Click the links for the full posts. Followed by a brief comment from me:
“This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, “Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!”
…The issue isn’t our military involvement, which has been constant for decades now, but the everything else that we suck at: our diplomatic, economic and social engagement with the region. Criticizing our military in the region is perfectly fine, but most of that criticism (from me included) revolves around how poorly we do the everything else–not the mil stuff per se.”
“Since the reforms of recent years, the CIA no longer runs this “show.” It is among the many functions that CIA has lost to other parts of the government. The NIC now works for John Negroponte as the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It appears that Negroponte is trying to let the NIC function as it should, in splendid isolation from the policy confirmation needs of whatever administration might currently be in power. It must be difficult. The neocons believe that they “know better” than the intelligence people, and that estimates should be written on the basis of the needs of an administration for propaganda support of policy. Negroponte evidently resisted that demand in this NIE. He has tried to publicly distance himself somewhat from the judgments of this NIE, but he let it be published. Congratulations Mr. Negroponte. Congratulations.”
“First, I helped put together one or two NIEs and other NIC documents in my day but even without my insights it should strike everyone as fairly obvious that this assessment likely says a whole lot more than just this heavily flogged and hyped data point. If I had to guess I’d say you’re talking at least 15 pages of material that runs across a wide spectrum of terrorism-related issues, so either that’s 15 pages of variations on the “Iraq is the source of all our woes” theme or there is a certain element at work that would like you to believe that is true by leaving out what the other 14 pages says. I’ll let you guess which is more likely.”
“I do wish that people would stop chiding us, the Administration, the President for not seizing on alternatives that we didn’t have. “
” The claim in the NY report would echo judgments of some of our Contributing Experts, notably Evan Kohlmann as early in May 2005, that the Iraq war has been an “engine of international terrorism.” But it’s also true the NIEs have certainly included some major blunders. The 1997 NIE, the last one before the 9/11 attacks on global terrorism, mentioned bin Laden in only three sentences as a “terrorist financier” and didn’t reference al-Qaeda at all. And of course, it was the October 2002 NIE which was a significant factor in the decision to use force against Iraq by famously asserting, “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.”
“I was sitting in on a small conference with the intelligence community last year and a prominent member of the IC railed against the phrase ‘connecting the dots’. He was frustrated with that analogy because the child’s game the name comes from and intentionally implies has labelled dots to serialize actions. The IC, he argued, does not know what the end product will look like and isn’t given instructions on which dots to connect. Instead, it must infer and figure it out. In the case of the insurgency in Iraq and global extremism, how could one not see the next step from each prior? Action–> Reaction”
I would like to repeat and perhaps, extend, a remark I made on this topic over at The Small Wars Council yesterday.
The great, seldom reported story, here is the unrelenting bureaucratic guerilla warfare being waged by senior career management in the IC, especially at the CIA, against the policies of the Bush administration. It’s like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, including the Nixon administration.
This is not to say that the Bush administration appointees have always been right and their internal critics wrong or that the unwillingness of political appointees to entertain dissenting views didn’t help fuel the scenario in the first place. That is a foolish and blind position to take. But from where I sit as an outsider to the process it would appear that the adversarial dynamic has long since taken on a life of its own – a dangerous one for the USG.
Nor are we getting an accurate view with this story [ Austin Bay points to this rebuttal by the White House; also by Negroponte ]. The contents onf the NIE were selectively leaked and, as with any NIE, some of the most interesting data points never made it into the document; either because the confidence level was not sufficiently high to merit inclusion or they were too controversial for the “consensus” approach. What was left on the cutting room floor ? And why ?
Furthermore, who composes this determined cadre of highly positioned, apparently untouchable, IC leakers and what are their motives ? To whom are they connected in the political world, if at all ?
While it will be potentially amusing and enlightening to see the degree to which the IC insiders and the NYT were conducting an IO against the administration by the selective leaking and spinning of a classified document*, this is probably not the most responsible course of action that the President could take. Publication of so recent a vintage NIE gives too much meta-analytical insight into the current thinking of the IC. Not that I won’t read it myself but if I can draw the appropriate conclusions so can others. Sometimes, being in power means sucking up a few the low blows on the merits and then retaliating politically elsewhere, in a more legitimate context, at a later date.
* be interesting to know if any emails whizzed between the NYT reporters and editors working on the NIE story prior to publication and various apparatchiks in the DNC, Capitol Hill and K Street.