Pivot, Damnit!

Remember how during Chuck Hagel’s confirmation I kept insisting that Hagel actually had an intelligence oversight role at the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board that might be pertinent to the confirmation battle?

Turns out PIAB wasn’t just scrounging intelligence for their own contracting interests, as often happens with PIAB and its predecessor PFIAB.

A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flash points because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said.

Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.), the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict.

And while the WaPo focuses on the way this report might have influenced John Brennan — who repeatedly said he’d assess the “allocation of mission” at CIA — I’m just as interested in how the report influenced James Clapper, who recently testified we face a more diverse set of threats than ever before.

This year, in both content and organization, this statement illustrates how quickly and radically the world—and our threat environment—are changing. This environment is demanding reevaluations of the way we do business, expanding our analytic envelope, and altering the vocabulary of intelligence. Threats are more diverse, interconnected, and viral than at any time in history.

If so, I find it interesting that rather than focusing on China, Clapper focused on cyber and — to an unremarked degree — food insecurity (AKA climate change). That is, the report seems to say we need to refocus on China, but Clapper seems to be focusing on cyber instead (which is sort of a focus on China, as will food insecurity be).

One more point. The WaPo suggests that the report said we’re wasting too much energy on drones, and rehashes today’s drone-to-DOD announcement, including this predictable tidbit.

The White House also is weighing whether to give the Defense Department more control over the drone campaign and reduce the CIA’s role, although officials cautioned that the change could take years and probably would not involve CIA drone operations in Pakistan. [my emphasis]

But it doesn’t consider what it means that one of the guys who chaired this report is now in charge of the agency that is reportedly getting all the drones.

First Obama’s Moral Rectitude Drone Assassination Czar, after setting up a Drone Rule Book, will spin off CIA’s drone program (except for Pakistan, and maybe not for another few years, and, well, maybe he’s got his fingers crossed a little bit, covertly) to DOD. Meanwhile, it turns out the guy getting that drone program, former PIAB co-Chair and now Secretary of Defense, thinks we need fewer drones and more real intelligence.

Funny how that works out.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    What the hell is going on in Langley, among other places? They’re just waking up to the threat of climate change now? Is there too much corporate, or fundie, influence at the CIA?

  2. lefty665 says:

    Hard as it’s been to be hopeful about O, is it possible he really is pivoting in the second term? Hagel looks like he is ready to reel in our military excesses, and he is no toady to Bibi. Much as I think Brennan belongs in jail, who better to pull CIA back to a reasonable role than one of their own? But, foxes running hen houses have their own perils. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/cia-gus-hunt-big-data_n_2917842.html?1363812749&utm_hp_ref=technology

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