Flynn broke rules he thought were stupid. He once told me about a period he spent assigned to a C.I.A. station in Iraq, when he would sometimes sneak out of the compound without the “insane” required approval from C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. He had technicians secretly install an Internet connection in his Pentagon office, even though it was forbidden. There was also the time he gave classified information to nato allies without approval, an incident which prompted an investigation, and a warning from superiors. During his stint as Mullen’s intelligence chief, Flynn would often write “This is bullshit!” in the margins of classified papers he was obliged to pass on to his boss, someone who saw these papers told me.
Flynn is a “do as as I say, not as I do” kind of guy. While he regularly broke the rules he disliked, as a Commander he likely punished junior soldiers for doing the very same things. There is no way junior officers or enlisted could ever get away with writing “this is bullshit” in the margins of documents passed on to him for review.
Finally, installing an unapproved, unaccredited internet connection in his office is just unbelievable. Likely his Information Assurance Manager (IAM) consulted against it, but was likely told something along the lines of, “shut-up and color”, as is often times what happens when senior leadership desires something against the rules. This is a huge problem within the US military – far too many people are more interested in promotion, and will not fight for whats right, especially when it involves a senior ranking offer like Flynn.
In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in charge of all military attachés and defense-intelligence collection around the world. He ran into serious trouble almost immediately. I’ve spoken with some two dozen former colleagues who were close to Flynn then, members of the D.I.A. and the military, and some who worked with him in civilian roles. They all like Flynn personally. But they described how he lurched from one priority to another and had trouble building a loyal team. “He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”
Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true, like when he asserted that three-quarters of all new cell phones were bought by Africans or, later, that Iran had killed more Americans than Al Qaeda. In private, his staff tried to dissuade him from repeating these lines.
Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.
This is not the type of temperament America needs for a National Security Advisor. When I think of really good Advisors, Condoleezza Rice comes to mind. While I may not have agreed with all of her assessments, she had the right temperament and frame of mind for the position – something I believe Flynn is missing.
I met Flynn once here in Tokyo, and just was the aura surrounding him both when he spoke to the audience, and afterwards when he was “networking” with attendees. While he appeared to speak confidently and intelligently about his topic, there was just something off-putting about the way he handled himself. The above perfectly characterizes Flynn in a nutshell.