About Those 50 Centcom Whistleblowers — Where Are All the Others?


Center for Security Policy,by Fred Fleitz, Sep. 29, 2015:

More than 50 U.S. intelligence analysts working with the U.S. Central Command have filed complaints with the Pentagon inspector general, claiming that their analyses were manipulated by senior officials to downplay the threat from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda branch in Syria), according to a recent Daily Beast story. The journalists reported that authorities have altered intelligence to bolster the Obama administration’s claim that the U.S. is making progress in defeating these Islamist terrorist groups.

Although these are serious complaints that merit an investigation, this story may well be the tip of the iceberg; I believe there is a broad pattern of distorting intelligence analyses to support Obama-administration policy. The real question is why we are not hearing from more whistleblowers.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, was accused of politicizing intelligence analysis in February 2011 when he said, during a congressional hearing: “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements — in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

Many members of Congress were outraged by this statement, which Clapper later had to walk back. But Clapper was speaking from prepared remarks that conveyed the consensus views of the U.S. intelligence community. Why did no intelligence analysts come forward to allege that the intelligence community was playing down the threat from the Muslim Brotherhood?

The CIA’s official comments on the September 2011 Benghazi terrorist attacks are another example of deliberately skewed talking points. Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee accused acting CIA director Michael Morell of doctoring his statements to promote the Obama administration’s line that the Benghazi attacks had nothing to do with terrorism. Committee Republicans also accused Morell of lying to Congress about his actions. Given this strong criticism of Morell, why did no CIA whistleblowers come forward about this affair? 

The most disturbing example of politicized intelligence analysis during this administration concerns the Iranian nuclear program. I have witnessed several instances of this, but two stick out in my mind.

Just before a hearing on the Iranian nuclear program in 2009 to the House Intelligence Committee (where I was serving as a staff member), one of the CIA witnesses took me aside to lecture me on my disagreement with the CIA’s analysis. This official, who headed the CIA’s Iran Issue office, demanded that I stop disputing the agency’s analysis of the Iranian nuclear program. She also told me that as a former CIA analyst, I should be supporting the agency’s analysis. 

I responded by telling this agency official that I thought the CIA’s analysis of Iran’s nuclear program was dead wrong and politicized, and that I had a responsibility to say this to the committee members. I also said that while I no longer worked for the CIA and therefore was not obligated to support the agency’s take on Iran, I was worried about what kind of pressure CIA management must be putting on current analysts to stick to an analytic corporate line if it was pressuring former analysts such as myself to do so.

And the second striking example of blatant distortion I witnessed came last month, during an unclassified presentation at CIA headquarters by a senior official who works in the agency’s nonproliferation-analysis office. The official began his remarks by saying he and his office took no position on the nuclear deal with Iran, but he proceeded to give a 25-minute talk that sounded as if it were directly drawn from White House talking points. There was no mention of criticism of the Iran deal, the secret side deals, or how sanctions relief could be used to fund terrorism.

This presentation also included misleading and technically inaccurate statements previously made by White House and State Department officials on uranium enrichment and plutonium production; no arms-control expert should have given voice to these errors. Three other former CIA arms-control analysts who attended this talk agreed with me that it was a one-sided and extremely biased presentation. One of these former analysts was quite angry about the talk and accused the CIA official of crossing the line by promoting policy — a cardinal sin for intelligence analysts.

This presentation was consistent with other reports I have heard from intelligence and congressional sources that the Obama administration has been using the U.S. intelligence community to promote the nuclear agreement with Iran. Given the sharp divisions over the Iran deal in Washington, why have we not heard about complaints to inspectors general about this politicization of intelligence?

I can cite many other examples of politicized intelligence analysis during the Obama administration, including the intelligence community’s altering of terrorism terminology to conform with the Obama administration’s agenda. Analysts must now use the term “home-grown violent extremists,” for example, instead of “home-grown terrorists.” Intelligence agencies never use the terms “radical Islam” or “Islamist.” When referring to ISIS terrorists in Syria, the intelligence community’s 2015 worldwide threat report repeatedly refers to them as “Sunni violent extremists.”

This kind of obvious manipulation for political advantage should have led large numbers of intelligence analysts to complain about politicization. Why has this not occurred?

There are at least three reasons for the relative dearth of whistleblowing complaints by intelligence analysts during this administration. They point to political and systemic problems in the U.S. intelligence community that the next president must address.

First, it’s instructive that it was Defense intelligence analysts — probably mostly from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) — who recently lodged complaints of politicization and leaked them to the press; DIA has a history of resisting the consensus-based approach to intelligence analysis that has dominated the U.S. intelligence community in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Former DIA director General Michael Flynn has been clear that he thinks intelligence analysis of terrorism has been distorted for political purposes, and he recently said that DIA analysis of extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa has “typically been more hard hitting” and has not tried to paint a rosy picture. Flynn reportedly was forced to retire in 2014 because he refused to go along with intelligence-analysis groupthink and other efforts to politicize intelligence.

Second, the problem of liberal bias among U.S. intelligence analysts goes back many years. John Ranelagh documented this in his authoritative 1986 book The Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA. In this, he wrote that CIA Vietnam analysts during the Vietnam War “especially wanted to maintain their image with academia, where they one day might seek future jobs.” Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt drew a similar conclusion in a 1995 article, asserting that U.S. intelligence analysts “who have any intellectual pretensions do not wish to be seen as ‘Neanderthal’ or ‘out of it’ by those in the much more prestigious realms of academia or the mainstream, national-level media.” Shulsky and Schmitt concluded that “this tends to reinforce a tendency toward the ‘conventional wisdom,’” and that “it is distressing how often highly classified assessments of political issues closely resemble op-ed pieces.”

These observations by Ranelagh, Shulsky, and Schmitt are important because they help explain why intelligence officers sometimes try to undermine Republican administrations but never try to undermine Democratic presidents. The Wall Street Journal famously threw the limelight on CIA officers who were turning against a Republican president in a September 29, 2004, editorial — “The CIA’s Insurgency” — that described how a small number of agency officers resisted the Bush administration’s anti-terror policy and tried to prevent President Bush’s reelection.

The third reason we see few whistleblowers is that — as I know from 19 years’ experience as a CIA analyst and from CIA sources — agency management sometimes pressures analysts to support analytic corporate lines, especially on controversial matters and issues related to presidential policy. Analysts who promote the corporate line get promotions, bonuses, and better assignments. Analysts who don’t are sidelined and can fare much worse.

The bottom line is that analysts’ recent complaints about politicization are a symptom of a much larger problem. The next president needs to take steps to ensure that intelligence is objective and nonpolitical. This should include appointing the best possible managers from outside government to top intelligence jobs to take on the intelligence culture, demand accountability, and reward analysts for challenging conventional wisdom. This will not be easy, as CIA director Porter Goss learned when he attempted such reform efforts, only to face a public onslaught against him by agency officers. Goss failed because the Bush White House did not back him up. The next president must do better.

The CIA should return to Director William Casey’s model of “competitive analysis” and jettison the current practice of consensus analysis by committee. “Red Team” analysis (analyses of alternative scenarios) also needs to be expanded and its products widely disseminated. We also must find better avenues for intelligence whistleblowers so they can raise their concerns without fear of retaliation.

We should also do away with, or drastically cut back, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). In attempting to coordinate all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, DNI has added a thick layer of bureaucracy that only dumbs down intelligence. The Wall Street Journal made a similar point in its editorial September 18:

The general intelligence practice is to produce “estimates” that amount to the lowest-common denominator of agreement among more than a dozen separate intelligence agencies. That these estimates are overseen by a Director of National Intelligence who is close to the president often serves to sanitize them further — another reason we feel vindicated for opposing the Bush administration when it created the DNI in the wake of 9/11.

 The 9/11 Commission cited a lack of imagination as a reason intelligence agencies failed to produce analysis that could have prevented the terrorist attacks that day. I fear we are further from fixing this problem than we were in 2001. Over the past seven years, we’ve seen a sharp increase in politicized, consensus-based, and unimaginative intelligence analysis written to promote Obama foreign-policy objectives. The next president must understand that objective, “outside the box” intelligence analysis is crucial to protecting our nation from new and evolving national-security threats, and she or he must exercise the leadership to ensure that America’s intelligence community starts producing it.

Green Berets’ efforts to take down ISIS undermined by shoddy U.S. intelligence

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Army Green Berets planned for a wide range of actions in Iraq this year but bemoaned the sorry state of U.S. intelligence assets in the country to help the local security forces find and kill Islamic State terrorist targets, an internal Army memo says.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, states that when U.S. forces exited Iraq in December 2011, “all theater-level enterprise databases were terminated.”

This was forcing U.S. special operations forces in Iraq to track a wide range of intelligence reports “on individual service member laptops and share drives,” the memo says.

The memo was written in December by the commander of 1st Special Forces Group, a Tacoma, Washington-based command of about 1,400 Green Berets and support personnel, as it prepared to deploy some commandos to Iraq. The commander is now the top U.S. special operations officer in Iraq.

The commander asked Army headquarters to provide an intelligence architecture called Palantir. Its network specializes in storing and sorting all sorts of intelligence data that can be mined to create links between individuals and terrorist cells, such as the ones controlling parts of Iraq and Syria.

