The latest effort by War, Inc. to prolong the war in Afghanistan consists of a “leak” of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan. The Washington Post dutifully stepped up to transcribe the official line, bleating breathlessly in its headline “Afghanistan gains will be lost quickly after drawdown, U.S. intelligence estimate warns”. Since drawing down our troops closes the spigot feeding war profiteers, we just can’t consider leaving:
A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report.
And if we leave faster, Afghanistan will go to hell faster, according to our Intelligence Oracles:
The report predicts that Afghanistan would likely descend into chaos quickly if Washington and Kabul don’t sign a security pact that would keep an international military contingent there beyond 2014 — a precondition for the delivery of billions of dollars in aid that the United States and its allies have pledged to spend in Afghanistan over the coming years.
As I have long maintained, however, virtually all claims of “progress” in Afghanistan come more from a process of gaming the numbers than any real calming of the country. Consider this post from June of 2012. Note from the figure in that post that violence in Afghanistan varies greatly with the season, but that the peak level of violence increased steadily from 2006 through 2011. I intended to go back to this same source to see how the subsequent years look on the graph, but it appears that these particular reports are no longer published for the general public.
The UN does still release reports on its collection of data regarding protection of civilians in Afghanistan. Noting that the current claim regarding the “success” of the surge in Afghanistan is that it managed to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum and give the government more of an edge”, consider the latest data on civilian deaths that the UN ascribes to anti-government elements in Afghanistan:
Perhaps, if we consider only deaths, an argument can be made that the rate of increase of deaths has been slowed, but there certainly is no basis for claiming that there is a trend to fewer deaths.
Lurking beneath this dire warning in the NIE is a tacit admission that the $50 billion that the US has spent to train and arm Afghan security forces has been a total waste, since the ANSF will not be able to maintain security once we are gone.
The bottom line is that the entire US war machinery has failed in every single facet of the effort in Afghanistan. Our presence has accomplished nothing but death, destruction and the wasting of nearly a trillion dollars. Our leaving will see further death and destruction. Staying longer would make no difference other than continuing to enrich War, Inc. There are no good options left, but getting our troops out at least stops the hemorrhaging of money.
One of Obama’s key proposals in tonight’s State of the Union will be yet another effort to shore up the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructure.
As a threshold matter, I find it a remarkable coinkydink that the WaPo just reported the leaked findings of an NIE saying that the Chinese (and Israelis and Russians and the French, but the Chinese are bigger and badder, apparently) continue to rob us blind via cybertheft. I look forward to learning whether this — unlike the convenient drone rule book leaks supporting John Brennan’s confirmation — get reported as sanctioned leaks, as required under the Intelligence Authorization.
And speaking of John Brennan, he’s the Homeland Security Czar. A big part of his job is keeping us safe from precisely these kinds of attacks. So why didn’t he get a single question about why he should be CIA Director considering he has been such an abject failure keeping us safe from cyberattacks? (He was asked a question about CIA’s role in cybersecurity, but not asked to explain why he has been such a failure in his current role.)
Now, frankly, I don’t know that that is much John Brennan’s fault. Folks will say that the problem is — as it has been since Richard Clarke first started fearmongering on this front — that corporations won’t participate willingly and no one is going to make them.
But the proposal — which you’ll see if you tune in — doesn’t change that. It’s still voluntary.
And here’s the thing that all the cyberexperts in the world seem to be missing. Not only are the private owners of our critical infrastructure unwilling to fix their cyberdefenses. They’re not willing to keep their brick and mortar infrastructure up to date either. See, for example, PG&E or ConEd‘s recent records, for example.
Look, if these companies refuse to keep up their physical infrastructure and their cyber infrastructure, there’s probably an underlying reason motivating their negligence that no amount of immunity or winks or risk-free information sharing on the cyber side is going to fix. Moreover, if they are physically fundamentally unsafe, no amount of tinkering with their cybersecurity is going to make them safe. They’ll be vulnerable to a terrorist attack and be vulnerable to not entirely random failures and explosions.
You need to solve the underlying problem if you want to keep our critical infrastructure safe. And yet another EO,
particularly one limited to cybersecurity and not affect brick and mortar integrity, will not do that.
Updated: Reading Obama’s longer proposal, it does aim to increase the “resiliency” of our physical infrastructure too. So it is not limited to cyber. That said, the underlying problem remains. Private companies aren’t spending the money to invest in this, whether it is physical resilience (or bare minimum functionality) or cyberdefense.
I have long argued that the way to address the big problems our government is currently all-but-ignoring, not least jobs and climate change, is to talk about how our current policies put us at significant national security risk. If nothing else, by demonstrating how these are national security issues, it’ll provide a way to reverse fear-monger against the Republicans trying to gut our country for profit.
Which is why I’m happy to learn that the intelligence community is assessing whether the decline in manufacturing in the US represents a national security threat.
The U.S. intelligence community will prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the implications of the continuing decline in U.S. manufacturing capacity, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) citing recent news reports.
Our growing reliance on imports and lack of industrial infrastructure has become a national security concern,” said Rep. Schakowsky. She spoke at a March 16 news conference (at 28:10) in opposition to the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.The Forbes report referenced by Rep. Schakowsky was “Intelligence Community Fears U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” by Loren Thompson, February 14. The decision to prepare an intelligence estimate was first reported by Richard McCormack in “Intelligence Director Will Look at National Security Implications of U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” Manufacturing & Technology News, February 3.
