Trump Will Face a Huge Challenge with U.S. Intelligence If He Wins

2074162454Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Aug. 18, 2016:

Before his classified national-security briefing yesterday, Donald Trump said he didn’t trust U.S. intelligence. His comments attracted the expected condemnations and ridicule from the media pundits and foreign-policy experts. However, based on my 25 years working in U.S. intelligence, I believe Trump’s concerns are well-founded.

On Wednesday, Trump received the intelligence briefing traditionally provided by the U.S. Intelligence Community to newly nominated presidential candidates. This briefing was preceded by calls from the Clinton campaign, other Democrats, and, privately, by some intelligence officials that Trump be denied these briefings because, they claim, he can’t be trusted to protect classified information.

Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, actually asked intelligence analysts to give Trump fake briefings.

The Washington Post’s intelligence reporter Greg Miller reported on July 28 that a senior intelligence official told Miller privately that he would refuse to brief Trump because of concerns about Trump’s alleged admiration of Russian president Putin and because “he’s been so uninterested in the truth and so reckless with it when he sees it.” Reuters ran a similar story on June 2, reporting that eight senior security officials said they had concerns about briefing Trump; Reuters did not indicate how many of the officials cited were intelligence officials or Obama appointees.

These calls to deny intelligence briefings to a presidential candidate are unprecedented, but they also reflect a serious problem within the U.S. intelligence community that awaits a possible Trump administration: the politicization of American intelligence by the Left.

I saw this constantly during my 19 years as a CIA analyst. CIA officers frequently tried to undermine CIA directors Casey and Gates because they disagreed with President Reagan’s policy goal of defeating the Soviet Union. Several testified against Gates’s nomination to be CIA director in 1991 by lodging false claims that he and Casey had politicized intelligence. Former senator Warren Rudman, a moderate Republican who headed President Clinton’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, described these attacks by CIA analysts as “an attempted assassination, an assassination of [Gates’s] character . . . McCarthyism, pure and simple.”

The liberal tilt within the CIA, especially in the Directorate of Intelligence (the analysis office), grew worse during the Clinton years as personnel were hired and promoted to support Clinton-Gore policy objectives. These included wasteful initiatives such as the DCI Environmental Center, launched at the same time the CIA was dangerously downplaying counterterrorism analysis.

Unfortunately, the intensified liberal tilt at the CIA during the Clinton years was not reversed by the George W. Bush administration. Bush kept on Clinton’s CIA director, George Tenet, who had no interest in cleaning house or taking steps to ensure that CIA analysis would be balanced and not politicized. When his successor, Porter Goss, tried to clean up the agency, CIA careerists fought back aggressively by leaking to Congress and the media, eventually forcing Goss out.

As a result, intelligence careerists often paid no price for engaging in blatantly political activities to undermine the Bush administration. One officer in the CIA inspector general’s office was fired after she admitted she’d leaked classified information on Bush counterterrorism programs to aWashington Post reporter. In 2005, several intelligence officers attempted to sabotage John Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador — an act of political skullduggery for which they were never punished.

The most notorious example of partisan political activity by U.S. intelligence officers occurred just before the 2004 presidential election when Paul Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia, while giving a speech at a dinner on September 21, criticized President Bush and CIA director Tenet for ignoring critical intelligence that he claimed might have prevented the Iraq War. Incredibly, CIA management had cleared Pillar’s comments, saying that the substance of his remarks, but not the speaker or the audience, could be disclosed. The late columnist Robert Novak, who attended the dinner, sparked an uproar when he reported Pillar’s identity and the dinner anyway. Clearly, Pillar’s presentation was intended to affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal condemned such political activities by CIA officers in a scathing September 29, 2004, editorial titled “The CIA’s Insurgency”:

It’s become obvious over the past couple of years that large swaths of the CIA oppose U.S. anti-terror policy, especially toward Iraq. But rather than keep this dispute in-house, the dissenters have taken their objections to the public, albeit usually through calculated leaks that are always spun to make the agency look good and the Bush administration look bad. . . . Yet what the CIA insurgents are essentially doing here, with their leaks and insubordination, is engaging in a policy debate. Given the timing of the latest leaks so close to an election, they are now clearly trying to defeat President Bush and elect John Kerry.

Politicization of America’s intelligence agencies by the Left has grown worse during the Obama years. Recall that the CIA drafted the politicized (and later discredited) 2012 talking points on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Additionally, the agency now uses racial, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and other quotas for CIA hiring and promotions.