“This is proving to be a repeat of past mistakes from Iraq and Afghanistan where critical information at the early onset of a conflict is lost, and operational opportunities are missed throughout the remainder of the convict,” said the commander. “The lack of an enterprise-level intelligence infrastructure degrades [special operations forces’] ability to collaborate across formations and echelons, and reduces our ability to target ISIL.”

ISIL and ISIS are other names for the Islamic State.

The seven-page memo is, in a sense, an indictment of the ability to deploy U.S. war theater intelligence capabilities nearly 14 years after the declaration of the war on terrorism.

A military source said the Army has granted the commander’s request for Palantir and that other special operations units have the same pending requests.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, has pressed Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, to improve intelligence for commandos sent back to Iraq.

Mr. Hunter says the Army’s own intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System, is plagued with numerous flaws. He has pushed the Army to provide proven commercially available networks to the troops. SOCOM is operating its version of the common ground system.

In a letter sent to Gen. Votel on Monday, Mr. Hunter, a former Marine officer, took issue with the four-star general’s upbeat report to him on how well the common ground system is working.

He accused Gen. Votel’s staff of “discouraging commanders from requesting alternative solutions, and spending money duplicating capabilities that exist on the commercial market. In my oversight role, my objective is to help USSOCOM field tools that work right now.”

Mr. Hunter took issue with the general’s contention that requests for Palantir did not reflect a lack of capability by the common ground system. “The requested capability does not exist in the Army inventory and is not provided by the DCGS-SOF system,” he said.

The congressman said the Army plans to rush some common ground components to special operations forces who have told superiors that the system does not meet their needs.

In a March 26 letter to Gen. Votel, the congressman said SOCOM’s handling of the common ground system “appears to be following the failed path taken by the Army.”

The special operations version, Gen. Votel responded, “is USSOCOM’s overarching umbrella program to deliver world-class intelligence support to our deployed forces.”

He said “one of the strengths of the DCGS-SOF program” is “its open architecture and integration of commercial technology.”

Army Col. Thomas A. Davis, a SOCOM spokesman, told The Times, “Gen. Votel welcomes the opportunity to meet with Rep. Hunter to address any and all concerns he has regarding the Distributed Common Ground/Surface System — Special Operations Forces (DCGS-SOF) program. It would be premature to discuss any specifics related to this matter until after the two leaders have had the opportunity to meet.”

The 1st Special Group commander’s memo frequently used the word “no” to describe intelligence assets awaiting Green Berets in Iraq. They, like conventional U.S. troops, are there to perform the “advise and assist” role to organize Iraqi Security Forces into units that are capable of fighting the Islamic State.

“No common operating picture exists for USSOF partnered tactical operations centers,” the commander wrote. “No real time information collection capability exists for Iraqi soldier sensors. No capability exists for automated bilingual data sharing.”

The U.S. left the Iraqi army equipment to store ground intelligence data, but “No U.S. repository exists for this information and the information resides in Arabic only,” the memo says.

The commander then expressed effusive praise of Palantir and called it “the only solution that meets several” special operations goals and provides a network that lets analysts in the U.S. look at the same information.

Palantir virtually synchronizes personnel and capabilities regardless of location,” the commander said. “It is the only platform that bridges the critical seams of SOF conventional and SOF interagency data sharing to effectively contribute to unified action.”

The plan, the commander said, is to install a Palantir mobile tactical command and collection center and then link it to Iraq’s commercial communications infrastructure.

Though Obama administration policy prohibits the Green Berets from taking part in combat, the memo shows they planned to operate throughout Iraq in “remote outstages” and “team houses.”

“In the current operational environment, USSOF is not permitted to provide direct side-by-side advise-and-assist support to Iraqi tactical informations,” the memo says. “This operational constraint inhibits the rapid and accurate sharing of tactical information with troops on mission.”

The 1st Special Forces Group is not the first combat unit to ask higher-ups to let it deploy with Palantir, a system built by Palantir Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, California, and now used by law enforcement as well as the military.

A stream of memos obtained by The Washington Times in recent years shows Army and special operations forces clamoring for Palantir and knocking the Distributed Common Ground System as too slow and prone to crashes.

Some memos showed that Army headquarters tried to block emergency requests for Palantir, a move Mr. Hunter said was an attempt by the Army’s top brass to protect congressional funding for the Distributed Common Ground System.


Pete Hoekstra: Obama Hung Iraqi Soldiers ‘Out to Dry’ With Pullout – Newsmax, by Tod Beamon, June 17, 2015:

The United States “hung” Iraqi soldiers “out to dry” when President Barack Obama pulled troops out of Baghdad in 2011 — and that will hamper any major effort to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

“We had an integrated system that really gave us ground truth in real time for our troops,” Hoekstra, the former Michigan Republican who headed the panel from 2004 to 2007, told “Newsmax Prime” host J.D. Hayworth.

“When we pulled out, we pulled out the signals’ intelligence, we pulled out the overhead — but most importantly, we left our human intelligence.

“Those Iraqis that were partnering with us; we hung them out to dry,” he added. “As we now go back in and try to re-establish with the Iraqis, the people who we need in the ground to tell us what’s actually happening, they’re not going to partner with us.

“They saw what we did to the last folks that put their lives on the line,” Hoekstra added.

“They’re not going to take that risk again.

“It’s absolutely outrageous what we did in Iraq. We took great intelligence and we totally destroyed it — and now, we’ve got to try to recreate it.”

National defense expert Clare Lopez noted that U.S. intelligence has suffered greatly because of the lack of troops in in Iraq.

“It’s tough when you don’t have a presence on the ground in the person of troops, of Special Forces, or other intelligence operatives,” she told Hayworth. “When that goes away and when our troops are withdrawn, so do the intelligence-collection capabilities.

“The other part about that is we can operate out of different places, but it’s difficult when you don’t have the same amount of presence on the ground that we had back then,” Lopez said.

Hoekstra added that the charges filed Wednesday against a 20-year-old New York college student arrested over the weekend for allegedly plotting to set off a pressure-cooker bomb to support ISIS proved that Islamic jihadism is rapidly growing in the United States.

“The threat is alive and well in the United States, and congratulations to our law enforcement for continuing to catch these folks — but they’re not going to be able catch them all,” he said.

“The threat is real and it’s here in the homeland.”


The CIA Needs an Iran ‘Team B’

Many of CIA Director John Brennan’s gaffes over the years have raised eyebrows, but none has suggested the need for a legislative remedy—until the one he launched at Harvard last week.

His past indiscretions have included, in 2010 when he was a counterterrorism adviser at the White House, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, “al Quds”; referring to the “moderate” elements in Hezbollah, the Iran surrogate in Lebanon and a group the U.S. designates a terrorist organization; and insisting that our enemies should not be called “jihadists” because jihad is “a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam.”

There was also the time in 2010 when he derided the notion of a war on terrorism or terror because “terrorism is but a tactic” and “terror is a state of mind.” Given that evidence, one might have had a general concern about his competence to lead a U.S. intelligence organization, but not a focused concern about the damage any one statement could cause.

But then, in an interview last week at Harvard’s Institute for Politics, Mr. Brennan said that anyone who both knew the facts surrounding the Obama administration’s “framework” agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear program, and said that it “provides a pathway for Iran to a bomb,” was being “wholly disingenuous.” That was foolish, insofar as it applied to many serious-minded people in and out of government, but it was also dangerous.

Picture CIA analysts and other officers charged with weighing and interpreting Iran’s nuclear program in relation to the recently concluded negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland; that is, CIA analysts who have families and mortgages. Their solemn charge is to report and analyze facts straight-on—the good, the bad and the ugly.

Evidence of cheating by Iran necessarily would be fragmentary—dual-use technology paid for through opaque transactions; unexplained flight patterns and port calls by aircraft and vessels of dubious registration; intercepted conversations using possibly coded terms; a smattering of human intelligence from sources with questionable access and their own mixed motivations and vulnerabilities.

But the boss has already said that purported concerns about Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon are dishonest. Human nature being what it is at Langley as elsewhere, how likely is it that an evaluation suggesting that Iran is up to something would make it beyond operational channels, through reports officers, analysts and CIA managers, up to policy makers?

Not very, unless Congress acts promptly to put in place an alternative team of analysts, much as George H.W. Bush did when he was CIA director in 1976 under President Ford. That was an election year, and détente with the Soviet Union was the overriding administration policy.

During the campaign, the question of whether our military power was falling behind Moscow’s was a charged issue. Mr. Bush commissioned a team of independent experts known as “Team B” to provide analysis of the Soviets’ capabilities and intentions that competed with the CIA’s own internal evaluation. Team B highlighted dangers posed by the U.S.S.R.’s growing strategic nuclear forces, informing President Reagan’s later determination to counteract those capabilities.

Why is a Team B needed today? Even standing alone, the taint of Mr. Brennan’s statement at Harvard would infect all future CIA evaluations of the Iranian nuclear program. But it doesn’t stand alone. It stands alongside the remainder of the Obama administration’s record in intelligence matters, including false statements about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi; misleading the public about the military record of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl; concealment of documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that reportedly portray al Qaeda’s durable relationships with Iran and Pakistan; minimizing terrorist threats that were inconsistent with the 2012 presidential-campaign theme of terrorism defeated; and mistaken portrayals of the rise of Islamic State and al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Africa.

Mr. Brennan’s statement also stands alongside President Obama’s and Secretary of State John Kerry’s eagerness for a deal with Iran that Ben Rhodes, one of the president’s closest foreign-policy advisers, lauded as “the Obamacare of our second term.”

