Pentagon officials said Saturday that leaders of the military’s intelligence services will begin meeting with members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team Monday, ending what some current and former officials said was an impasse that undermined the transfer of control.
Officials said that advisers to the incoming Biden administration are scheduled to meet with officials at the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other spy services at their headquarters.
The Defense Department and acting defense secretary Christopher Miller issued statements Saturday denying that the Pentagon had resisted giving the Biden team access to the agencies or information about their operations and budgets.
“The accusation by anonymous sources that [the Defense Department] has not been fulfilling its commitment” to the transition “is demonstrably false and patently insulting,” the department said.
The statements came one day after The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon had rejected or failed to approve transition meetings at key intelligence agencies this week, despite a Nov. 23 decision by the General Services Administration clearing the way for federal agencies to begin coordinating with the incoming administration.
By Friday, the Biden team had yet to have meaningful engagement with officials at the NSA and other Pentagon-run agencies, despite extensive interactions with officials at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, agencies that are independent of the Defense Department.
[Pentagon blocks visits to military spy agencies by Biden transition team]
Two senior defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, told reporters Saturday that the Pentagon had found about the Biden team’s request only last weekend, and cited procedural problems with how Biden representatives had submitted those requests.
“When the requests went through DOD they were granted, scheduled and are taking place next week,” one official said. “They were not denied. They were not refused. They were simply directed to follow the process that they had set up and agreed to in the first place.”
That claim is at odds with accounts from other current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the interactions. A spokesperson for the Biden transition team declined to comment on discussions with the Pentagon.
That group includes former officials who held top positions at agencies they sought to visit — among them retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, who previously served as director of DIA.
The problems in arranging visits to the Pentagon-run spy agencies added to the difficulties faced by the Biden transition, in part because of President Trump’s refusal to concede that he lost last month’s election.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a statement from the Defense Department to acting defense secretary Christopher Miller. The story has been corrected.
Source: The Washington Post