How I fought the intelligence turf wars — and lost

How I fought the intelligence turf wars — and lost

In recent weeks, following the shocks of the Christmas Day bomber and the Dec. 30 attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan, observers have tried to understand why U.S. intelligence failed so badly. President Barack Obama argued that the intelligence-gatherers have been doing a bang-up job, while the analysts back at home have not. The Christmas attack, he said, was “a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.” Then a New York Times article asserted that the problem is really communication between different sectors. Finally, the senior U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, blasted intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan, calling data “only marginally relevant” because it was disconnected from local politics and conditions on the ground.

But any evaluation that merely blames the analysts, the intelligence-gatherers, or even both of their abilities to communicate misses the point: Major parts of the system itself are broken, and no surface-level changes will fix that.

The trouble starts with bias. I spent a few years working in the field as an intelligence collector, a few more directing operations, and a few back in Washington as an analyst and manager. Like everyone else in the business, I have preferences for certain ways of collecting information. But part of the reason that U.S. intelligence has so much difficulty catching terrorists and quashing insurgencies is that these biases aren’t just individual — they are corporate. [continued…]

Bomber urged more attacks before striking CIA

A double agent who killed seven CIA officers in Afghanistan sent a plea to Islamist writers a few weeks earlier urging them to launch suicide attacks, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said, citing a militant forum.

The agent, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, himself a former prolific writer on pro-al Qaeda Internet forums, urged fellow propagandists “nearly 50 days ago” to come to the “battlefield,” SITE reported an associate of Balawi’s as saying.

“Beware, beware that you are satisfied with writing on the forums without going to the battlefield in the Cause of Allah,” a January 10 posting on the al-Fallujah forum by the associate, Abu Kandahar, quoted Balawi as saying. [continued…]

Jordanians question alliance with US after Humam al-Balawi’s CIA suicide bombing

The father received the bearded mourners with dry eyes, his grief tempered by the conviction that his son, a martyr to the cause of al-Qaeda’s jihad, was already in Heaven.

It is a common enough spectacle in the Islamist badlands of the Middle East or Central Asia — but yesterday’s funeral was not in Afghanistan, nor even Pakistan. The farewell to Mahmoud Zaydan, 35, a teacher of Arabic and the Koran who was killed at the weekend by a US drone in Waziristan, Pakistan, took place in the peaceful Jordanian town of Irbid.

Jordan has long been one of America’s closest allies in the region but only recently have Jordanians discovered how close to home the War on Terror is being waged. A suicide bombing last month at a CIA base in Afghanistan, perpetrated by a Jordanian double agent — and targeting, along with seven CIA officers, a fellow Jordanian — has put the country on the international terror map. [continued…]

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