Why Call It Intelligence?

July 18, 2013

“It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently” – Dostoyevsky

The American Intelligence Community (IC) is starting to resemble a large cast of delinquents, a Faustian opera where bad behavior seeks constant rationalization and confirmation. And like most bad behavior, the real remedy might not be that complicated. Restraint is always an obvious solution; unfortunately, an obvious path seldom prescribed or taken by any branch of government these days, especially Intelligence agencies.

Ironically, the 9/11 attack in New York, the worst warning failure since Pearl Harbor, produced a knee-jerk windfall for American Intelligence. Like public school systems, failure became a kind of fiscal stimulus. Subsequently, government agencies that could imbed “terrorism” in their mission statements were showered with tax dollars.

The logic behind such largess is bigness, the assumption that more is the key to effectiveness: more personnel, more toys, more facilities, and more deficit spending. Unfortunately, these days, big Intelligence looks more like the problem than the solution. And the performance deficit did not begin with Benghazi or Boston.

It took ten years for the American IC to find bin Laden. Several of his thugs still serve today as propaganda martyrs at ‘ Gitmo,’ yet to be convicted of anything. Nonetheless, all are hosted at American taxpayer expense, indefinitely, with three hots, a cot, and a Koran.
The Israeli Mosad took out most of Black September, Palestinians responsible for the Munich massacre (1972), immediately after the atrocity. The Russian FSB took less than two years to find and kill Shamil Baysev, Chechen jihadist responsible for the children’s massacre at Beslan (2004). Rendition is seldom a measure of effectiveness for successful anti-terror doctrine.

The Twin Towers failure in New York was not a one off either. The slide may have begun with Vietnam era “systems analysis” where CIA and DOD cooked statistics to suggest there was “a light at the end of the tunnel.” And then there was the surprise loss of Shia Iran (1979) to theocracy four years after the fall of Saigon. Or maybe it was the ‘surprise’ advent of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Pakistan

The Islam bomb was a watershed. Surely the Shia in Iran could not let that Sunni advantage stand. Alas, American intelligence fudged the call on the first bomb in Pakistan, and is still too timid to make a call on the coming Muslim bomb in Iran.

The problem with truth is that it often makes action imperative. Alter truth and the need to act can always be deferred.
Or maybe it was the “shock and awe” of not finding any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after being assured by national intelligence estimates (see George Tenant and Colin Powell at the UN, 2003) that Saddam Hussein was so armed. Were truths told; Iraq 1 was about oil and Iraq 2 was about regime change.

And let’s be candid, since the invasion of Kuwait (1990), regime change has been the leitmotif of American and European foreign policy. This sponsored change strategy is underwritten by an assertion that imperial Sunni Islam is a protected religion, not theocratic fascism or puerile imperial politics.

Regime change policies have two pillars. First, Islam is said to be “one of the world’s great religions,” thus entitled to moral equivalence and related immunities. A second axiom claims that the Sunni brand of irredentism is the “right side of history.” See almost any public statement on these matters by John Brennan, James Clapper, or Barack Hussein Obama.

Unfortunately, support to any Muslim faction in their millennial feuds is a little like, as Churchill might have said; “feeding crocodiles with the hope of being eaten last.” Negotiating with the Taliban is just the first course in the coming South Asia buffet.

The Arab, or Sunni, tilts in Intelligence and policy are expensive. Playing defense is always more costly – and often mistaken for appeasement. And surrender, no matter the rhetoric, always has a political cost. Such things are often managed with mendacity.
All intelligence operatives lie; it’s part of their job. Heretofore, the mendacity was reserved for the enemy. But now, if Jim Clapper can be believed, we need to lie to the folks who vote and pay the bills too. Peace (talks) with the Taliban is the big lie du jour. The only thing left to negotiate with south Asia Islamists is the terms of allied surrender and retreat.

The Stuxnet and Prism disclosures are just symptoms of decay too, signs that American Intelligence has lost its original moorings. All agencies begin with good ideas until the institution becomes the enemy of the original ideal. Big Intelligence is an example of such excess and decay.

And the failure of the IC to provide strategic warning is not the worst of it. American Intelligence is frontloaded; omnivorous collection undone by inadequate processing and tainted analysis.

Analysis is both the product and weakest link in the Intelligence chain. The most expensive technical collection systems on earth feed the worst amateur estimates. And this corrupt product sets the stage for all manner of national security folly.

Just two examples suffice; John Brennan and Susan Rice. Personalities, we might point out, promoted recently for being agenda merchants, accomplished liars, and not very modest about either skill. Loyalty, not achievement or professional integrity, seems to be the only bullet on Obama staff resumes.

Brennan is clearly the architect of the modern a priori paradigm, an analytic model which provides the “great religion” narrative for administration policy. Brennan is the Intelligence Svengali if you will. Decoupling Islamism from Islam at the White House is his great career achievement, even if has been a little like arguing that cheese and goats are unrelated.