Significant examples of politicization in other intelligence agencies since 2009 include the congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. During a briefing to the House Intelligence Committee in February 201, Clapper tried to downplay the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical Islamist group, saying: “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.”

And in 2015, as widely reported, more than 50 U.S. Central Command intelligence analysts lodged a formal complaint with the Pentagon’s inspector general. In the complaint, they alleged that their intelligence assessments were being intentionally manipulated by senior officials to downplay the threat from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda branch in Syria) in order to support the Obama administration’s claim that the U.S. was making progress in defeating these Islamist terrorist groups. A recent congressional task force concluded this month that these complaints were valid and expressed alarm that nothing has been done to improve CENTCOM intelligence analysis in response to them.

In light of this history, it is no surprise that Democrats, intelligence officers, and the liberal media urged that Trump be denied an intelligence briefing as the GOP presidential candidate. Naturally, they did not raise similar concerns about briefing Hillary Clinton, although the FBI director determined she was “extremely careless” in handling classified information as secretary of state, even sharing classified intelligence with people who had no security clearance. Comey also stated that due to this carelessness, it’s possible hostile actors have gained access to the highly classified information that traveled through the multiple private servers Clinton used.

It’s true that intelligence briefings to presidential candidates are offered at the discretion of a sitting president. But calls to deny these briefings to Trump or to give him fake briefings are an affront to the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power and could undermine his presidential transition if he wins the election.

It is not up to Senator Reid or U.S. intelligence officers to prevent a duly elected major-party presidential candidate from receiving intelligence briefings because they don’t like him or because he is from the wrong political party. Of more concern is whether some intelligence personnel, out of political bias, would refuse to provide a President Trump with the intelligence support he would need to protect American national security.

Trump may have been too hard on U.S. intelligence agencies when he said that they got it wrong before the Iraq War; and perhaps he was unfair to lambaste Obama’s dismissal of ISIS as the “jayvee” team. Intelligence agencies must be held accountable for their work, but their analysis will never be 100 percent accurate. In addition, intelligence agencies only advise policymakers. They cannot force a president to use their analysis.

I was pleased to hear that Trump realizes he will have a lot of work ahead of him to fix the U.S. intelligence community if he becomes president. To get the objective, accurate, and hard-hitting intelligence support he will need if elected, Trump must name strong, decisive leaders — including good managers from the business community — to top intelligence posts. He must hire people who understand that America’s intelligence agencies do not work for themselves, for either party in Congress, or the foreign-policy establishment; they work for the president. Any U.S. intelligence officer who is not prepared to loyally provide whomever wins the presidency with his best efforts should find another job.

***

CIA, Terrorism, and the Emergent New Cold War: Considerations for the New Administration

ciaBy Brian Fairchild, July 20, 2016:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  In addition to the threats posed by the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the international jihad movement, the US is also challenged by an emergent new cold war which pits the US and NATO against Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and their client states.  If ever there was a need for relevant and timely strategic assessments that can be translated into policy options, the time is now.  For the past two decades, however, CIA’s ability to collect and analyze complex strategic intelligence on key actors has degraded to an alarming level.  CIA analysts no longer have the skills to conduct long-term strategic analyses – the very job for which the Agency was created.  Instead, CIA is primarily focused on tactical counter terrorism operations, which it does very well, but these very specific tactical skill sets are quite different than those required for traditional strategic espionage operations and analysis.  Unfortunately, at present, the CIA has a world-class counter terrorism capability, but can only provide policymakers with a superficial understanding of the world and its complex issues and actors.  It is likely that the new cold war, as well as the international jihad movement will last for, at least, another generation, and the new administration that takes power in January 2017 will have to decide what kind of intelligence capability it requires.  If the US is to resume its international leadership role, however, the choice cannot be between having a world-class counter terrorism capability and a world-class strategic espionage capability.  The new administration will need both.

The Loss of CIA’s Strategic Intelligence Collection and Analysis Capability:

The decline of the Agency’s strategic collection and analysis capability began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. CIA was created to counter the strategic threat posed by the post-WWII rise of the Soviet Union, so, the demise of the Soviet Union removed the Agency’s raison d’etre, and it was forced to begin downsizing and reorienting personnel. The government, as well as politicians from both political parties were more than eager to spend the so-called “peace dividend”, the considerable amount of money that had funded CIA’s anti-Soviet Cold War operations, on their own pet projects. So, CIA stations closed all over the world, CIA’s most experienced case officers and analysts were offered “early out” bonuses in a massive downsizing, and fewer and fewer strategic analyses were written.

