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Career CIA Analyst Ned Price Quits Rather Than Serve Trump Administration


This next story is about a man who joined the CIA in 2006 thinking he would work there forever. Instead, eight days ago, Ned Price drove out to CIA headquarters for the last time to sign his resignation letter. In The Washington Post, Price explained his decision this way. Quote, "I reluctantly concluded that I cannot in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional." So why not? Here's what Price told our colleague Mary Louise Kelly.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Ned Price can tell you the precise moment he decided on a career at the CIA. He'd just started college. He was two weeks into freshman year at Georgetown on September 11, 2001.

NED PRICE: I remember vividly watching the black smoke rise from the Pentagon and knowing at that moment that public service was for me.

KELLY: Fast-forward to today. Ned Price is 34. And it was another vivid image that led him to quit, the image of President Trump on his first full day in office giving a speech at Langley headquarters. Trump chose to speak in front of the CIA's wall of stars, stars that honor CIA officers who've died in the line of duty.

PRICE: And he stood there, and he bragged about the size of the crowds at his inauguration the previous day. And all I could think about as I watched him in disbelief was a mentor of mine who lost her life and whose star was obscured by our new commander in chief.

KELLY: That mentor was Jessica Matthews, chief of the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009, when a suicide bomber killed Matthews and six other CIA officers. Ned Price says what stood out about Matthews was her commitment to the mission.

PRICE: And then comparing that to what I heard and saw from the commander in chief in front of her star, it was a lot to take.

KELLY: His resignation comes after months when the agency and Trump have seemed on the verge of all-out war. Ned Price says for him, the final straw was the recent re-organization of the National Security Council, where he was assigned to work these last three years.

PRICE: The choice I faced was in some ways a simple one. Do I return to the CIA and write reports and analysis that would go to the White House and could well just gather dust? Or do I fulfill the charge that I signed up for in 2005 and serve the American people in another way?

KELLY: Now, this prompts the question, after Price's public exit, might others follow suit? CIA spokesman Dean Boyd tells NPR there has not been a spike in departures. A former senior CIA official tells us people are watching and waiting, giving new CIA Director Mike Pompeo a chance. Pompeo has been keeping out of the fray, though he did respond to a recent Wall Street Journal story with a statement, noting it is the CIA's mission to provide the president with the best intelligence possible. The former CIA official says he worries Trump's inner circle may interpret Ned Price's action as evidence the CIA is out to get the president, a point we put to Price.

There will be people listening to this who will say you are politicizing intelligence, that the CIA broadly and you personally have an axe to grind with President Trump. Do you?

PRICE: The only axe I have to grind with President Trump is the way he has treated the intelligence community. Look; I will not hide the fact that I fervently disagree with many of the policies this administration has pursued. But what led me to this decision was comparing them to Nazis, accusing them of leaking, doubting their work.

KELLY: Price says he's not sure what comes next, that he plans to stay in public service. Last week, the day after Price quit, the president once again accused the intelligence community of leaking. He tweeted, they're handing out classified information, quote, "like candy." Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington.

[Editor's note: After this story was broadcast, The Washington Post reported that Price contributed $5,000 to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Party in 2016. As we also reported, (http://www.npr.org/2017/02/23/516850237/disgusted-by-trump-a-cia-officer-quits-how-many-more-could-follow), "Price denies any partisan motivations for speaking out."] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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