For the first 15 months of his presidency, Donald Trump saw no need to appoint members to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a group of outside advisors who have historically served as watchdogs over the official intelligence community on behalf of the Chief Executive. It fit Trump's profile and his skepticism about the USIC that he felt no need to have more quasi-official advisors peering over his shoulder. And a year-and-a-half into the first term, the Trump Administration is still suffering from scores of vacancies in important posts in all the executive branch departments.
Now, lo and behold, some appointments have been made to PFIAB, and it don't look good. The only two names I have been able to locate as appointees to the PFIAB are: Steve Feinberg, who was named on May 11, 2018 as the PFIAB chairman, and Samantha Ravich was named more recently as the Board's vice chairman. To date, there are no indications there are any other members. Back in January, Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who founded PayPal and was one of the only Valley big wigs to back Trump for President, rejected the offer to head PFIAB. Thiel's data mining firm Palantir has extensive contracts with the USIC and he may have felt he'd be caught up in conflict of interest allegations. He has also expressed concerns to friends that the Trump Presidency may be headed for oblivion.
So who are the new PFIAB chair and vice chair? Steve Feinberg is a vulture fund magnate, whose Cerberus Capital Management has wrought havoc across the US economy. The firm, founded in 1992 and named after the mythical three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades, Apropos. After looting GMAC, the financial arm of General Motors, Feinberg bought up a number of arms manufacturers and defense contractors, including DynCorp. According to his bio on AllGov, Feinberg was trained by ex-Army snipers and set up his own private "military base" outside of Memphis, Tennessee.
Ever the hedger, Feinberg backed Jeb Bush for president, then switched to Donald Trump in the final months of the 2016 campaign, while also bankrolling Chuck Schumer in his Senate re-election campaign.
Samantha Ravich is pure neocon. She was a national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and was one of the biggest promoters of the "Saddam WMD" hoax, leading to the Iraq invasion of March 2003. She runs the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Transformative Cyber Innovation Lab, is listed on the FDD site as "principal investigator on FDD's Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare project" and Board Advisor on FDD's Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. She is an advisor to the Chertoff Group.
You can't get more neocon than Samantha Ravich.
Question: Has President Trump finally caved in to the neocon long march through the institutions? Is PFIAB another romper room for son-in-law and Netanyahu captive and love slave Jared Kushner? Will PFIAB actually have a role or simply be a window dressing that Trump ignores as he relies on a handful of cabinet and White House advisors and his rolodex of billionaire friends who he chats up most evenings from the East Wing?
Insights are welcome.