All this is in addition to the president’s own apparent inability to admit the motivation of Islamist terrorists. Recall his memorable description of the murder in Paris of Jews shopping for kosher food earlier this year as the “random” shooting of “a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

Given these facts, House and Senate leaders of both parties should ask former senior national-security officials to study raw intelligence-reporting on Iran, and direct the administration legislatively if necessary to give them the data needed to make an informed judgment.

This “Team B” should then report its findings periodically not only to the administration, but also to congressional leaders and the presidential nominees of both parties once they are chosen. That way, Americans can be assured that all agencies of government are fully informed—and that the vital issues facing the country are being weighed in the forthright way essential to the nation’s security.

Mr. Mukasey served as U.S. attorney general (2007-09) and as a judge for the Southern District of New York (1988-2006). Mr. Carroll served as senior counsel to the House Homeland Security Committee (2011-13) and before that as a CIA case officer.

These five potentially banned pages tell you everything you need to know about the disastrous state of America’s national security

The Blaze:

Major Stephen Coughlin, an attorney, decorated intelligence officer and the man known as the Pentagon’s leading expert on Islamic law has been warning America for years about our inability or unwillingness to know, let alone define our enemy, and the disastrous consequences we will face as a result.

Catastrophic-Failure-ShrunkIn spite of his groundbreaking work for the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center, the National Military Joint Intelligence Center, the National Security Council’s Interagency Perception Management Threat Panel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Intelligence Directorate, along with lectures at practically all of America’s leading national security institutions, by his own admission Coughlin’s work is no longer welcomed in much of Washington D.C.

Fearing such censorship, he has decided to bring his critical work to the public, in the form of a forthcoming book titled ”Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad.”

Below is a Blaze exclusive excerpt from “Catastrophic Failure,” illustrating the dire state of America’s national security and what the country can and must understand to effectively counter our enemies.


What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny. All of those may be turned against us without making us weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.

Abraham Lincoln Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois

September 13, 1858

Why Me?

I did not set out in life to be a student of jihad and Islamic-based terrorism. In the fall of 2001, I was a reserve officer in the United States Army, called to active duty from the private sector due to the events of September 11.

My posting was to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Intelligence Directorate (JS-J2). As I watched America respond to events across the world, I noticed with alarm that decisionmaking seemed to be increasingly less focused on the threat as it presented itself and more on the narratives that reduced the threat to a nameless abstraction.

As a mobilized officer brought into the heart of the strategic intelligence world, I knew there would be a large learning curve involved in formulating the threat doctrine of an enemy that had brought down the Twin Towers in the name of Islam and according to Islamic law.

I made a point of going to the source. I found actual books of Islamic law. I read them and found they could be mapped, with repeatable precision, to the stated doctrines and information that groups like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood disclosed about themselves and used when speaking to each other. My analysis helped me develop a threat doctrine, an understanding of the enemy as he understands himself unconstrained by the influences of the environment – Sun Tzu’s “Know your enemy.” That threat analysis was in line with all the standard doctrines on threat development I had been taught when I learned to do intelligence analysis. Because the declared enemy stated that his fighting doctrine was based on the Islamic law of jihad, Islamic law had to be incorporated into any competent threat analysis. When assessing al-Qaeda in light of the jihad doctrines that the group’s members actually cite, I came to realize that such doctrines did exist, they are generally cited properly, and that al-Qaeda made plausible claims to be actually following those doctrines. In legal parlance, al-Qaeda’s claims to be operating in accordance with mainstream Islamic law could at least survive summary judgment. By the same token, any analysis of al-Qaeda that failed to account for such a self-disclosed component of an identified threat doctrine could not be competent. I assumed everyone with whom I worked in the intelligence directorate was aware of the most basic aspects of intelligence, such as threat identification.

I was wrong. I had entered the Intelligence Directorate adhering to the traditional methods of analysis. Soon, however, I discovered that within the division there seemed to be a preference for political correctness over accuracy and for models that were generated not by what the enemy said he was, but on what academics and “cultural advisors” said the enemy needed to be, based on contrived social science theories.

It seemed the enemy was aware of this as well. Forces hostile to the United States in the War on Terror appeared to have successfully calculated that they could win the war by convincing our national security leaders of the immorality of studying and knowing the enemy. It is not our fault that the threat we face identifies its doctrine along Islamic lines, but it is our fault that we refuse to look at that doctrine simply because our enemy wishes to blind us to its strategic design.

Some time ago, I had an opportunity to analyze the Muslim Brotherhood in North America’s strategic documents, which were entered into evidence in a federal terrorism trial. In those documents, the Muslim Brotherhood explicitly states its designs for “civilization-jihad” and its intent to sabotage America by getting us to do the job for them. This doctrine of subversion could likewise be mapped to mainstream Islamic law. Individuals and organizations named in the Brotherhood’s documents were shown in the government’s investigative files, surveillance photos, audio recordings, and wiretaps to have been aligned with or members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But while the government was identifying many of these people and entities as providing material support to terrorism in a federal court, it was also seeking out those same people as cultural experts, “moderates,” and community outreach partners.

As early as 2003, I began putting together briefings that easily outperformed competing explanations for the enemy’s doctrinal motivations. My briefings have always spoken to verifiable and authoritative facts. Others, however, were based on social science modeling and depended on dubious academic constructs—which, of course, were needed to satisfy the overriding requirement that we avoid associating the war we were fighting with the very Islamic concepts that the enemy self identified as the justification and basis for their actions.

Before demobilizing from the Joint Staff in 2004, I wrote a forecast of adverse events that would occur because of our refusal to undertake evidentiary threat analysis. Eighteen months later, while standing on a Metro platform in downtown Washington, D.C., I happened to run into the senior civilian in the Joint Staff Intelligence Directorate, retired Marine Corps Colonel David Kiffer. He told me he was impressed by my briefs, particularly by how the presentations accurately frame emerging events to that day.

When asked how I could identify emerging threats with such precision, I explained that there is no crystal ball. It’s just that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others have knowable threat doctrines. Forecasting is as simple as mapping their stated objectives to the doctrines they follow in conjunction with their known capabilities. At the core of those doctrines, of course, was Islamic law.

As a retired Marine Corps officer, the senior civilian intelligence officer understood my concern for the lack of basic analysis. He asked me to come to the Pentagon and brief the Flag and General officers on the J2 Staff. I accepted the offer but insisted that I be able to present what I believed to be the central problem in the War on Terror. He agreed, so I put a briefing together and spoke at the Pentagon around Christmastime in 2005. The briefing culminated in a slide that raised two central questions:

Can overdependence on “moderates” to explain non-Western motivations and beliefs lead us to (overly) depend on them for the decisions we make?

Is there a point where the outsourcing of an understanding of events leads to the outsourcing of the decisionmaking associated with those events?

Underlying both questions was my concern that decisions central to the warfighting effort are based solely on the inputs of experts on subjects that the decisionmakers themselves do not understand. When such a practice becomes chronic, actual decisionmaking shifts from those responsible for making decisions to the experts they rely on for information. It is a subversion of both the decisionmaking and the warfighting processes.

At the Pentagon, after I had expressed my opinion on these issues directly, I was asked to join the Intelligence Directorate as a full-time consultant. Since then, while I repackaged my presentations and restated them in many ways with greater demonstrated foreseeability, the central issue has remained the same: Senior leaders remain profoundly unaware of the Islamic doctrines that frame the War on Terror. Tragically, not knowing these doctrines kills Americans and undermines our security.

Read more at The Blaze

Jonathan T. Gilliam: Politicians aren’t doing anything to stop terrorist attacks on U.S.

Published on Mar 19, 2015 by NewsmaxTV

Fmr. Navy Seal and FBI Agent Jonathan T. Gilliam joins Steve on the latest mass gunman terror attack in Tunisia and it’s implication for our homeland security.

Why Did A Turkish Paper Target Canada for a Smear?

4227093981CSP, by Kyle Shideler, march 12, 2015:

Daily Sabah article alleges that Turkish security has detained an agent of the Canadian intelligence for having assisted three British girls for traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State:

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday that an intelligence agent from a country that is a member of the anti-ISIS coalition had helped the three British girls join the group in Syria. While Foreign Ministry officials refused to comment on the nationality of the agent, security forces reached by Daily Sabah found the agent is suspected to be a spy working for Canada.

The story grabs headlines because of the tie in to the three British girls who recently disappeared from the U.K headed for the Islamic State. Media outlets are now widely covering the story, all citing from the Daily Sabah piece. Daily Sabah is noted for being  supportive of the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP.) Few of the media covering the story noted, as the Wall Street Journal did, this interesting point:

Within an hour of the statement, several Turkish pro-government media outlets published reports quoting senior government sources claiming the operative worked for Canadian intelligence.

Given the timing, and the curious nature of the Turkish Foreign Minister’s comments, the whole story suggests an information operation is currently underway. Canadian sources have already pushed back, with Canadian Broadcasting running the strongest version of the Canadian government’s denial:

Some Turkish media accounts suggested the detained person may have been a Canadian citizen or from Canada. CBC News has confirmed this is not the case. The suspected individual is neither a Canadian citizen nor a Canadian Security Intelligence Service employee, CBC News has learned.