Note that Schakowsky is a member of (and until January, was a Subcommittee Chair on) the House Intelligence Committee. It’s possible her own requests generated this concern.
But the concern is real. As our manufacturing moves to places like China and (significantly for this context), Korea, we’ve lost certain capabilities. Indeed, when Bush slapped tariffs on steel in 2002, a number of tool and die factories moved to Korea where they could still access cheap steel while still supplying the US market. And in recent years, the loss of highly-skilled manufacturing process capabilities has meant we face challenges in sourcing some of our key military toys.
While it shouldn’t be the primary reason to invest in manufacturing in this country, ultimately if we keep losing it we’re going to have problems sustaining our military machine.
Most of the folks running DC may not much care that our middle class has disappeared along with our manufacturing base. But convince them that our declining manufacturing base might imperil their cherished military might, and they might finally wake up.
I’m interested in Michael Hirsh’s report that Bush trashed the key judgments of the NIE while in Israel for two reasons. First, WTF was the SAO who leaked the story trying to accomplish?
That NIE, made public Dec. 3, embarrassed the administration by concluding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003, which seemed to undermine years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush and other senior officials about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don’t reflect his own views" about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity. [my emphasis]
The same article quotes Stephen Hadley, one of a limited number of Senior Administration Officials accompanying Bush on the trip, as saying that Bush said only that Iran remains a threat, regardless of what the NIE says.
Bush’s national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told reporters in Jerusalem that Bush had only said to Olmert privately what he’s already said publicly, which is that he believes Iran remains "a threat" no matter what the NIE says.
Was Hadley’s on the record quote a continuation of the earlier anonymous comment to Hirsh or, more likely, a response to the earlier leak, an alternate view of what the anonymous SAO was spinning to Hirsh? That is, did some SAO spin Bush’s fairly innocuous comment (at least as Hadley interpreted it) as a repudiation of the NIE, contrary to the official stance of the Administration? And if so, to what end? To support Dick Cheney’s campaign for war (Stephen Hadley is often considered a Cheney operative, though he was stuck playing the interlocutor between Cheney and the CIA leading up to the Plame leak)?
But I’m also struck by the timing of this quote. If I were one of the analysts who worked on this NIE–or even, say, one of the senior intelligence officers who threatened to go public with the key judgments of the NIE–I’d be pretty peeved to know that Bush was bad-mouthing my handiwork to allies, particularly after the apparent confrontation to get it declassified in the first place. Continue reading
At least that’s what I take from this quote:
In the e-mail version of the Politico Playbook this morning, Mike Allen quotes “a senior administration official” lamenting that “they should have burned the NIE and kept the tapes.” The official was referring to the administration’s debacles with the intelligence community since the new NIE on Iran was released and the CIA revealed that it had destroyed videotaped interrogations.
In the month of December, CIA 2, Dick Cheney 0.
Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer have an article that answers most of our questions on the genesis of the NIE. What they don’t say–though their article shows–is that Bush was much more cognizant of the development of the NIE than he has let on. Not only did he keep the US people in the dark about the new intelligence on Iraq, he also kept our European allies in the dark (and, I wonder, perhaps even Condi?), even while he was demanding they impose more sanctions.
The article starts with the news that not just Dick this time, but Bush himself, has been meeting with analysts on Iran directly.
They call them "deep dives," special briefings for President Bush to meet with not just his advisers but also the analysts who study Iran in the bowels of the intelligence world. Starting last year, aides arranged a series of sessions for Bush to "get his hands dirty," in the White House vernacular for digging into intelligence to understand what is known and not known.
Those deep dives led directly to the discovery of the new Iran intell. As with Dick Cheney, when he claimed he never got an answer to his questions about uranium in Niger, Bush has been telling us no one informed him of the answer to questions he, himself, posed. Uh huh. Continue reading
At 7:39 on Wednesday evening, Pool Boy and his friends posted this interview with Dick Cheney.
Also on Wednesday evening–though at an unknown time–the NYT informed the CIA it would reveal the CIA had destroyed tapes of interrogations of high value Al Qaeda detainees.
The New York Times informed the C.I.A. on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish an article in Friday’s newspaper about the destruction of the tapes. Today, the C.I.A. director, General Michael V. Hayden, wrote a letter to the agency workforce explaining the matter.
Given this exchange from Dick in his Pool Boy interview…
Cheney said the [NIE] was released because “there was a general belief that we all shared that it was important to put it out — that it was not likely to stay classified for long, anyway,” he said.
Cheney said that “especially in light of what happened with respect to Iraq and the NIE on weapons of destruction,” officials wanted to be “upfront with what we knew.”
He said he agreed that was “the right call.” So he thought it might leak? “Everything leaks,” he said with a chuckle.
…I wonder whether Dick had already learned that the news of the destruction of the terror tapes had leaked?
The NYT provides more details about the intelligence collected in mid-2007 that confirmed the judgment that Iran suspended its nukes program back in 2003. In addition to the intercepted communications, there were also notes from Iran’s military leaders.
Most interesting–at least to those who obsess about the timing of all this–is that the intelligence analysts had to present the raw intelligence to Cheney.
In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
“It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.
Good to see the Vice President hasn’t lost his affection for twisting arms.
Here’s how this looks in our big timeline: Continue reading