Steven Hall spent more than 30 years in the CIA, the bulk of them running and managing intelligence operations in Eurasia and Latin America. He has experience both in counterintelligence and counterterrorism and has overseen intelligence operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union. When he retired from the CIA in 2015, he did so as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service, a small cadre of officers who are the senior-most leaders of the CIA’s Clandestine Service.
Hall is also a Cipher Brief expert who was reading the president’s tweets about his Intelligence leaders after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats delivered the IC’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last month. A clearly upset President took to Twitter after media reports highlighted differences between the IC’s assessment of threats, and recent statements made by the President. Without missing a beat, the President called his IC leaders ‘naïve’, and suggested they go ‘back to school’.
Two days later, the President followed a meeting with his top Intel team with another tweet, saying he had 'Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media - and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc.'
Some intelligence insiders told The Cipher Brief that they believed the media had successfully baited the President, and that, as a result, he responded hastily and angrily to what he saw being reported. Others distinguished between reality and politics when it comes to the threats, saying that the real threats aren't always reflected in the President's political posturing.
The Cipher Brief spoke with Hall specifically about how he believes the President's insults are negatively impacting national security, and about what matters and what doesn’t, in an era where the Intelligence Community often finds itself in the crosshairs.