Perhaps the most curious question, is, why Canada and why now? There are a number of possible scenarios:

Possibility number one is that the story is true, an agent was arrested and the agent was a Canadian intelligence asset. Even if this were the case, for example, if the agent either was doubled and ended up supporting Islamic State, or if the operation simply went awry, the Turkish decision to out the agent, from an allied (NATO) country seems highly unusual. Why then choose to release the information? We can note this odd quote allegedly from the Prime Minister’s office:

“The statement said that capture of the intelligence officer “showcased a complex problem involving intelligence wars. This incident should be a message to those always blaming Turkey on the debate on the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and shows it is a problem more complicated than a mere border security issue. Turkey will continue its call for stronger intelligence sharing, and is worried about the lack of intelligence sharing in a matter involving the lives of three young girls,” the statement said.

The statement suggests an attempt by the Turks to deflect criticism of their handling of Islamic State supporters crossing the border, and lay the blame on the Western intelligence services, for a lack of sharing, while playing into popular conspiracy theories that the Islamic State is the creation of Western intelligence.

Alternatively of course, the story could be true, and an agent was arrested, but the agent was NOT a Canadian asset. Or the story is wholly false, and there is no agent. Both of which make the decision to finger a Canadian culprit even more curious. Regardless of which scenario ends up being true, the question remains:

Why go out of the way to leak specifics and point the finger at Canada? Canada seems a curious choice to target, even if the goal is to redirect the blame for Islamic State’s recruitment on the West and distract from Turkey’s own border security problems. Blaming MI-6 or the American CIA would seem to resonate better with the audiences in the Middle East.

Is it possible that the choice of Canada as a target has less to do with Turkey and its relationship vis-a-vis the Islamic State, and more to do with the ongoing situation in Canada, where the government is attempting to revise and expand the capability of its domestic intelligence agency to investigate and disrupt threats?

Consider that Canada has already conducted an aggressive investigation, Project Sapphire, which cracked down on Islamic organizations allegedly involved in fundraising for Hamas through Muslim Brotherhood networks which are now under greater scrutiny. The successful passage of Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015 would like put additional pressure on those networks, and could lead to a direct targeting of the Muslim Brotherhood in Canada.

Why would the Turkish government care? Because Turkey itself, has been repeatedly noted for its close ties and funding for Hamas, and its relationship with key Global Muslim Brotherhood figures like chief jurist Yusuf Al Qaradawi. Qaradawi himself has confirmed the Ikhwan’s close ties to Ankara. An opportunity to direct attention away form Turkish failings regarding Islamic State, as well as to throw a wrench into Canadian internal discussions on how best to strengthen their intelligence agencies, may have been an appealing opportunity that the Islamist government in Turkey couldn’t bring itself to pass up.

Also see:

Intelligence: Broken Arrow

194221_5_By G. Murphy Donovan:

Policy is a worldview. Intelligence is the real world, a wilderness of untidy facts that may or may not influence policy. When Intelligence fails to provide a true and defensible estimate, a clear picture of threat, policy becomes a rat’s nest of personal and political agendas where asserted conclusions and political correctness become the loudest voices in the room.  The policymaker thinks he knows the answer. The intelligence officer has the much tougher tasks of confirming or changing minds.

American national security analysis has been poisoned by such toxins. An Intelligence report these days might be any estimate that supports the politics of the moment. Truth today is an afterthought at best and an orphan at worst.

Alas, corrupt Intelligence is the midwife of strategic fiasco. Four contemporary failures provide illustrations: revolutionary theocracy, the Islam bomb, imperial Islamism, and the new Cold War.

Back to Theocracy

The Persian revolution of 1979 was arguably the most significant strategic surprise of the last half of the 20th Century. Yes, more significant than the fall of Soviet Communism. (The precipitous fall of the Soviet Bloc, to be sure, was another bellwether event unanticipated by Intelligence analysis.) The successful religious coup in Iran, heretofore an American client regime, now provides a model for all Muslim states where the default setting among tribal autocracies is now theocracy not democracy. In the wake of the Communist collapse, Francis Fukuyama argued that the democratic ideal was triumphant, an end of history as we knew it, the evolutionary consequence of progressive dialects. Fukuyama was wrong, tragically wrong. History is a two-way street that runs forward as well as backwards.

The fall of the Soviet monolith was not the end of anything. It was the beginning of profound regression, an era of religious irredentism. Worrisome as the Cold War was, the relationship with Moscow was fairly well managed. Who can argue today that East Europe or the Muslim world is more stable or peaceful than it was three decades ago?

The Persian revolution of 1979 not only reversed the vector of Muslim politics, but the triumph of Shia imperialism blew new life into the Shia/Sunni sectarian fire, a conflict that had been smoldering for more than a thousand years. The theocratic victory in Tehran also raised the ante for Israel too, now confronted by state sponsored Shia and Sunni antagonists,Hezb’allah, Fatah, and Hamas.

Shia Hezb’allah calls itself the party of God! Those in the Intelligence Community who continue to insist that religion is not part of the mix have yet to explain why God is part of the conversation only on the Islamic side of the equation.

Global Islamic terror is now metastasizing at an alarming rate. More ominous is the ascent of the Shia clergy, apocalyptic ayatollahs, bringing a lowering of the nuclear threshold in the Middle East. Sunni ISIS by comparison is just another tactical terror symptom on the Sunni side — and yet another strategic warning failure too.

Tehran is in the cat bird’s seat, on the cusp of becoming a nuclear superpower. Nuclear Iran changes every strategic dynamic: with Israel, with Arabia, and also with NATO. A Shia bomb is the shortcut to checkmate the more numerous Sunni. Iran will not be “talked out” of the most potent tool in imperial Shia kit — and the related quest for parity with Arabian apostates.

The Islam Bomb

The Islam bomb has been with us for years, in Sunni Pakistan, although you might never know that if you followed the small wars follies in South Asia. The enemy, as represented by American analysis, is atomized, a cast of bit players on the subcontinent. First, America was fighting a proxy war with the Soviets. When the Russians departed, the enemy became the murderous Taliban followed by al Qaeda. Both now make common cause with almost every stripe of mujahedeen today. In the 25 years since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghanistan has been reduced now to a rubble of narco-terror and tribalism. If we can believe bulletins from the Pentagon or the Oval Office, America is headed for the Afghan exit in the next two years — maybe. Throughout, the real threat in South Asia remains unheralded — and unmolested.

Nuclear Pakistan is one car bomb, or one AK-47 clip, away from another Taliban theocracy. This is not the kind of alarm that has been raised by the Intelligence Community. Hindu India probably understands the threat, Shia Persia surely understands the Sunni threat, and just as surely, Israel understands that a Sunni bomb is the raison d’etre for a more proximate Shia bomb. Who would argue that the Sunni Saudis need nuclear “power”? Nonetheless, Riyadh is now in the game too.  The most unstable corner of the globe is now host to a nuclear power pull.

The American national security establishment seems to be clueless on all of this. Indeed, when a unique democracy like Israel tries to illuminate a portion of the nuclear threat before the American Congress, the Israeli prime minister is stiff-armed by the Oval Office. If Washington failed with Pakistan and North Korea, why would anyone, let alone the Israelis, believe that Wendy Sherman is a match for the nuclear pipedreams of apocalyptic Shia priests.

Alas, the motive force behind a Shia bomb is not Israeli capabilities or intentions. Israel is a stable democracy where any territorial ambitions are limited to the traditional Jewish homeland. Israel is no threat to Persia or Arabia.  Pakistan, in contrast, is like much of the Sunni world today, another internecine tribal or sectarian wildfire waiting for a match.

The advent of the Islam bomb in Asia was not just a strategic surprise, but the step-child of strategic apathy. The folly of taking sides with the Sunni has now come home to roost. Iran is about to go for the atomic brass ring too, with the Saudis in trail, and there’s not much that America can/will do except mutter about secret diplomacy and toothless sanctions. Of course, there’s always the option of blaming Jews when appeasement fails.

Imperial Islam

The Ummah problem, the Muslim world, has now replaced the Soviet empire, as Churchill would have put it, as the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” There are four dimensions to the Islamic conundrum: the Shia/Sunni rift, intramural secular/religious conflicts, kinetic antipathy towards Israel and the West writ large, and the failure of analysis, especially strategic Intelligence, to unwrap the Muslim onion in any useful way. Imperial Islam, dare we say Islamofascism, now threatens secular autocracy and democracy on all points of the compass.


 Islam in London

Islamic imperialism is a decentralized global movement. Nonetheless, the various theaters are united by tactics, strategy, ideology, and objectives. The tactics are jihad, small wars, and terror. The strategy is the imposition of Shariah Law. The ideology is the Koran and the Hadith. And the objective is a Shia or Sunni Islamic Caliphate — for infidels, a distinction without difference.

Muslim religious proselytizers and jihad generals in the field make no secret of any of this. The problem isn’t that some Muslims dissent from this agenda, the problem is that the West, especially national security analysts, cannot/will not believe or accept what Islamic imperialists say aloud, about themselves. The enemy is hiding in plain sight, yet the Intelligence Community doesn’t have the integrity or courage to make a clear call.

Read more at American Thinker


muslim-brotherhood-white-houseWND, by F. MICHAEL MALOOF, Feb. 9, 2015:

WASHINGTON – A veteran national-security specialist disputes FBI Director James Comey’s contention that restrictions on information-gathering are the main hindrance to uncovering ISIS conspiracies in the U.S.

