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Growing Signs of Intelligence from Intelligence Community, or Just Another Turf War?

On Saturday, I wrote about a remarkable about-face taken by AP’s George Jahn in his reporting on Iran’s nuclear technology. Instead of following his usual routine of parroting leaks from US and Israeli sources meant to put Iranian intentions on nuclear technology in the worst possible light, Jahn instead wrote about how dependent the UN’s IAEA is on US intelligence to develop its evaluation of what is happening in Iran. Further, Jahn highlighted how US credibility on WMD intelligence was forever harmed by the overstated evaluations of Iraqi WMD leading up the invasion of Iraq in 2003. My post was written from the point of view that somehow Jahn had realized how badly he has been played by the intelligence community over the years and has now decided to question the reliability of the information being fed to him.

In comments on the post, Marcy considered whether the reversal could be framed in a different way:

Not to get all 11-dimensional, but any chance his sources asked him to leak this? That is, more stenography, but to justify reversing course?

In what could be yet another framing of what is happening in the intelligence community, Lara Jakes of AP worte an article published Monday in which she described what may be a movement within the intelligence community to promote what appears to be a healthy move toward reasoned debate among the various agencies within the intelligence community. Couching the opening of the article within the uncertainty over whether Osama bin Laden really was at the compound in Abbottabad where he was eventually killed, Jakes describes what appears to be a new movement toward debate:

As the world now knows well, President Barack Obama ultimately decided to launch a May 2011 raid on the Abbottabad compound that killed bin Laden. But the level of widespread skepticism that Cardillo shared with other top-level officials — which nearly scuttled the raid — reflected a sea change within the U.S. spy community, one that embraces debate to avoid “slam-dunk” intelligence in tough national security decisions.

Wow. Here we have a second AP reporter making a reference to the failed Iraq intelligence in 2003 only two days after Jahn’s introspective that cited the same failure. But, when she finally revisits the “slam-dunk” reference many paragraphs later, Jakes elides the most important factor that led to the intelligence failure. Here is her description: Read more

Nominated Defense Intelligence Chief Flynn Tied to Petraeus, McChrystal Night Raid Policy

On April 8, the US and Afghanistan finally signed an agreement handing over primary responsibility for night raids to Afghan forces. Although the Obama administration was hell-bent on inking that deal as part of the effort to have agreement with Afghanistan on overall status of forces thinking prior to the May NATO summit in Chicago, this agreement was a full month later than the agreement handing over responsibility for detention operations. Negotiations took so long because the US sees night raids as a central factor in success in both Iraq and Afghanistan while the Afghans are critically aware of the polarizing effect of night raids and how they fuel the insurgency.

As I pointed out in this post on an excerpt from Michael Hastings’ The Operators, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was a key intelligence staffer for Stanley McChrystal during the Camp NAMA torture and torture cover-up in early 2004. His biography notes that “Major General Flynn commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade from June 2002 to June 2004.”  Many of those who were victims of torture during that time in Iraq had been rounded up in night raids. Here is Michael Hirsh as quoted by Chris Suellentrop in the New York Times:

Reading “Fiasco,” Thomas Ricks’s devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men — actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency. For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.

The Hill adds this to Flynn’s background:

Flynn was also the top intelligence officer at International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan, working under former ISAF chiefs Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus.

Flynn often is credited with recognizing the poor state of intelligence on which the earliest night raids were conducted and working to improve the underlying intelligence. Despite claimed progress on this front, however, even as late as last year, a full 20% of night raids in Afghanistan were incorrectly targeted.

Flynn has now parlayed the success with which he is credited into a nomination to head the Defense Intelligence Agency: Read more

Syriana

Aurora Borealis (ionization of the upper atmosphere)(While I have been trying to find a resolution to MI’s DNC delegation in the last few days, the Admin put on their nukes in Syria dog and pony show. Partly because I didn’t have the time to do the Syria presentation justice, and partly because Professor Foland–whom you know from his great comments–has a lot more expertise on this area than I, I asked him to do a post assessing the presentation. Thanks for the really informative post, Prof! -ew)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of this Administration, it’s that if Dana Perino one day announces that the sky is blue, I will be forced to assume that an alien invasion has commenced with the total ionization of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

With that in mind, there’s an awful lot of cognitive dissonance for me in analyzing the evidence on the raid (apparently named "Operation Orchard" by the Israelis) on a Syrian desert site (apparently named "Al-Kibar"). Having started my own blog motivated by "the incredible amount of lies & hyperbole on the Iran situation of early 2006", I don’t find it easy to accept anything this Administration puts forth as evidence. I’m having all this difficulty because the pictures they showed last Thursday are clearly pictures of a nuclear reactor.

In what follows, I will lay out the history of what we’ve known about Operation Orchard and al-Kibar, what the latest photographs show, and what questions we should probably be asking.

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