. While there are some ceremonies held at the wall, they are rare and for esteemed purposes to honor the service of others.

{mosads}Contrary to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s statement, it is inconceivable that the lobby would be able to hold 400 employees plus the media and all of their equipment, as well as the White House staff and security detachment. The CIA has several auditoriums that can hold more people, if Trump actually wanted to address the CIA staff.


Instead, it is clear he wanted a photo op.

Trump’s actual speech was rambling, and while he spent a trivial amount of time acknowledging the service of the CIA employees, he never acknowledged the sacrifice the wall represented. Instead, he chose to try to convince a group of highly intelligent people that he didn’t say what he is on camera as saying. He talked about how unfairly the press treated him. He complained about underreporting of the inauguration attendance.

This is essentially the equivalent of lighting a cigarette off the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Let’s talk about what Trump didn’t: the people the stars on the Memorial Wall represent. Of the 117 stars representing CIA who died under various conditions, 16 of these people can still not be named, as publicly identifying them still would compromise intelligence operations to this day. This includes deaths dating back almost 40 years.

Many of these people died in accidents. Some died in the middle of terrorist attacks, such as the attack on Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, which killed Harold Brown, Elizabeth Hanson, Darren LaBonte, Jennifer Matthews, Dane Paresi, Scott Robinson and Jeremy Wise.

Many are retired special forces officers, including Marine Maj. Douglas Zembiec, the “Lion of Fallujah,” who was killed while trying to capture terrorist leaders in Iraq. Christopher Mueller and William “Chief” Carlson, a former Navy SEAL and former Green Beret respectively, were killed in an ambush while tracking terrorist leaders in Afghanistan.

If they were still in the military, they might have been considered for the Congressional Medal of Honor given how they gave their lives to save the lives of others.

Then there are the CIA officers who were imprisoned and tortured before dying or being assassinated. William Buckley was held by Hezbollah before being assassinated.

Tucker Gougelmann was trapped in South Vietnam after the fall of the country. He was captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese before dying.

Hugh Redmond was captured in China posing a businessman, and was held in a Chinese prison for 19 years before he died. I repeat for emphasis: 19 years.

And just to demonstrate the height of Trump’s hypocrisy, and how much he truly values the four Americans whose blood he made a campaign issue, two of the stars represent Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs who were killed in the Benghazi attack.

These are just a handful of heroes that the stars represent, the stars Trump rambled in front of.

It is morally reprehensible for Trump to stand in front of The Memorial Wall and complain that he isn’t being treated fairly by the press.

As Trump paid no homage to these heroes, I would recommend that you visit the Wikipedia page for the Memorial Wall and absorb the sacrifice and heroism demonstrated by these people. This is only a small representation of the sacrifice that CIA officers, and those of other intelligence agencies that Trump disparaged for months, go through on a daily basis.

Let’s hope the president doesn’t go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Ira Winkler is president of Secure Mentem, a security awareness company. He is one of the foremost experts in the human elements of cybersecurity and the author of several books, most recently “Advanced Persistent Security.” He has previously worked for the National Security Agency and served as president of the Internet Security Advisors Group, chief security strategist at HP Consulting and director of Technology of the National Computer Security Association. He has also served on the graduate and undergraduate faculties of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. He and his work have been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle and Forbes, among others. 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags agent Central Intelligence Agency CIA Donald Trump IC intelligence community memorial Memorial Wall operative STAR
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