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Sunday, December 29, 2013

David Kirkpatrick's "A Deadly Mix in Benghazi,"

Today's New York Times features a quite significant story dealing with  the remarkable and precipitous collapse of the CIA's intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities.  The piece is David Kirkpatrick's  "A Deadly Mix in Benghazi,", which seems the most deeply researched account so far of the tragedy at the U.S. consulate and the near-by CIA bunker that claimed four dead and ten injured.


Michele Kearney said...

From Scott Horton:
This piece demolishes the core of the current GOP line of attack (though not much of it remains after the 60 Minutes fiasco), establishing among other things that there was no link between Al Qaeda and the radical groups who attacked the diplomatic compound. It also validates the Obama administration's early claims that anti-Islamic propaganda had inflamed the situation dramatically. But it also makes plain that the CIA was utterly clueless about what was going on in Libya, and that ignorance had led to a series of bad decisions taking imprudent risks. In particular, this includes their false conclusion that some of the groups involved in the deadly attack were potentially friendly and pro-American.

Michele Kearney said...

That has always been the real Benghazi scandal—a gross failure of U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis. The sources of that failure are plain enough. In Libya, as throughout the Middle East, CIA intelligence sourcing and analysis were heavily driven by close relationships developed with a series of brutal regimes—notably including Qaddafi's—as development of independent sources was ignored. These relationships were supplemented by the heavy use of satellite data and signals intelligence. But without a useful network of contacts on the ground, it was very difficult to make sense of either the satellite or signals data. This is the formula put in place by the same senior CIA team that introduced torture and blacksites, and that persuaded the White House to give it a private air force in the form of armed predator drones. These strategies, torture-by-proxy and drone wars, were aimed at building tight alliances with some of the most brutal and repressive regimes on earth because they were deemed useful allies in the war on radical Islamist groups. But at the same time this leadership—George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta—allowed the CIA's actual mandate under the National Security Act of 1947—which is intelligence gathering and analysis—to atrophy to the point of near uselessness. The Arab Spring came and the CIA had no inkling it was coming and no idea of how to respond to it. That was the result of an atrophied analytical ability and an extremely foolish decision to cast their lot utterly with corrupt regimes which were busily imploding. The tragedy in Benghazi must be linked directly to the CIA's extremely grave intelligence gathering and analysis failures; there is no other practical accounting to be considered.

The policy of torture and the reliance on brutal intelligence services of the Middle East (torture-by-proxy) are deeply linked to these failures. They were its precursors.