Clare Lopez, who served in the CIA for 20 years and is senior vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy, said the problem isn’t with working-level FBI agents, who know the jihadi threat is “nurtured” in mosques. The hindrance is from “higher-level” FBI management and the national security leadership, she insisted.

She said the FBI for too long has allowed itself “to be influenced by operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates whose objective is to neuter U.S. national security defenses.”

Lopez was responding to Comey’s recent comment that restrictions on information-gathering stemming from intelligence leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have created barriers for law enforcement and the intelligence community.

Comey made the comment as he revealed the FBI has opened cases in 49 U.S. states of people suspected of having ties to ISIS.

Lopez said that when someone such as Michael Steinbach, an assistant director for the FBI Counterterrorism Division, publicly complains that he cannot fathom the recruitment appeal of ISIS or understand why parents in the U.S. encourage their children to join ISIS, “then, America, we have a problem.”

“That means the FBI’s top [counter-terrorism] official has no idea how to identify and stop that ISIS recruitment process before more young Muslims answer the call to jihad,” Lopez said.

She noted, however, that Steinbach was one of the FBI’s key figures in the “Great Purge” of 2011-2012 when, “at the urging of its Muslim Brotherhood advisers, the FBI literally purged hundreds of pages of training curriculum that used to educate agents about how Islamic doctrine, law and scripture inspire Islamic terrorism.”

The FBI, she said, “banished the instructors whose knowledge of these things was deemed so threatening by the Brotherhood.”

Lopez said the move was an illustration of the Muslim Brotherhood strategy – outlined in a document entered into evidence in a terrorism trial – to destroy the Western civilization from within, by their hands.”

That means, Lopez said, “We’re going to be induced to destroy ourselves.”

Lopez also referred to a document published by a combined team of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the FBI on how to make mosques off-limits to law enforcement.

She pointed out that Islam’s founder, Muhammad, had established mosques with “command and control centers” for the Muslim community’s earliest jihad wars.

Despite that history, she said U.S. troops nonetheless “were shocked” when they were first fired upon from within mosques and when they entered mosques in Iraq and Afghanistan and discovered weapons caches.

Similar concern over the potential of violence emanating from mosques in the U.S. was outlined in a Middle East Quarterly article. It raised concerns regarding the extent American Muslims, native-born a well as naturalized, are being radicalized by Islamists.

The article showed how modern jihadists legitimize their violent actions by relying on the same textual works as their nonviolent Salafist counterparts.

Lopez said the 2011 study of mosques in the U.S. found that some 80 percent promote jihad violence and that the more Shariah-compliant the mosque is, the more likely it will be to promote jihad.

“And you’re still wondering if the FBI is going to be aggressive in infiltrating mosques and Islamic centers?” Lopez asked.

“Unless our law enforcement professionals are permitted to understand the indicators and warnings that signal development of an Islamic jihad threat, in advance,” she said, “the FBI will be desperately scrambling to keep up with an ever-expanding pool of potential jihad recruits.”

She identified the threats as passport-carrying American citizens, immigrants with residence status, or documented refugees, some of whom have returned from ISIS battlefields in Iraq and Syria.

She pointed out that al-Qaida and ISIS have issued calls for individual jihad, meaning Islamic terror at home and unconnected in any formal way to a group on the Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

She said law enforcement officials need to understand how Muslims can become radicalized without ever joining al-Qaida, ISIS or any other group on the FTO list.

“How can the FBI or any national security agency even begin to understand this process when they are forbidden even to use the words ‘Islamic terror’ or ‘jihad?’” she asked.

She referred to many examples of individual jihadists who were not associated with any organizations or groups on the FTO list but undertook serious violent actions in the name of jihad.

The examples of individual jihadists include Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 service personnel at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009; Carlos Bledsoe, who in June 2009 murdered Amy Long at the Little Rock, Arkansas, Army recruitment center; and the Tsarnaev brothers, who learned how to make pressure cooker bombs by reading al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine and then exploded two at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

“The common identifier for these individual jihadists was their deep Islamic faith and decision to answer the call to jihad,” she said. “The other common marker was that law enforcement had no clue these Muslims were on a pathway to violent jihad, despite all the associations, all the indicators and all the warnings.

“So yes, there will certainly be more individual jihad attacks, and it is likely they will choose soft targets, as they did in Paris and Brussels and Sydney,” Lopez said.

“And without the official knowledge or training or authority to identify and stop such jihadis in advance, our front line of homeland defense increasingly becomes ourselves.”

After Charlie Hebdo massacre, we must ratchet up policing and intelligence-gathering to catch every possible terrorist


Sunday, January 11, 2015

The horrific terrorist attack in Paris underscores the importance of retaining our focus on preventing attacks here in the United States. This requires a layered, proactive, aggressive and relentless strategy that identifies the attacker before he launches an attack.

A purely defensive strategy of protecting our critical infrastructure, which is what some people would have us settle for, will not be sufficient in our open society.

The search for terrorists at home begins overseas, as they travel to and from the United States, and continues within the homeland.

Overseas, American partnership with local intelligence services have been effective since 9/11. Our CIA station chiefs around the world have been charged with getting intelligence from our partners.

The key to our success here is best understood by the maxim of my partner at NYPD and 35-year career intelligence officer, David Cohen. Cohen says there is no such thing as “intelligence sharing” — there is only “intelligence trading.” Real secrets are traded among serious collectors of intelligence. And our ability to get good actionable intelligence from our partners depends on our ability to provide them with the same.

In my experience, one of the most effective tools we have in this regard is our enormous NSA signals-intelligence collection program. NSA, that recently maligned agency, is one of our nation’s true jewels. Its enormous collection platforms enable us to share vital intelligence with our partners — who are happy to return the favor, often intelligence collected by their human sources.

NSA also passes critical intelligence data collected abroad through the CIA to the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Forces around the country. This enables the FBI to focus its investigations on people identified with connections to terrorist organizations abroad.

This intelligence, in conjunction with human intelligence collected by CIA unilaterally or through its partnership with local intelligence services, informs the no-travel lists that are so crucial to protecting our shores from traveling terrorists. Indeed, it is no coincidence that the Charlie Hebdo terrorists had been on the U.S. no-fly list for years.

But these lists are not enough. Aggressive intelligence is required at our border — and within our neighborhoods. At the border, we must increase the use of secondary inspections in our airports and other border crossings. These secondary inspections pull people from security lines and enable trained personnel to conduct brief interviews in separate rooms.

It is hard understate the value of these inspections. “Secondaries” serve multiple purposes. They are a deterrent to terrorists contemplating travel to the U.S., who will never know when they get yanked out a line and questioned.

In addition, secondary inspections are a rich source of future informants — the key to unraveling cells within the United States.

Aggressive, non-politically correct secondary inspections will, in fact, target young men between 18 and 30 years old traveling from certain countries. Indeed this is a form of profiling.

But without profiling travelers it is virtually impossible to get real results. There are simply too many travelers, and not enough inspectors to pick randomly and hope for the best.

Inside the United States, counterterrorism investigations conducted by the FBI terrorism task forces and NYPD intelligence are the most effective way to catch a terrorist before he attacks. Random cars stops or other generic police tactics will not get it done. We need targeted investigations that are managed by the laws of the land and limited by the Patriot Act of 2001.

Unfortunately, it is only the NYPD that conducts counterterrorism investigations outside of the FBI task forces — and it gets plenty of grief from the federal government for doing so.

Other local police forces should expand their counterterrorism activities, coordinated with the FBI to ensure all potential leads and suspects are properly investigated and surveilled if necessary.

It is unconscionable that the two Chechen Boston marathon bombers were not under surveillance based on the threat warnings received by the Russian government. Cops know how to do this; it is not that different from running counter-narcotics investigations.

The two biggest obstacles to finding terrorists within our midst are complacency and political correctness. We must overcome both of these and conduct legal, thorough and aggressive investigations at our border and within our cities.

Fortunately, our terrorist adversaries make many mistakes. If we are alert and on the job, we will identify these mistakes and intercept the vast majority of attacks before they happen. There is no guarantee of course that we will catch every would-be murderer. But we know how to increase the odds in our favor. We need to direct our law enforcement and intelligence services to get to it.

And support them when they conduct their jobs to protect us.

Sheehan, a career Special Forces Army officer, was the former deputy commissioner for counterterrorism at NYPD, the ambassador at large for counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State and most recently the assistant secretary of defense for special operations at the Pentagon. He is currently the distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, N.Y., his alma mater.

Obama Admin Has Made Questioning Terrorists Harder Than Ever

124dd076c9184f638bec51cffbe07073-e1369777220155Daily Caller, by Kerry Picket, Jan. 12, 2015:

It’s never been harder to question a terrorist.

In the midst of tracking where the next terror attack could strike in the West, counterterrorism experts and lawmakers say the Obama administration has made it harder to get fresh intelligence from terrorist sources.

The decision to no longer keep detainees at Guantanamo Bay; the administration’s preference for killing terrorists with drone strikes; and the practice of reading terrorists the American Miranda warning has made obtaining new intelligence very difficult, experts say.

“It’s really unbelievable that these guys say that their position is driven by humanitarian concerns,” former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy told The Daily Caller. “The reason [the administration] drone[s] people, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t drone anybody — rather than capture — is because they’ve so screwed up detention and interrogation. And it’s cleaner for them to kill people — because when you kill them, that’s the end of the story.”

