'Dementia' among US 'gerontocracy' threatens 'national security': Pentagon study

'Dementia' among US 'gerontocracy' threatens 'national security': Pentagon study
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 06: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks from the Senate Chambers at the U.S. Capitol on September 06, 2023 in Washington, DC. Following a series of health scares in front of reporters, the Capitol’s attending physician, Brian Monahan, said McConnell does not have a seizure disorder, did not experience a stroke and does not have a movement disorder such as Parkinson’s. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images).

A new study released by the "RAND Corporation's National Security Research Division in April 2023" warns that "dementia impacting US officials poses a threat to national security," reports The Intercept's Ken Klippenstein.

The findings, Klippenstein says, "came as several prominent US officials trusted with some of the nation's most highly classified intelligence experienced public lapses, stoking calls for resignations and debate about Washington's aging leadership."

United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentuky) "who had a second freezing episode last month, enjoys the most privileged access to classified information of anyone in Congress as a member of the so-called Gang of Eight congressional leadership," writes Klippenstein. "Ninety-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), whose decline has seen her confused about how to vote and experiencing memory lapses — forgetting conversations and not recalling a monthslong absence — was for years a member of the Gang of Eight and remains a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which she has served since 2001."

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RAND determined that "individuals who hold or held a security clearance and handled classified material could become a security threat if they develop dementia and unwittingly share government secrets," Klippenstein continues, citing the Pentagon-funded organization's research.

Klippenstein explains, "There does not appear to be any other publicly available research into dementia, an umbrella term for the loss of cognitive functioning, despite the fact that Americans are living longer than ever before and that the researchers were able to identify several cases in which senior intelligence officials died of Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder and the most common cause of dementia."

Per Klippenstein, RAND cautioned, "As people live longer and retire later, challenges associated with cognitive impairment in the workplace will need to be addressed. Our limited research suggests this concern is an emerging security blind spot."

Klippenstein adds that "as the authors of the RAND report note, there does not appear to be any vetting for age-related cognitive decline. In fact, the director of national intelligence's directive on continuous evaluation contains no mention of age or cognitive decline. While the study doesn't mention any US officials by name, its timing comes amid a simmering debate about gerontocracy: rule by the elderly. Following McConnell's first freezing episode, in July, Google searches for the term 'gerontocracy' spiked."

READ MORE: McConnell tried to quell health concerns with 'a private presentation' — but 'lingering questions' remain

View Klippenstein's complete analysis at this link.

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