Pentagon denies access to Biden’s team.
The Trump administration has refused to allow members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to meet with officials at U.S. intelligence agencies that are controlled by the Pentagon, undermining prospects for a smooth transfer of power, current and former U.S. officials said.
The officials said the Biden team has not been able to engage with leaders at the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other military-run spy services with classified budgets and global espionage platforms.
The Defense Department rejected or did not approve requests from the Biden team this week, the officials said, despite a General Services Administration decision Nov. 23 clearing the way for federal agencies to meet with representatives of the incoming administration.
The delays came even as Biden advisers spent much of this week meeting with officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, intelligence agencies that are independent of the Defense Department.
But Pentagon officials said their agency was taking steps required to provide outside officials access.
Sue Gough, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said Friday that the Biden team “has not been denied any access.” After being asked by The Washington Post about the apparent standoff, Gough said the requested meetings could take place as early as next week.
By then, Biden advisers will have waited more than a month since the election to have meaningful contact with intelligence agencies that have multibillion-dollar budgets, satellite networks that ring the planet and vast surveillance authorities.
The delays have added to the unprecedented tensions surrounding the transition, fueled by a president who refuses to concede that he lost the election and spent much of his tenure accusing the nation’s spy agencies of disloyalty to him.
A Biden transition team spokesman declined to comment, as did NSA and DIA officials.
Current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said the delays have impaired the Biden team’s ability to get up to speed on espionage operations against Russia, China, Iran and other U.S. adversaries.
The inability to meet with the NSA was described as particularly worrisome. The agency is the largest U.S. intelligence service, and its eavesdropping capabilities have been a critical source of intelligence on threats as varied as weapons proliferation and foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Officials said that rejections relayed this week to the Biden team cited seemingly petty procedural barriers.