The Brennan ad vericundium analysis of Islam and Islamism is now fixed policy. And with Brennan at CIA, any event or evidence that contradicts the “great religion” assertion is likely to be ignored, minimized, or spun. There may be 16 Intelligence agencies in the IC, but CIA is still the big dog in the National Intelligence Estimates pound.

The Susan Rice saga provides the lurid details of how these things are done, a sordid tale of how corrupt and malleable Intelligence analysis has become.

The immediate IC assessment of the Benghazi slaughter was revised 12 times after passing through some unknown number of layers of bureaucratic review in the IC, at the NSC, and over at the State Department. In the process, facts and conclusions about terror and Islamism were altered. All of which makes the collection of evidence, and any objective analysis of those facts, irrelevant.

After the Benghazi talking point memo was ‘scrubbed,’ it was released to Ms. Rice, then UN ambassador, as blessed Intelligence. Rice was subsequently launched at the Sunday chat shows to sell a blatant lie, a sanitized edition of yet another national humiliation.
The Sunni tilt or bias colors recent reports and analysis of Egypt too. The IC and CIA didn’t predict another military coup in Cairo because such speculation would contradict the “Arab Spring” charade.

If ground truth is bureaucratic revision or political spin, why call it an assessment or analysis, no less Intelligence? If national security analysis can be suborned by political hacks, the IC might be just another cabal of pricey beltway whores.

James Clapper is one of the most impressive chaps working in Washington. He began his military career as an enlisted Marine and rose to become an Air Force general. Eventually, he became the Director of National Intelligence. His technical achievements in Intelligence collection are impressive. Prism, speaks for itself. Somewhere along the way, however, Clapper also sold his soul.

American national security has devolved into a very expensive game of liar’s poker where the voting public needs to be kept in the dark too. Jim Clapper admits as much in Congressional testimony. In doing so, General Clapper tells us that truth and administration politics are mutually exclusive. Deception in the name of national security might be justified, but lying in the name of venal politics makes American Intelligence a very frivolous extravagance.  Alas, democracy usually dies behind closed doors.

G. Murphy Donovan is a former USAF Intelligence officer.

Tags: John Brennan, Susan Rice, James Clapper, the Intelligence Community, Director of National Intelligence, Central intelligence agency, Barak Obama, Colin Powell, National Intelligence Estimates, national security, Islam, Islamism, Prism, Stuxnet.

Tag Team Terror

July 5, 2013

Grape vines are, if nothing else, efficient. Many heard about Herb Meyer’s critique of Barak Hussein Obama before they had the chance to read the essay in The American Thinker. And if you read between Meyer’s lines, apparently, with apologies to Lincoln, you can fool all, or a majority, of the people most of the time. Meyer calls the Obama regime a domestic coup; the triumph of mediocrity and mendacity. Herb doesn’t give the president any labels, but he does charge Obama acolytes with using fascist tactics.

It seems that the Goebbels playbook is working. Obama fronts the game so well that he dodges any personal responsibility for various lies and administration blunders now in the news. And all of this is OK with the Twitter twits. The buck no longer stops at the top: it stops with the assistant to the deputy assistant’s assistant down in the bowels of some obscure bureaucracy. Or maybe amateur video auteurs are at fault. The late US Secretary of State nailed the Obama anthem after the Benghazi fiasco. “What does it matter?” was the refrain from Mrs. Bill Clinton.

All presidents have a bumpy ride in their second term and Obama is no exception. But the scope and variety of recent malpractice is astounding. Yet few folks seem to care: the Press remains incurious and wired generation is busy with their Facebook status, Tweets, YouTube, and almost any Kardashian gluetus maximus.

Herb Meyer is one of those old school Intelligence gurus widely known for his integrity and analytic acumen. When chaps like Meyer come out of the clandestine and caveated shadows, someone should listen. Still, the Meyer domestic analysis is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Foreign policy malpractice registers on a global scale. At some point in the first term, Obama went, at least in the minds of most voters, from dithering amateur to decisive statesman.

How did Obama survive a first term that had all the earmarks of a Jimmy Carter rerun? The Democrats lost the House in the mid-term elections and the subsequent health care bill was probably the most partisan, complicated, expensive, and divisive domestic bill ever passed by the US Congress. There were more than a few moments when it seemed Marion Barry might have been better suited to the Oval Office than Obama.

Political resurrection is a hat trick where the timing is often as important as any complicated matrix of explanations. The timing of the Osama Bin Laden kill was surely a defining moment for the Obama reelection. The stage had been set for that iconic Situation Room photo opportunity early in the president’s first term. From the beginning, John Brennan had been riding point for a legion of spin masters that included the NSC, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the Intelligence Community. David Petraeus and James Clapper incorporated the best, some say worst, of those worlds.

