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U.S. Policy-Makers Must Do More to Protect Intelligence Analysis from Political Suppression

Hearing on Climate and National Security_House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence_2019_6_5

Rod Schoonover (INR), Peter Kiemel (ODNI) and Jeffrey Ringhausen (ONI) testify on climate and security before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, June 5, 2019

As reported by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Dr. Rod Schoonover, Senior Analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), former Director of Environment and Natural Resources at the National Intelligence Council, and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the security implications of climate change, has resigned voluntarily in the wake of unprecedented White House suppression of INR’s written intelligence analysis on climate and security, which was intended to be delivered by Dr. Schoonover to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on June 5, 2019.

When the Center for Climate and Security reports on the fact that the intelligence community has been raising awareness about the security risks of climate change since 2008, what we’re really talking about are the humble and dedicated public servants who do this objective analysis without any thought of reward or recognition. Only in extraordinary circumstances, such as a reckless attempt by officials in the White House to suppress intelligence and scientific analysis, might an intelligence analyst and scientist like Dr. Schoonover become known to the public, against his will.

The evidence-driven professional patriots in the intelligence community, and across the U.S. government, spend their careers serving the nation by identifying risks, and making sure the public is safer than they otherwise would be. Those who have found that their work and their warning signals are either being politicized, or suppressed, have had to make difficult choices about staying or leaving.

Dr. Schoonover joins a growing list of such public servants that feel compelled to decide that they cannot continue to serve in this Administration, and maintain their integrity. This is the result of a deeply unfortunate politicization of the work of fiercely apolitical and independent departments, agencies, bureaus and officials from across the US government. History will likely look back on this time and ask why we didn’t do more – including more to support our public servants, departments and agencies that did objective work to keep us secure.

In this context, Dr. Schoonover’s example should compel a bipartisan effort by our nation’s policy-makers to more fully protect our intelligence and national security agencies and analysts, as well as our science agencies and scientists, from such politicization and suppression. This should be a no-brainer for both Republicans and Democrats. After all, as recent history tells us, politicizing intelligence analysis is a deeply dangerous thing, with potentially catastrophic consequences, whether it relates to weapons of mass destruction or climate change.

Climate change is happening, our intelligence, defense and science agencies have been warning us about the security implications across at least five administrations, and there’s a closing window of opportunity for the United States to adequately prepared for and to reduce these risks. Through their clear-eyed objective analysis, people like Dr. Schoonover have made us more prepared. It’s critical that our political leaders understand that, and protect those analysts.

1 Comment

  1. David Adams says:

    Rod, thank you for your commitment to ensuring that the impacts of climate change on national security are fully studied and understood, despite the political heat that all federal agencies are feeling on this topic.
    Integrity matters, as you know, and you’ve certainly been a leader in this area. Godspeed.

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