For a decade after the Soviet collapse, CIA drifted in search of a new mission, which it finally found after the 9/11 attacks – al Qaeda and counter terrorism. The Agency’s approach, however, wasn’t to add counter terrorism as one of its vital strategic missions, but to make counter terrorism its primary mission.  More importantly, it didn’t attempt to strategically understand its new enemy.  Rather, it chose a tactical approach adopting the military’s “find, fix, and finish” operational concept to kill or capture individual terrorists, but it never attempted to strategically understand the very engine that propelled al Qaeda and the international jihad movement – Salafi-jihadi ideology.

The Agency’s almost total focus on counter terrorism has had dire consequences for its charter as the nation’s premier civilian strategic intelligence agency according to former CIA director Michael Hayden, who expressed his concerns in a March 2016 interview with the Guardian:

  • “It started while I was still in office. I began to notice a problem that the more time goes by, the more our focus on the war on terror has created deficits in other places. Since I have left, the deficit has only grown…We have become extremely focused on current threats and in dealing with them…Much of what we call ‘intelligence analysis’ currently done in American intelligence is focused on specific targets: trying to make sure no one boards a plane with a bomb, for example. There is a natural tendency to focus on the urgent, the immediate, and I do think it comes at the expense of the more long-term, strategic elements.”

Hayden hit the nail on the head when he briefed incoming CIA director David Petraeus telling him:

  • ‘Dave, you realize the CIA’s never looked more like the OSS than it does right now? That’s good. It’s kept America safe. But, Dave, you’ve got to know we’re not the OSS. We’re the nation’s global espionage service and you need to remind yourself and the institution every day that it’s got this broader mission”

Hayden understands the absolute requirement to prevent another 9/11-type attack, but conceded that what concerns him most is what CIA is not doing – developing intelligence on the existential threats to the United States.  He described these existential threats as:

“…states that are ambitious, fragile and nuclear. I put Iran and North Korea and Pakistan and even the Russians in there. Now if that heads south, that’s much worse…Now if you run the timeline out to the 10-year point, it’s China. I’m not saying China’s an enemy of the United States of America. I’m just simply saying that if we do not handle the emergence of the People’s Republic well, it will be catastrophic for the world.”

Hayden is not alone in expressing concern about CIA’s departure from its traditional mission.  In March 2013, the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board issued a report that stated that the CIA and the Intelligence Community had neglected its coverage of vitally important strategic flashpoints such as the Middle East and China, opting to focus on “military support” operations instead.  Its co-chairman David L. Boren stated that “The intelligence community has become to some degree a military support operation”, adding that the deployment of Agency personnel and resources to only counterterrorism assignments “needs to be changed as dramatically as it was at the end of the Cold War.”  Worse, he described a generation of spies that no longer know how to do traditional spy work, stating “So far, nearly all of their experience has been in what I would call military support…Almost none of it has been in traditional intelligence-gathering and analysis.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, pressed home the same points during her questioning of John Brennan at his Senate confirmation hearing as CIA director in 2013:

  • “I have been concerned for some time that there is a changing nature of the CIA, and that instead of it being America’s top human spy agency to make sure that we have no strategic surprises, that it has become more and more, executing paramilitary operations…I see this as mission creep. I see this as overriding the original mission of the CIA…and more a function of the Special Operations Command.”

CIA’s degraded strategic analysis capability is also well documented in Congressional post-9/11 investigations.  A now declassified Top Secret report issued in February 2002 by the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees’ Joint Inquiry (JI) found that:

  • “Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s understanding of al-Qa’ida was hampered by insufficient analytic focus and quality, particularly in terms of strategic analysisThese analytic deficiencies seriously undercut the ability of U.S. policymakers to understand the full nature of the threat, and to make fully informed decisions.”