McCarthy, known for leading the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Omar “the Blind Sheik” Abdel Rahman and eleven others, said the Obama administration is confused about where to send detainees.

Additionally, McCarthy said, “There is political baggage as to why we are bringing terrorists into the United States and giving them grade A due process trials. A large way they handled that was to kill a lot of people who we should have been capturing and getting intelligence from, because in this global war,  you’re not fighting a traditional military.”

“I’m not saying intelligence wasn’t important in every war,” McCarthy noted. “But it’s particularly important in a war against a secretive network that attacks in stealth, where intelligence is the only way you can protect yourself. They’ve sold short the intelligence product.”

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is frustrated with the current system of Mirandizing detainees who are captured overseas, pointing out that some detainees are being presented with Miranda rights while aboard ships coming back to the U.S., or as they are about to touch U.S. soil.

“Under criminal law, you provide somebody a right to counsel and the right to remain silent so they don’t jeopardize their criminal case,” Graham said. ”The purpose of military law is to win the war. The purpose of criminal law is to prosecute a case. I don’t look as these guys as common criminals. I look at them as warriors—enemy combatants subject to being detained under the law of war.”

Counterterrorism and Middle Eastern expert Patrick Poole says the intelligence community is “absolutely” getting less information from terrorist networks.

“The first thing the Justice Department does is Mirandize them,” Poole said. “If we drone somebody or we throw them into the legal system, we’re losing valuable opportunities to gather intel.  We just don’t know how much we’re losing because of the drone program, and they never have a chance to find out.”

Poole points to the Somali pirate involved in taking the captain of an American ship — the Maersk Alabama — hostage in 2009.

“The Somali pirate who was captured ended up being transported back to New York where he was charged and had his Miranda rights read to him,” Poole lamented. “His intelligence about the pirate network was lost.”

One year later, five Somali pirates attacked the American warship U.S.S. Nicholas in the Indian Ocean. Part of the controversy of the case was whether or not these foreign nationals were properly Mirandized at sea.

National Security Law Brief states the problem of military personnel reciting Miranda rights to detainees:

“Almost universally, the suspects are detained by military personnel, a fact which leads to questions concerning their training in the use of Miranda procedures. American service members are not typically trained to inform prisoners of their Miranda rights like law enforcement officers are. This lack of training, further complicated by language barriers immediately following arrest, led to Miranda rights being a key issue of the case at hand.”

Republican Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told TheDC that terrorists are given “too many rights” by the United States.

“I know, for instance, they can’t claim Miranda right away, but they can claim it earlier than they should be able to claim it,” King said. “That was the whole issue of the Boston Bomber and with the Times Square Bomber and also the guy they captured—bin Laden’s son in law. He was kept on a ship for a while, but then they ended up Mirandizing him.”

President Obama promised to close the U.S. compound in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at the beginning of his administration in 2009. A number of detainees have already been released and many have returned to the battlefield. Right now, 127 detainees remain at Gitmo and are awaiting release or transfer.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul said that recent intelligence has been “sort of stale.”

“We got a lot of fresh information after 9/11,” McCaul told TheDC. “What’s left down there is the worst of the worst in terms of terrorists — and releasing them like we did the Taliban five is a very dangerous exercise.”

During the Bush administration, the U.S. took prisoners to top secret “black sites,” in Romania or other countries, Poole said. “So they were never officially in the U.S. system–guys like Abdel Hakim Belhadj who the CIA renditioned back in Libya in 2004. They caught him in Thailand and the CIA renditioned him. And he ended up being the guy we backed who overthrew Gaddafi.”

In fact, the Washington Times reports the Pentagon has ordered judges who oversee military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay to stop handling cases in other countries and deal exclusively on closing the cases of detainees charged with terrorism.

“Because of the legal maneuvers to try and free these guys in Gitmo, there are other various problems,” Poole said. “The Obama administration has openly embraced droning these guys. And now there are some reports that nearly 2000 people have been killed in these drone strikes. The number of people they were actually targeting is in the dozens.”

“So that’s the flip side into all this law-fare that’s been waged to get these guys released,” Poole went on. ”It’s now been the position of the Obama administration, ‘We’re just gonna kill ‘em.’”

“From a public safety stand point, where are we going to put them?” Rep. McCaul wondered. “We know they return to the battlefield to kill Americans. They’re going to return to conduct terrorist plots in America and Western Europe. Frankly, I don’t think we should be shutting [Gitmo] down.”

Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told TheDC that the government does what it can to pull information from detainees.

“As a general rule,” Price said. “The government will always seek to elicit all the actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects taken into our custody.”

34-year-old Paris suspect directly linked to Al Qaeda training camp in Yemen

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Jan.8, 2015:

One of the two brothers suspected of gunning down 12 people in an attack on a Paris-based satirical magazine traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had direct contact with an Al Qaeda training camp, according to U.S. government sources.

Fox News is told the investigators have made it a priority to determine whether he had contact with Al Qaeda in Yemen’s leadership, including a bomb maker and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Both Said Kouachi, 34, who is known to have gone to Yemen, and his brother, Cherif Kouachi, who served time in France on a terrorism conviction, were on a U.S. no-fly list, sources confirmed. The new information shows both suspects, who were still being hunted Thursday night, had ties to Al Qaeda affiliates, one in Yemen and the other in Iraq.

“AQAP (Al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula affiliate) has been the real force within Al Qaeda that’s always been focused on external operations against the West and the United States – the most committed to doing this,” Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News. McCaul has been getting regular briefings about the Paris attack.

“This would be one of the more real successes that they’ve have had if it turns out to be true.”

While there has been no credible claim of responsibility for the attack, Fox News was told that the evidence increasingly points to the likely involvement of a foreign terrorist organization — either inspiring or directing the attack. Less than an hour after the attack, a series of tweets accompanied by images of three Al Qaeda members – Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and two American members of AQAP who were both killed in U.S. drone strikes, Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki – went out, raising more suspicions the attack was a possible Al Qaeda plot.

The Twitter account is well known in counter-terrorism circles and linked to AQAP.

Even as French authorities focused an intense manhunt on a vast forest north of Paris, other details about the Kouachis were trickling out, painting a picture of alienated brothers, sons of Algerian immigrants who later died. Experts who viewed cellphone video of their escape from Wednesday’s rampage told FoxNews.com it was apparent they’d had training, citing such examples as the way the laid down cover fire for each other and their commando-style flight in a getaway car.

Here’s what is known about Cherif and Said Kouachi:

— They were born in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement (district) to parents of Algerian origin, but reportedly grew up in a secular home.

— They are believed to have lost their parents, and grew up as orphans, with Cherif bouncing around foster homes in the city of Rennes, in the Brittany region of western France.

— Cherif trained to be a fitness instructor, and eventually both brothers returned to Paris as adults.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

Senate ‘Torture’ Report Used Documents Covered by Attorney-Client Privilege

2961604612CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 5, 2015:

I wrote last week in a Breitbart.com article that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program – a program its critics claim amounted to torture – is a flop with the American people. Three major polls issued after the release last month of the report’s 499-page declassified summary indicate most Americans reject the report since they believe this program was effective in keeping our country safe from further terrorist attacks after 9/11.

A major point of contention over the report concerns the use in the investigation by the committee’s Democratic staff of restricted CIA documents they were not supposed to have and their removal from a CIA facility by the staff, a violation of an agreement between the committee and the Agency. The committee staffers brought the restricted documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s secure offices without telling CIA officials.

The documents are known as “the Panetta Review, a draft account of the enhanced interrogation program that reportedly differs from the Agency’s official account. It is unclear how the Democratic staff acquired these documents. After CIA officials realized the Democratic staff had them, it audited Agency computers in an Agency facility made available to the staff for the investigation and made a referral to the Justice Department. Feinstein and other members of Congress reacted angrily to the Agency’s actions and accused it of spying on Congress.

The Justice Department declined to act on resulting misconduct claims made by both sides. The New York Times reported on December 19 that a five-member CIA review panel headed by former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh reportedly will recommend against punishing any CIA personnel for wrongdoing, although it will criticize missteps by the Agency that contributed to the fight with Congress.

Further complicating this affair, we now know the restricted Agency documents are covered by attorney-client privilege.

In late December, CIA revealed in response to an FOIA request that each of the restricted documents are stamped “DELIBERATIVE PROCESS PRIVILEGED DOCUMENT” at the top and has this language on the first page:

“This classified document was prepared by the CIA Director’s Review Group for Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (DRG-RDI) for DRG-RDI’s internal discussion purposes and should not be used for any other purpose, nor may it be distributed without express permission from DRG-RDI or CIA’s Office of General Counsel. This document contains [certain classified information]. This document also contains material protected by the attorney-client and attorney work-product privileges. Furthermore, this document constitutes deliberative work product, protected by the deliberative-process privilege, and is not a final, conclusive, complete, or comprehensive analysis of DRG-RDI or CIA. Rather, it was created to suit the needs of DRG-RDI, in support of informing senior Agency officials about broad policy issues. While every effort was made to ensure this document’s accuracy, it may contain inadvertent errors. For this reason, and because this document selectively summarizes, draws inferences from, or omits information from the sources it cites, it should not be relied upon by persons outside DRG-RDI.”

I spoke with an experienced Washington attorney about this. He told me that when a lawyer comes across a document during a lawsuit or investigation that belongs to the other side marked “deliberative process privileged document” or “protected by the attorney-client and attorney work-product privileges”, he or she cannot use the document and is ethically bound to immediately return it to the other side.

