The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was removed yesterday in what insiders fear is a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals at an organization set up after 9/11 to protect the nation from further attacks.
Russell Travers, a highly regarded intelligence professional with more than 40 years of government service, told colleagues he was fired by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, said the former officials, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
Travers, who took up the acting position last August, had been resistant to pressure to make personnel cuts at the center, which has been undergoing a review of its mission and effectiveness.
Also removed at the NCTC was Travers’s acting deputy, Peter Hall, who is returning to the National Security Agency, the former officials said.
The surprise move came hours after President Trump announced his intent to nominate Pentagon Special Operations and counterterrorism official Christopher Miller to head the center. A deputy director will be named to serve as acting director pending Miller’s confirmation, said a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Grenell disputed that Travers was fired, but said he was offered the “opportunity” to have a “new role” or “retire.”
Clearly he was pressured out of his assignment.
The removals have shocked Travers’s colleagues, who are upset at the treatment of someone so well-regarded, according to the two former officials.
One of the former officials said that Travers walked into a meeting yesterday expecting to brief Grenell on the center when he was told that he was out.
He had no intention or desire to retire, they said.
In the meeting, Grenell told Travers he would like to know “how long it would take you to leave,” according to one of the former officials, who was briefed on the meeting.
Travers replied that he would need “a few weeks” to complete the administrative work, the official recounted.
“They said, ‘Great, we’ll afford you the opportunity to retire,’ ” the former official said.
In a farewell note to the workforce Wednesday, Travers noted Trump’s plan to bring on Miller, lauded Miller’s experience and said the acting DNI wanted to “assemble a new team.”
He sought to boost morale, noting the center’s accomplishments.
“We have recently been the subject of an external evaluation by a group of national security luminaries that strongly validated the need for the center,” he wrote. “And most importantly, we have you — the finest workforce with whom I have ever been associated. I have no doubt that the center is postured for success going forward.”
Trump then named Grenell, a staunch defender of the former reality TV host, to serve as the acting DNI until a permanent director has been confirmed.Attribution:The Washington Post