And a report by CIA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), published in 2007, found that the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) was primarily tactical, stating:

  • “…Before 9/11…the Center’s focus was primarily operational and tactical. While focusing on operations is critically important and does not necessarily mean that other elements of mission will be ignored, the Team found that this nearly exclusive focus – which resulted in many operational successes – had a negative impact on CTC’s effectiveness as a coordinator of IC counterterrorism strategy”

Also in 2007, John G. Heidenrich, a highly experienced intelligence analyst, issued a critique that couldn’t be more relevant to this paper.  In The State of Strategic Intelligence: The Intelligence Community’s Neglect of Strategic Intelligence, published on CIA’s website, he announced that:

  • During the past decade and a half, since the Cold War, the production and use of strategic intelligence by the United States government has plunged to egregiously low levels. This decline is badly out of sync with the broader needs of the republic, fails to meet the nation’s foreign policy requirements, ill-serves the country’s many national security officials, and retards the developing prowess of its intelligence analysts.”

Of particular importance, however, is a report published in January 2010, by then Major General Michael T. Flynn, in his capacity as the intelligence czar for all intelligence in Afghanistan – the CJ-2 for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  His highly critical assessment of the performance of CIA and the intelligence community in the active war zone was stunning.  In Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan, he opened by summarizing the assessment with this scathing proclamation:

  • “Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collec­tion efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intel­ligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the envi­ronment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade.  Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the cor­relations between various development projects and the levels of coopera­tion among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers – whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers – U.S. intelligence offi­cers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-mak­ers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.”

Perhaps most enlightening from the perspective of this paper, are the adjectives the General used to describe the American intelligence officers about whom he is writing:  “Ignorant”, “hazy”, “incurious”, and “disengaged” – these characteristics are the absolute antithesis of a professional intelligence officer and show how far US national strategic intelligence analysis capability has fallen.  There can be no more serious indictment of an American intelligence agency than its irrelevance in an active war zone in which American men and women are daily paying the ultimate price.

The Emergent New Cold War:

Unfortunately, Hayden’s “ambitious, fragile, and nuclear” states are already on the move, but his timeline for problems with China has moved-up considerably.  China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea and their client states now comprise a bloc pitted against the US and Europe in an emergent new cold war, which appears to be deepening on a weekly basis.

In January 2016, US European Command listed Russia as its number one security priority recommending a US military build-up in Europe, and approximately two weeks after that, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev told the audience of the Munich Security Conference that we have slid into a new period of cold war.  The Polish president agreed with him a few days later stating that Russia was fomenting the new cold war, and at roughly the same time, NATO Supreme Commander, American General Philip Breedlove announced that Russia poses a long-term threat to the US and its European allies.

In the past six months, reports of hostility, geopolitical competition, nuclear threats, and proxy warfare between the actors of the new cold war are overwhelming.  In a development not even seen during the Cold War, Russian intelligence operatives have launched a campaign of thuggery to aggressively and physically assault American diplomatic personnel in Russia and throughout Europe.  American military commanders have warned that Russian and Chinese nuclear submarines are challenging American power in the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the commander of Strategic Command warns that both China and Russia are developing advanced space weapons designed to be “disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities” targeted at the US.  Moreover, on numerous occasions, Russia and China have intentionally and aggressively used their fighter jets in provocative close intercepts of American military aircraft and warships.  Russia, Iran, and Syria are jointly cooperating against US interests in the Middle East, which CIA director Brennan says is more unstable than at any time in the past 50 years, and the Iranian-backed radical Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has threatened to target US troops in Iraq.  In addition, China claims total sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and is creating man-made militarized islands throughout the area including installation of surface to air missiles in order to defend their claim, and it threatens military action against the US if it does so.  Meanwhile, North Korea, China’s client state, frequently conducts illegal nuclear and ballistic missile tests and threatens other provocative military actions.

State of Play – CIA’s Clandestine Service:

CIA’s charter demands that it aggressively collect and analyze intelligence against each and every one of these strategic challenges in order to provide the president and his senior policymakers with the best intelligence with which to plan US strategic responses.

Unfortunately, that would require the reallocation of the majority of CIA’s manpower, budget, and planning that are now dedicated to its primary mission – terrorism.  To make matters worse, CIA’s Clandestine Service is no longer a foreign service in the true sense of the term.  Rather, its counter terrorism officers, most of whom have military special operations backgrounds, live in the US and are temporarily assigned overseas for four to six month tours, or periodically “surge” to foreign locations for special assignments, after which they return home.  As one would expect, their expertise is on terrorist individuals and networks, weapons capabilities, how to integrate and work jointly with US and foreign military forces, and how to conduct clandestine military/paramilitary operations.

