Ex-CIA officer warns that Trump prioritizes 'celebrity' killings over 'the most important threats'

Donald Trump.
(Image credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images))

President Trump is easily drawn in by celebrity, even when it comes to fighting terrorism, writes recently retired CIA counterterrorist manager Douglas London in Just Security.

London writes that when it comes to intelligence, Trump's focus remains on "celebrity, headlines, and immediate gratification" as opposed to "the most important threats." London and his team reportedly struggled to get Trump to look beyond name recognition. Instead, the president targeted well-known figures like Osama Bin Laden's son, Hamza, even though he was young, inexperienced, lacked a strong following, and was not seriously considered a possible successor to Ayman al-Zawahiri's Al Qaeda leadership.

But despite intelligence pinpointing more dangerous figures, Trump was determined to go after Hamza bin Laden, and the U.S. was ultimately successful in doing so.

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Another major name that caught Trump's interest was Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq earlier this month. Unlike Hamza bin Laden, London didn't deny that Soleimani was a serious threat, but he argues Trump's desire to cause a stir and conduct the strike so overtly was detrimental to the U.S.'s broader strategic thinking and security. "Even with these dangers, Soleimani's very public removal was too great a headline to pass up for Trump, but there were other options," London writes. Read more at Just Security.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.