In February 2009 I cavalierly gave ambassador Negroponte a grade of "Incomplete" for failing to establish the prerogatives of the office and outgoing DNI Mike McConnell a "Gentleman's B" for his performance as the second Director of National Intelligence based on the following accomplishments:
As the Congress and the DC dignitary debate if health care is affordable given the nation's first trillion dollar annual debit incursion, I am wondering where the money would come from should the United States need to defend its national interests against another Al Qaeda attack or worse. The President has already frozen budgetary growth for all discretionary spending not related to national security, but can the Defense Department and Intelligence Community remain fenced for much longer given the increasing national debt ----- the size of which already is a national security concern in its own right?
Since our last interaction, the holidays have proved to be harshly unkind to the Intelligence Community (IC). First there was they "the systemic failure" to warn with regard to the bungled attempt on Christmas Day by Al Qaeda-radicalized 24 year old Nigerian Umar Abdulmutallab (a.k.a. Passenger 19A) to blow up FLT 253 over Detroit. Then six days later there was the tragically successful suicide bombing attack on the CIA's operating base in Khost Afghanistan by Jordanian triple agent Dr. Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi killing eight. As if these two events were not enough, on 04 January with the nation waiting for the President to be briefed by his national security principals on what was known about FLT 253, the U.S. Army's senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Major General Tim Flynn, published through a public sector think tank Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan where he called out military intelligence for not being relevant to the counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan.
My apologies to those few of you who expected to see a MAZ-INT blog entry for November, however, the AFCEA Webpage does not seemed to be overwhelmed with inquiries about the missing blog, the IC seems to be functioning despite missing a month of my advice, and unemployment has started to drop since my last blog. Perhaps I should take more months off!
If your October is like mine you have way more things going on than you have time to deal with. Over the course of the next three weeks there's AFCEA's Fall Intelligence Symposium, NIP's Annual Meeting, GEOINT, and the annual DCGS Conference. Through in a day job, Oracle Open World in San Francisco and the Major League Baseball playoffs and there is a compelling case for any MazzInt Ruminations should be abbreviated for October if not suspended! They are certainly late in getting posted.
August was a revealing month, at least for me, in terms of understanding where intelligence fits in the grand scheme of the Obama Administration. Even before the economic crisis, it was clear from his campaign that President Obama did not intend to focus on intelligence and would depend on John Brennan to manage the IC and tell him what he needed to know when he needed to know it.
With the President and the Congress consumed with the scope and details of national health care legislation, there has been little interest in summertime Washington for intelligence issues. The Professor Gates/Police Sergeant Crowley "beer summit" even made the vitriolic exchange between Speaker Polesi and CIA Director Panetta seem tired. As CIA Director Panetta was recommending "moving on!" in a Sunday Washington Post Op-Ed, news was breaking that he had cancelled a program for assassinating terrorist leaders that Vice President Cheney had directed not be briefed to the Congressional leadership. Thank goodness for Congressional recesses!
As fascinated (OK obsessed) as I am with the lack of trust between the Congress and the IC with its attendant impact on national security, its time to move on! I thought DNI Denny Blair's first public address on June 8th at an INSA dinner would provide more than enough material for this month edition, but having sat through it in person I can't bare to review a "dare to be bland" overview of the IC by its CEO. Had this speech been a Wall Street Analyst guidance call I believe there would have been an immediate rush to "short IC" based on lack of strategic direction and tired fundamentals.
North Korea is testing nuclear weapons, fighting is intensifying in Pakistan's Swat Valley, and the White House 60 Cyber Review has been released, but the political brawl over whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi was or was not mislead by the CIA regarding the use of waterboarding seems to be confirming the point I was making in these pages last month about the lack of trust between the Intelligence Community (IC) and Congress.
In mid April I thought the just released ODNI Inspector General's assessment from last November of how the DNI/ODNI is failing to deliver on expectations five years on would be more than controversial enough for us to discuss. Then came the events of Maersk Alabama, the bravery of her Captain Richard Phillips and skills of the Navy Seals that forced the nation to finally take notice of the piracy problem off of the Horn of Africa --- certainly there are some intelligence issues here worth exploring. As I am writing though the media is consumed by the release of Justice Department memos on "enhanced interrogation" techniques authorized by Bush Administration against high value Al Qaida captives and whether the memos should have been released, if the US engaged in torture, and what if any legal action should be taken against those involved. Making this story even more compelling is whether senior Congressional Democrats gave tacit approval to these enhanced interrogation techniques by not objecting to them at the time when they where briefed about them by the Bush Administration. The problem with the so called "torture memos" is what am I going to tell you that you have not read already? Not much is what I suspect.