Tuesday, August 27, 2007
- Joe Mazzafro

Several intelligence issues worthy of examination and discussion emerged in August. There’s the NIE on the “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability;” the Foreign Surveillance debate between the Congress and the DNI; and the Congressionally mandated release of CIA’s Inspector General’s 2005 report on the Agency’s performance pre 9-11. Each alone deserves more attention than the short and shallow treatment I can give them in a venue like this.I suppose it’s a reasonable view of reality, but I am wondering what the intelligence value is to policy makers of an NIE that seems to say that the military surge is working but Iraq is apparently incapable of taking advantage of the improving security situation to establish a unified government. Sounds like a case for leaving to me, but then the NIE concludes that chaos is the likely outcome of a precipitous departure of U.S. troops without some other security force filling the vacuum. I suppose the intelligence value of this NIE is that the IC sees little likelihood of the political situation changing regardless of how successful the surge is militarily. Ouch! Of course it was an NIE that assured the President and the Congress that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), so maybe they have this wrong too!Related to this NIE is the foolish (to me) debate about giving the enemy a date certain for our military withdrawal from Iraq. Right now the date is 20 January 2009 when the 44th President of the U.S. takes office, and everybody seems to know it except those responsible for U.S. Iraq policy and callers to the Shawn Hannity radio program. In my view, those favoring not giving Al Qaeda a date certain could best achieve that aim by a starting a military withdrawal from Iraq before the next presidential inauguration. The thought of eventually returning to a Northern/Southern Watch like military strategy for Iraq is just too ironic (and sad) considering the missed opportunity and cost in blood.Speaking of conflicted – that’s me when it comes to NSA surveillance to find terrorists on the one hand and protecting American citizens from unreasonable government intrusion on the other. Seemed like a no brainer when DNI Mike McConnell said the IC in general and NSA in particular needs legislative relief to intercept and exploit communications between two non-U.S. persons both overseas but whose communications pass through servers on American soil. If you have not seen DNI McConnell’s Q&A interview in the El Paso Times regarding the Foreign Surveillance/FISA debate its worth checking out at . According to the DNI, foreign surveillance is targeted and warrants are sought whenever U.S. persons are detected in intercepted conversations, but as I read through this interview I increasingly found myself empathizing with those concerned about NSA “data mining” and sweeping up the phone calls, emails and faxes of ordinary citizens. Didn’t J. Edgar Hoover keep telephone wire tapes of government officials to protect both himself and the FBI?! So it would seem a fair question is: what kind of oversight is needed to insure that NSA in searching for foreign communicants abroad using US based infrastructure does not lapse into data mining telephone companies (TELCOs) and internet service providers (ISP). If that question was resolved in the rush to pass the Foreign Surveillance/FISA Legislation before the Congress left for its summer recess, I missed it.Wow, what a hatchet job by the CIA IG on George Tenet and the head of Counter-Terrorism Center on their pre 9-11 performance. I wonder if there is anything in the IG’s records showing that they noticed this flawed behavior at CIA in near real time and reported it to Director Tenet or the Congressional Committees of Jurisdiction. Could Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Tenet have more effectively wielded his authorities across the IC to get better performance? Of course, he could have, but nobody wanted him to do that and in fact the Secretary of Defense and Director of the FBI would have actively resisted such assertions of authority as unneeded meddling in their organizations. Now we have a DNI with authorities from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act (IRTPA) that says we want the DNI to run the IC as a coherent enterprise, but are we as Americans really comfortable with a centralized (you know “Big Brother”) model vice the weaker diffused model provided for in the National Security Act of 1947 (60th Anniversary this September!) and engaged in competitive analysis as called for in Executive Order 123333 of December 4, 1981? I also enjoy too much that Mike Hayden as the Director of CIA is now an avid consumer of the kind of SIGINT he used to deny to the rest of the IC as DIRNSA.To summarize, I see the Iraqi NIE as the IC wanting to have it both ways (we should go, but we can’t leave); the Foreign Surveillance/FISA legislation as necessary but endangering civil liberties (now that’s me wanting to have it both way!); and the CIA IG failing to notice that it did not execute its own oversight responsibilities pre 9-11. What do you think?joemaz

Share Your Thoughts:

My first introduction to some great stuff.

a. I believe that you should put a precis of your entries into the NIP Quarterly as a Head's Up for us ignorami.

b. The NIE could not have been more conflicted, but that is the way that it is if it refuses to concentrate on the capabiities and the intentions of the parties involved in Iraq. As you know, I am not cleared, even for Obscene (now there is a useable Codeword), but I would hope that the all source NIE does that. If it doesn't, the NSC has got to come down hard on the IC. It is only through our estimating capabilities and intentions of the enemies that National Security Policy can be goal directed. Sfter that, let the political chips fall where they may. The elected political officials will surely step in them.

c. Oversight of the NSA is certainly desirable, but we are dealing with a megavolume difference in data collection, now vs. Hoover. It would have to be on a selective sample examination of the data basis with emphasis on the controls put on internally, and the Chinese Wall between the politicians and NSA. "Congressional Interest" or "Executive Interest" are strong motivators for the budget conscious NSA to provide special services.

d. The CIA's bureucratic ennui prior to 9/11 ranks with the compartmentization of data with each agency and the IC as a threat to national security. Each IG can work only by internal directive. Unless it knows the true importance of each compartment to national security and what dissemination to other agencies is similarly important, the IG can not be effective. Cross agency dissemination can come only from the NSC level. I assume that members of the NSC staff are cleared for all information all of the time. Over classification and compartmentalization are elements of bureaucratic and budgetary power. DHS must be read into this as well. Short of NSC controls one person in each division of each of the IC members needs to have been read in, with the authority co comunicate to the originating agency.

Conflicted is a good word for the situation in Iraq. I have been on both sides of the issue for so long, I meet myself coming and going.

The arguments for staying do not, in my mind, have anything to do with "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here". What does influence me is the notion of "you broke it, you fix it" and just generally, what do we, the most powerful nation on earth, owe to our world companions.

But for every Iraq human interest story about progress on some small front, there are too many other stories of unreliable Iraqi units, unbounded costs for infrastructure that is never used or is immediately destroyed, and uncalculated costs (financial and human) to our armed forces.

It's time to accept that, no matter how noble (if ill advised) the attempt to create an island of democracy in a hostile sea, we are beyond the point of acceptable costs. The world will not be well-served by an America that has spent its way into bankruptcy and broken its military.

Joe's right, the time to start the drawdown is now, not another wretched year from now.