In this case, Daniel Jones and Alissa Starzak, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democratic staff members who headed the enhanced interrogation program investigation – both of whom are attorneys – did not inform the CIA they had acquired these documents, retained them for several years (they acquired them in 2010), and used these documents as part of their investigation. The Democratic staff attorneys also did not share the restricted CIA documents with the committee’s Republican staff, a violation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s rules.

Jake Gibson and James Rosen reported in a December 24, 2014 FoxNews.com article that controversy over the restricted CIA documents has endangered the nomination of Starzak to be the next U.S. Army general counsel. Rosen and Gibson reported that Senate Republicans claim Starzak was one of the Democratic staffers who “stole” these documents from the CIA.

Starzak was nominated for the Army post over the summer. Although the Senate Armed Services Committee approved her nomination on December 9 without a recorded vote, it expired at the end of the last Congress since the full Senate did not vote on the nomination. The Obama administration has not said whether Starzak will be renominated.

Some Congressional Republicans and conservative groups want to punish Starzak over the CIA restricted documents by denying her the Army general counsel post. In my view, this appears to be a serious ethical violation that should kill the Starzak nomination. However, I also believe this is a scandal that goes beyond Starzak since the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former Democratic majority are experienced legislators who obviously understand what “attorney-client privilege” and “deliberative work process” means. Moreover, three of these senators are attorneys, including Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee member who was the most aggressive in pushing the enhanced interrogation investigation.

What did these Democratic senators know about CIA documents used in the enhanced interrogation investigation covered by attorney-client privilege and when did they know it? These are questions that other members of the Senate and the news media need to be asking.

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The Senate’s betrayal

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In November of 2002, my two brothers and I traveled to FBI offices in Alexandria, Virginia and met with one of the lead federal prosecutors who was working on the criminal investigation of the 9/11 attacks. We were there to watch a video animation of American Airlines Flight 77, the plane that was hijacked by five Al Qaeda terrorists and flown into the Pentagon.

We were desperate to find out anything we could about the flight because our brother, Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame, III, was its captain, the pilot in command that fateful morning.

The video we were about to see — put together from the plane’s flight data recorder, or “black box,” and FAA radar tracking — would show us the plane’s every movement, from the time it pushed back from the gate at Dulles Airport to the moment just before it crashed into the Pentagon at 530 mph, one hour and 27 minutes later.

We sat in silence for the entire duration of the video. The animation noted when radio contact ceased and when the plane’s unique radar signature, its transponder, was turned off. We watched, barely breathing, as the Boeing 757 changed course. Almost immediately after it completed its 180 degree turn, the plane began to pitch and roll violently.

We knew this was when Chic was fighting for his life. It lasted more than six agonizing minutes. And then it stopped.

Every 9/11 family member has visions of their loved one’s last moments. I don’t know who is more fortunate, those who know the precise details of their relative’s death or those who don’t — those who can only imagine it from the countless horrific images captured in real time and published over and over in the media for the last 13 years.

Every family member can speak to this, but here are the words of one FDNY firefighter about the 20,000 body parts they found, sometimes digging on their hands and knees: “Imagine that the twin towers were two giant blenders that were suddenly turned on. The people who didn’t make it out were literally torn to pieces and flung from river to river, on the streets and rooftops of Lower Manhattan.”

This is the context for the families of the victims as we watched Sen. Dianne Feinstein declare from the well of the U.S. Senate last month that the harsh interrogation of the men who plotted and carried out our loved ones’ savage murders, and who planned a second wave of terror, was “a stain on our values and our history.”

These are the images we thought of as we were told that the government had committed war crimes when it sanctioned the CIA enhanced interrogation program to acquire intelligence from the people who meant to terrorize and incapacitate the nation further.

We recalled receiving the multiple next-of-kin notifications for human remains over a period of months or years when we were told that the detainees were tortured.

Sen. FeinsteinYURI GRIPAS/REUTERSSen. Feinstein

Tortured? What does that actually mean?

In the Washington bubble, the debate on the so-called torture report has come and gone with disturbingly familiar speed. It was the big story for one week, and then seems forgotten.

Not for those who live daily, hourly, moment-by-moment with the emotional scars of having lost loved ones on 9/11.

The Senate Intelligence Committee members who prepared this report — which essentially labels as criminals those who scrambled to defend us in the immediate wake of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil in our history — have done the unimaginable. They have turned our loved ones’ murderers into victims.

And they have done so on the international stage at the worst possible time, when ISIS is killing, raping and beheading innocent people at a rapacious rate while at the same time recruiting here in the West for more members.

In 2009, I was among those 9/11 family members who opposed President Obama’s plan to release the details of the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program (RDI) the CIA created and carried out with presidential approval. The lengthy legal memos Obama published were written at the behest of John Rizzo, then acting chief counsel for the CIA.

He was looking for legal guidance so that the program would stay inside the legal limits of the federal statute prohibiting torture. He was also looking to protect his people from Monday-morning quarterbacking, from after-the-fact charges — from the very people who had been briefed about the RDI program and encouraged it to go forward — that they had violated the maddeningly vague anti-torture statute.

Sept. 11 family members didn’t want these methods revealed because we didn’t want our enemies to have our playbook and thus the means to train against it. We remembered former CIA Director George Tenet’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

He said that infiltrating terrorist groups was exceedingly difficult and that cultivating covert assets who could provide fresh intelligence about them could take five years or longer. We didn’t have five years. The country was at war, and, indeed, will always be at war as long as Islamic jihadists continue to target and kill Americans in coordinated attacks.

Getty Images provides access to this publicly distributed image for editorial purposes and is not the copyright owner. Additional permissions may be required and are the sole responsibility of the end user.U.S. NAVY/GETTY IMAGESWhere the Pentagon was hit

Once the legal memos were published, we learned that enhanced interrogation methods were drawn from the SERE program; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Our brother called it “POW school.” As a Navy fighter pilot, he was one of the tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel put through SERE since the end of the Vietnam War.

The purpose was to teach pilots, special-force operators and intelligence personnel — those most likely to be captured behind enemy lines — how to mentally prepare for the ordeal. As Chic explained it, the military believed that the command to provide only “name, rank and serial number” was insufficient.

The aim was to expose SERE participants to terrifying conditions to increase their ability to cope in captivity, to give them the means to survive.

Chic was among the tens of thousands of pilots who had attended SERE and had been waterboarded. He didn’t call it that. He called it “the water treatment,” and would only say that it was “very effective.” SERE was a brutal experience, approved by Congress, which members of our own military submitted to in preparation to serve their country. But applied to Al Qaeda terrorists, Sen. Feinstein now says it amounts to “torture.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey observed that more journalists have been waterboarded in order to sample and write about the procedure than the three terrorists who were waterboarded in the RDI program. In fact, five of the eight pilots who were murdered in their cockpits on 9/11 were ex-military pilots. All of them went through the SERE program. That means that more 9/11 victims were waterboarded than the Al Qaeda terrorists who killed them.

Feinstein knows that after 9/11, the public was willing to tolerate these methods to prevent another devastating mass-casualty attack. Rather than take the more difficult position that these methods are morally reprehensible regardless of their effectiveness, the Committee elected to turn Americans against the agency trying to protect us.

For five years, Sen. Feinstein has led this effort to rewrite history and has produced a fraudulent document that says enhanced interrogation techniques “didn’t work.”

This claim is the linchpin the Committee relied on and, I believe, the chief reason the report was created without interviewing a single individual actually involved in the program, or any of the former CIA directors who oversaw its administration and know otherwise.

But the public doesn’t have to take the word of three former CIA directors regarding the program’s effectiveness. They need only consult the Obama Administration’s own Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder.

Charles Burlingame’s tombstoneCLIFFCharles Burlingame’s tombstone

In 2009, Mr. Holder brought senior Al Qaeda member Ahmed Ghailani to New York City for trial in federal court. Ghailani, a Bin Laden body guard and bomb expert, was part of the 1998 conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, maiming and injuring over 4,000.

Ghailani fled to Pakistan after the attack and continued to act as a senior member of Al Qaeda until he was captured in 2004. After he was brought to New York for trial in the embassy bombings case, presiding federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan asked the attorneys on both sides to brief the issue of Ghailani’s Fifth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Ghailani had spent more than four years at a CIA “black site” undergoing interrogation.

The Holder Justice Department argued that Ghailani’s rights had not been violated and that his placement in the RDI program was reasonable and justified. The brief described the RDI program as an “essential” program that “saved lives.” And lest the Court think these claims were hypothetical, the brief listed page after page of classified intelligence supporting that claim.

Indeed, we now know that Ghailani’s interrogations provided information in the matrix of intelligence leading to the location of Osama Bin Laden.

Feinstein and her fellow Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have delivered to the world a corrupt, partisan report aimed at obscuring the fact that they condoned an aggressive response to 9/11 — and then condemned that same response once the “dirty work” was done.

In so condemning, they are endangering Americans by playing to a narrative written by anti-American ideologues in thrall of international human rights activists with no allegiance to nations.

By failing to distinguish between the human rights of truly aggrieved and oppressed people and terrorists who have pledged — repeatedly and remorselessly — to perpetrate heinous war crimes against innocent men, women and children, these politicians have turned the concept of “shared humanity” upside down.