From the outset, the Obama (nee Brennan) doctrine, sought to narrowly define the national security threat as a single man representing and a single small organization, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Never mind that by 2008, government and historical data bases were bursting with dozens of Islamist groups and an alarming tally of atrocities that had nothing to do with al Qaeda – and everything to do with a global tsunami of anti-Semitism and Muslim terror.

But spin is as spin does. While minimizing the terror threat, the administration was also taking sides in the various intra-mural Arab blood baths. Indeed, in Tunisia, Egypt, the emirates, Libya, Afghanistan, and now Syria; the Brennan doctrine sides with the Sunni brand of irredentism. In this, the American Left may still be smarting from, or motivated by, the defection (1979) of the Persian Shia during the Carter years.

It’s difficult to fathom the blowback from such strategic schizophrenia. If history and numbers matter, Sunni theologians (Wahhabis and Salifists) and Arab jihadists kill more infidels and apostates than all other known terror groups combined. Yet, we are consistently assured by the Brennan doctrine that collaborating with Sunni factions is the “right side of history.”

Actually, American foreign policy is drifting to the wrong side, with a tail wind from the European Left. Theocracy is too often the default setting for failed Muslim autocracies. The corrupt seculars of the Ummah are in the crosshairs today. Yet, pandering will not take European and the American social democrats off the imperial religious radar tomorrow. Think of the Twin Towers, Benghazi, and the Boston Marathon as auguries. We are constantly assured that Islam is one of “great” religions while all evidence from global mayhem and misogyny argues otherwise.

Indeed, the principal contributions of political Islam to modern global culture are sexual repression, terror, religious war, and the renaissance of theocracy. How does a culture that rejects, in part or whole; art, science, music, wine, women, and dogs get a place at any table? How does a culture that tolerates honor killings, genital mutilation, misogyny, polygamy, indentured servitude, and child marriage merit the adjective “great” in any context?

The Brennan doctrine coupled with the Manichean assumptions of Islamic dogma would have you believe that we infidels and apostates are “unclean” while Islam is a superior variety of social hygiene. Alas, it might take more than ritual bath to wash such doublespeak from the double think.

When Herb Meyer indicts team Obama for using fascist tactics, it’s hard not to notice parallels with the Muslim Right – and harder still to understand that unholy, and sub-rosa, alliance. But then again, the West has not confronted religious fascism since the Inquisition. And political “science” (see Fukuyama) assures us that secular fascism is history. So we are left with strange bedfellows; an iconic Muslim martyr who, in death by assassination, saves an iconic American socialist.

Still, let’s give credit where due: the Brennan doctrine managed to confine the Muslim threat, in the public mind, to al Qaeda; and at the same time let the Taliban off the hook. Mullah Omar, a semi-literate Sunni cleric that makes Shia ayatollahs look like girls scouts, is still at large. The Leader of the Taliban is never featured in administration “stabilization” spin. And now the Taliban is poised to retake Kabul – again. Karachi, and a ready-made cache of nuclear weapons, is in reach next door.

The Taliban just opened an office in Qatar. John Kerry has granted the worst among a bad lot a seat at the negotiating table. The Taliban shadow government again calls itself the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” In this we hear the echo of John Brennan suggesting that Jerusalem should be called al Quds. Karzai might now be hung and castrated on the same traffic light that hosted his predecessor, Najibullah . Giving the Taliban any official status anywhere is a little like juggling with nitroglycerine.

And “peace” talks with the Taliban in Dohar have to be a kind of black comedy. Arabia and Egypt are the financiers and philosophers of the most virulent Islamism. Any deal made in sharia compliant Arabia will be at the expense of secular Karachi and secular Kabul – and all women and children in South Asia.

Alas, the West has nothing to offer the Taliban; Islamists are already winning. John Kerry might be looking for some flaccid assurance that the Taliban will stop hosting al Qaeda. Done deal! Pashtuns don’t like foreigners anyway, especially rich, decadent Arabs.
The bin Laden kill was not just the tipping point for the Obama rebrand; the special forces raid also remade Barak Hussein into a Teflon don, the kind of kind of immunized phoenix that makes places like Chicago and Illinois famous. No surprise then that the victory laps have already begun. And here again, John Brennan and James Clapper are riding point.

Administration strategy seems to assume that the voting public is too inert, lazy, ignorant, and corrupt to care much about foreign policy. In this, team Obama may have their finger on the American pulse.

Islamist and American policy objectives are now joined. Both sides are motivated by “regime change.” Ultimately, the allied ‘transition’ will leave Muslim Asia to the tender mercies of the worst jihad on the planet.

Kick Karzai to the curb! Break out the burkas! The world’s first theocratic narco-state is a making its debut. Heroin and hijabs are sure to be an unstoppable combination. South Asia is already flying green and black flags.
Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin should be flying white flags.
The author is a former Intelligence director who served under the incumbent DNI when James Clapper was the chief of USAF Intelligence. This essay previously appeared in American Thinker under the title; “Obama’s Terror Gambit”.