I Was John Brennan

By

Leonard Zwelling

I know what it means to be shut out after having been on the inside.

There was a time when I was privy to many of the darkest secrets of the leadership of MD Anderson. There was a time when I was the keeper of those secrets in matters of research misconduct, conflict of interest, and misbehavior in the performance of clinical research. Then, I was no longer.

As I understand it, many of the leaders of critical US government agencies, including those involving national security, are allowed to keep their security clearance after their time of service to the country is over. Such was the case with former CIA Director John Brennan, a true American patriot as Admiral McRaven has noted in his courageous and supportive statement.

On August 15, Mr. Trump revoked Mr. Brennan’s privilege citing national security reasons. This is despite the fact that Mr. Brennan claims to have never used information he gained through his clearance on TV or to profit himself. The putative reason to grant these people this special access is for them to serve as consultants to current government servants should the need arise and their expertise be sought. That’s gone for Brennan. What this really is is a diversion by the Trump Administration to get Omarosa off the front page. It probably won’t work. Furthermore, keeping such people out of advising the current administration is probably dangerous.

When I was fired as the Research Integrity Officer (RIO), my successor, who was an acquaintance of long standing, was uninterested in meeting with me to make this a seamless transition. From what I can tell, there are cases of misconduct at MD Anderson that have been identified in the press that have not been acted upon by the current RIO, or which, despite overwhelming rumors about an integrity shortfall, were not deemed to have reached a level warranting severe discipline. Hmmm..interesting.

One of the real threats to any organization is the feeling that there is intrinsic unfairness within the organization. I felt it when I was a VP and I was taken to task in the local newspaper for something I did not do, but was trying to cover for my boss. Big mistake! I know many people thought that the administration of MD Anderson under Dr. DePinho was highly flawed with favoritism for the Friends of Ron DePinho (FORDs) and firing for many others. I believe those days are gone, but there are FORDs everywhere still. Are you sure they are not running off their own agendas under the radar screens of the current leadership?

Mr. Trump has also threatened others with the loss of their access to secure information. All those named appear to be critics of his administration. Let’s face it. He’s just getting even in his mind. That’s clearly how he plays.

The United States has fallen under the control of an autocratic egomaniacal narcissist who knows nothing of civility or good behavior. My guess is that we are going to be treated to a host of other Omarosa tapes in the days to come. Michael Avenati is still riding the Stormy Daniels case to notoriety and who knows what Michael Cohen knows or has on tape? It is likely that Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is headed to jail unless Trump pardons him. All in all, it appears that rather than drain the swamp, Mr. Trump has restocked, reloaded and refed the swamp.

As Mr. Mueller closes in, expect more lashing out by Agent Orange. He’s a wild animal being backed into a corner and he’s likely to fight with everything he’s got. This is just a first step.

Leonard Zwelling