We will get past this, because good men and women will continue to stand up when their country needs them. They always do. Even at the risk of betrayal.

Burlingame is cofounder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America and a member of the board of directors of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Five Reasons Why the Senate ‘Torture’ Report Became a Flop

914916800CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Dec. 29, 2014:

Congressional Democrats, leftwing groups, and the mainstream media were certain this month’s Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program (which they call torture) would spark a groundswell of anger against Bush administration officials and the CIA that would change the subject from the president’s growing unpopularity and the Democratic Party’s poor showing in the mid-term elections.

The left had every reason to be hopeful about the so-called “torture” report.  It was written entirely by Senate Democratic staffers who cherry picked CIA documents and emails with the most salacious and gruesome accounts of the enhanced interrogation program.  No interviews were conducted to prevent CIA officers familiar with the program from introducing exculpatory information into the investigation.

To promote media interest in the report, classified details of the investigation’s findings were leaked to the press by Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (and possibly Democratic Senate staff) over the last few months.  Embargoed copies of the 499-page declassified summary were provided to major news outlets in advance of its official release to ensure extensive press coverage.

Despite these efforts to foist the enhanced interrogation report on the American people, three polls indicate most Americans reject the report’s findings.  An ABC/Washington Post poll found 59% of Americans believe the enhanced interrogation program was justified while only 31% said it was unjustified.  A Pew Research poll had similar numbers: 51% justified, 29% not justified.  So did a CBS News poll by a margin of 49%-36%.

Why did the enhanced interrogation report turn out to be a flop?  I believe there are five reasons.

  1. The American people are not stupid. Most Americans realize the enhanced interrogation program was initiated in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was only used against terrorist suspects.  They believe this program was justified and have little sympathy for liberal partisans trying to score political points by claiming al Qaeda members with possible knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks may have been treated roughly.  Most Americans also know there is no comparison between the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA against terrorist suspects and actual torture.
  1. Americans believe the war on terror continues. With this year’s beheadings and other atrocities by the Islamic State and the recent execution of 122 Pakistani children by the Taliban, Americans do not want to deny the U.S. government counterterrorism tools that could stop future terrorist attacks and atrocities.  Many Americans also believe releasing the declassified summary of the report was a mistake since it may play into the hands of radical Islamists.
  1. Former CIA officers fought back hard against the Senate report. Former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden and other CIA officials conducted a media blitz defending the enhanced interrogation program and Agency personnel with lengthy op-eds in major newspapers and dozens of TV interviews.  Unnamed CIA officers who worked on the enhanced interrogation program created a well-designed website, ciasavedlives.com, which tells their side of the story and is a resource of information about the program’s actual record.  The former CIA officials were joined by several Bush administration officials in countering the Senate report, including Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Even former President George W. Bush, who usually avoids commenting on political questions, spoke out in defense of the program and the CIA officers who ran it.
  1. The left overreached. Most Americans strongly reject claims made by the report’s supporters that the enhanced interrogation program hurt America’s moral standing in the world.  Americans have also been turned off by demands by some on the left that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, CIA officers and other officials be put on trial for war crimes over this program and regard those making such demands as moonbats.  Not surprisingly, the New York Times is leading the moonbat chorus on this issue and recently doubled down on its call for prosecutions of Bush officials and CIA officers in a December 21 editorial titled “Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses.”
  1. The Obama administration provided lukewarm support for the Senate report. Although President Obama endorsed the findings of the Senate report, he seemed to be going through the motions when he discussed its release and has shown little interest in doing anything about the program since 2009.  The president’s remarks also were undermined by the efforts his administration made to prevent the report from being issued because of concerns it would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.

The bottom line: the Senate report on the CIA enhanced interrogation program flopped with the American people because they believe this program was a justifiable and effective effort to protect the United States against terrorist attacks in the aftermath of 9/11.  Americans also refused to go along with attempts by congressional Democrats, leftwing groups and the mainstream media to use this issue to score political points.

I believe the American people’s rejection of the Senate report means the debate over this issue is over.  But the effect of the report may linger due to the damage it did to congressional oversight of intelligence and with U.S. military and intelligence partners.  While I believe the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups could use the report in the short term as an excuse to stage new terrorist attacks or atrocities, I am hopeful that any increased threat level will dissipate in 2015 as interest in the report fades and is eventually forgotten.

In Battle to Defang ISIS, U.S. Targets Its Psychology

Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata wants fresh ideas to defeat ISIS. Credit Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata wants fresh ideas to defeat ISIS. Credit Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

DEC. 28, 2014

WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, sought help this summer in solving an urgent problem for the American military: What makes the Islamic State so dangerous?

Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.

“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” he said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”

General Nagata’s frustration is shared by other American officials. Even as President Obama and his top civilian and military aides express growing confidence that Iraqi troops backed by allied airstrikes have blunted the Islamic State’s momentum on the ground in Iraq and undermined its base of support in Syria, other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement.

Four months after his initial session with the outside advisers, General Nagata, one of the military’s rising stars and the man Mr. Obama has tapped to train a Pentagon-backed army of Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, is still searching for answers.

“Those questions and observations are my way of probing and questioning,” General Nagata said in a brief email this month, declining on orders from his superiors to say any more.

The minutes of internal conference calls between General Nagata and more than three dozen experts he convened through Pentagon channels in August and October offer an unusual insight into the struggle to understand the Islamic State as a movement, and where the American military’s top leaders are most focused.

One of the panel’s initial observations that has intrigued General Nagata is the Islamic State’s “capacity to control” a population, according to the minutes.

It is not so much the number of troops or types of weapons the militants use, the experts said. Rather, it is the intangible means by which the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, wrests and maintains control over territory and its people.

This ability, they discussed, centers on “psychological tactics such as terrorizing populations, religious and sectarian narratives, economic controls.”

The minutes, which are confidential but not classified, reveal disagreements among the experts over whether ISIS’ main objective is ideological or territorial — General Nagata encourages competing views, urging the group to have “one hell of a debate” over his questions.

But the panel raised doubts whether ISIS “has the bureaucratic sophistication necessary to govern.”

“The fact that someone as experienced in counterterrorism as Mike Nagata is asking these kind of questions shows what a really tough problem this is,” said Michael T. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who has publicly raised similar concerns.

A final report by the group, which draws from industry, academia and policy research organizations, is due next month.

How to defang the Islamic State’s enticing narrative weighs heavily on many other senior administration officials, as well as top leaders in the Middle East and Europe.

This month, Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, said the increasing effort by the Islamic State to branch out to countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya “is a huge area of concern.” About 1,000 foreign fighters flock to Iraq and Syria every month, American intelligence officials say, most to join arms with ISIS.

“We have to, I think, as an international community, come to terms with how we’re going to deal with these ideologies and movements that are exploiting the weaknesses of various countries,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, said this fall. “We have to find a way to address some of these factors and conditions that are abetting and allowing these movements to grow.”

Enter General Nagata. He has fought in the shadows most of his 32-year Army career, serving in Special Operations forces and classified military units in hot zones such as Somalia, the Balkans and Iraq. Colleagues say he has displayed bureaucratic acumen in counterterrorism jobs at the C.I.A. and the Pentagon, and diplomatic savvy as a senior American military liaison officer in Pakistan during the turbulent period there from 2009 to 2011.

“He’s the rare warrior who is most comfortable in complexity,” said Stanley A. McChrystal, a retired four-star general and former commander of allied forces in Afghanistan.

Complexity is precisely what General Nagata, by then head of American commandos in the Middle East, wanted in July when he asked a tiny think tank within the military’s Joint Staff, known as Strategic Multilayer Assessment, for help in defeating the Islamic State.

In the past year, the group has produced studies on the security implications of megacities around the world and how to apply neuroscience to the concept of deterrence.

When General Nagata first convened the specialists on a conference call on Aug. 20, he described his priorities and the challenges that ISIS posed.

“What makes I.S. so magnetic, inspirational?” he said. He expressed specific concern that the militant organization is “deeply resonant with a specific but large portion of the Islamic population, particularly young men looking for a banner to flock to.”

“There is a magnetic attraction to I.S. that is bringing in resources, talent, weapons, etc., to thicken, harden, embolden I.S. in ways that are very alarming,” General Nagata said.

During the call, General Nagata alluded to the Islamic State’s sophisticated use of social media to project and amplify its propaganda, and insisted the United States needed “people born and raised in the region” to help combat the problem.

“I want to engage in a long-term conversation to understand a commonly held view of the psychological, emotional and cultural power of I.S. in terms of a diversity of audiences,” the general said. “They are drawing people to them in droves. There are I.S. T-shirts and mugs.”

“When I watch Americans use words like cowardly, barbaric, murder, outrageous, shocking, etc., to describe a violent extremist organization’s actions, we are playing right into the enemy’s hands,” General Nagata added. “They want us to become emotional. They revel in being called murderers when the words are coming from an apostate.”

He continued: “We have to remember that most of their messaging is not for us. We are not the target. They are happy to see us outraged, but they are really communicating to people we are being drawn to their banner.”

Six weeks later, in a second conference call on Oct. 3, General Nagata praised the group’s initial efforts, but again noted, “I do not understand the intangible power of ISIL.”

General Nagata scoffed at those who he said had questioned his decision to focus so much on understanding the intangibles of ISIS.

“What we have been asked to do will take every ounce of creativity that we have,” he said. “This may sound like a bizarre excursion into the surreal, but for me it is about avoiding failure.”

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