In 2005, new CIA director Porter Goss experienced this dilemma first hand.  In a speech he gave to CIA personnel, he admitted that CIA’s clandestine service was no longer a global service with deep experience overseas, but a US-located pool that would occasionally “surge” abroad on temporary assignments.  In the speech, he explained to his clandestine service officers why they needed to actually live and serve in foreign countries:

  • “I have talked much about Field forward. You cannot understand people overseas, much less influence them, from Langley. You cannot develop deep and trusting relationships with individuals and with governments overseas by flying in and flipping out a U.S. passport. We are working to change the ratio so that we have more of our case officers out in the field under new kinds of cover in places where they can do what they need to do for us…. “Surging” CIA officers instead of having an established presence, an expertise, and developed relationships at hand, is a poor formula, in my opinion. When I say we need to be global, this is an admission that we are not in all of the places we should be. We don’t have this luxury anymore.”

New Requirements:

The Agency has been able to sustain its counter terrorism orientation from 9/11 until now, but the targets listed above will require vastly different “old-school” skill sets and expertise.  In the espionage arena, case officers with language capability live and work abroad where they spot, assess, develop, recruit and clandestinely run long-term penetration assets of foreign governments in order to discover their strategic plans and intentions.  This approach requires an in-depth knowledge of the country’s customs and culture as well its geopolitical history, which normally comes from years of experience on the ground, experience that CIA’s counter terrorism operators don’t have.  Cold wars, by their very definition, lack open hostilities between the main actors, so military skill sets and weapons capabilities, except in very unique circumstances, are of little use.

The Future:

The current administration was not concerned with developing a world class espionage capability because it was dedicated to withdrawing from the world stage and concentrating on its domestic agenda.  However, given the fact that the last cold war lasted for 50 years, it is likely that the new cold war will last a long time, as will the international jihad movement, so the next administration will have to deal with these realities.  If it desires to resume America’s leadership role on the world stage it will require world-class capabilities in both espionage and counter terrorism.

The requirement for a world-class strategic espionage and analysis capability is absolutely clear – as the leader of the free world the new president must understand the world he leads in all of its complexity, but he must especially understand his strategic enemies who are attempting to defeat him.

In what organization this rejuvenated capability should reside, however, is not so clear.  As the experience of director Porter Goss reveals, CIA may not be the best location.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service. He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan. Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

 

C.I.A. Arms for Syrian Rebels Supplied Black Market, Officials Say

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

 

NYT, by MARK MAZZETTI and ALI YOUNES, JUNE 26, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Weapons shipped into Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to American and Jordanian officials.

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, F.B.I. officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons theft, which ended only months ago after complaints by the American and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time after a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera. The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades — even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms — including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades — have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market. Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Amman shooting, run by the bureau’s Washington field office, is continuing. But American and Jordanian officials said the investigators believed that the weapons a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, used to gun down two American contractors, two Jordanians and one South African had originally arrived in Jordan intended for the Syrian rebel-training program.

The officials said this finding had come from tracing the serial numbers of the weapons.

Mohammad H. al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, said allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers had been involved in any weapons thefts were “absolutely incorrect.”

“Weapons of our security institutions are concretely tracked, with the highest discipline,” he said. He called the powerful Jordanian intelligence service, known as the General Intelligence Directorate, or G.I.D., “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.” In Jordan, the head of the G.I.D. is considered the second most important man after the king.

Representatives of the C.I.A. and F.B.I. declined to comment.

The State Department did not address the allegations directly, but a spokesman said America’s relationship with Jordan remained solid.

“The United States deeply values the long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan,” said John Kirby, the spokesman. “We are committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with Jordan to meet common security challenges.”

The training program, which in 2013 began directly arming the rebels under the code name Timber Sycamore, is run by the C.I.A. and several Arab intelligence services and aimed at building up forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The United States and Saudi Arabia are the biggest contributors, with the Saudis contributing both weapons and large sums of money, and with C.I.A. paramilitary operatives taking the lead in training the rebels to use Kalashnikovs, mortars, antitank guided missiles and other weapons.

The existence of the program is classified, as are all details about its budget. American officials say that the C.I.A. has trained thousands of rebels in the past three years, and that the fighters made substantial advances on the battlefield against Syrian government forces until Russian military forces — launched last year in support of Mr. Assad — compelled them to retreat.

Read more

CIA Director: Our Efforts Have Not Reduced Islamic State’s ‘Terrorism Capability and Global Reach’

cia_director_islamic_state

Washington Free Beacon, by David Rutz, June 16, 2016:

CIA director John Brennan acknowledged Thursday that U.S.-led efforts against ISIS have not reduced its “terrorism capability and global reach,” saying it remained a “formidable adversary.”

“Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” he said before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses on territory, manpower and money for its terrorism capacity to decline significantly.

“Moreover, the group’s foreign branches and global networks could help preserve its capacity for terrorism regardless of events in Iraq and Syria. As the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”

The CIA director’s statement comes on the heels of the worst terror attack since Sept. 11 on Sunday, when a Muslim man who pledged allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people at a gay Orlando night club.

Brennan said ISIS, or ISIL as Obama administration members refer to it, had lost territory in Iraq and Syria and was struggling to replenish fighters.

“ISIL, however, is a formidable, resilient and largely cohesive enemy, and we anticipate that the group will adjust its strategy and tactics in an effort to regain momentum,” he said.

He also said the anti-ISIS coalition’s efforts had reduced its ability to gain revenue, but ISIS still was managing to generate “tens of millions of dollars” per month thanks to taxation and oil sales.

Referencing the attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino, Brennan laid out the threat of ISIS attempting to inspire more attacks from people with no “direct link” to the group.

“In sum, ISIL remains a formidable adversary, but the United States and our global partners have succeeded in putting the group on the defensive, forcing it to devote more time and energy to try to hold territory and to protect its vital infrastructure inside of Syria and Iraq,” he said. “And though this will be a long and difficult fight, there is broad agreement in the international community on the seriousness of the threat and on the need to meet it collectively and decisively.”

Also see:

Secret Cables Link Pakistan Intel Org to Deadly Attack on CIA

Jennifer Ehle plays Jennifer Lynne Matthew in the film Zero Dark Thirty about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda.Matthews, a mother of three was described as “one of the CIA’s top experts on al-Qaeda.” She was head of Camp Chapman and killed in the attack on the base.

Jennifer Ehle plays Jennifer Lynne Matthew in the film Zero Dark Thirty about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda.Matthews, a mother of three was described as “one of the CIA’s top experts on al-Qaeda.” She was head of Camp Chapman and killed in the attack on the base.

Clarion Project, April 17, 2016:

Pakistan’s intelligence agency paid a Taliban-affiliated terror group in Afghanistan to perpetrate one of the deadliest attacks on the CIA in the agency’s history, according to inferences made in recently-declassified U.S. government cables and documents.

On December 30, 2009, a Jordanian suicide bomber blew himself up in Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, located near the border with Pakistan, killing seven CIA employees. The bomber, a Jordanian doctor and double agent, tricked the Americans, telling them he would lead them to Ayman al-Zawahri, now head of al-Qaeda and, at the time, second in command.

A document dated January 11, 2010 , issued less than two weeks after the bombing, reports how the head of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied organization designed as terrorist by the U.S., met twice with senior officials of Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI) the month of the bombing.

During the first meeting, funding for “operations in Khowst [Khost] province” were discussed. “Funds were later provided to tribal elders in Khowst province for their support of the Haqqani network,” according to the cable.

At the second meeting, ISI officials gave “direction to the Haqqanis to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan.”

Although heavily redacted, a cable issued the following month specified the head of the Haqqani network as well as another individual were given $200,000 “to enable the attack on Chapman.” The cable specifically mentions a number of individuals involved in the operation, including an Afghan border commander who was given money “to enable a suicide mission by an unnamed Jordanian national.”

The Jordanian mentioned is assumed to be the suicide bomber, Humam al-Balawi, whom the CIA had cultivated as an al-Qaeda informant. Codenamed “Wolf,” al-Balawi turned out to be a double agent, perpetrating the deadliest attack against the CIA in the 15-year history of the war in Afghanistan.

Although each document states, “This is an information report not finally evaluated intelligence,” Admiral  Mike Mullen (former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) terms the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence agency. The U.S. has long-documented the connection between the ISI and the Haqqani terrorist organization.

The documents were the first public disclosure connecting the attack on Camp Chapman to the Pakistani ISI. They were released in connection with a Freedom of Information Act request. The U.S. had previously blamed al-Qaeda for the attack.

Intel Analysts: We Were Forced Out for Telling the Truth About Obama’s ISIS War

48658243.cached
Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and  Nancy A. Youssef, April 3, 2016:
The growing scandal over cooked ISIS intelligence just got much worse. Now, analysts are saying they’re being forced out for not toeing the Obama administration’s line on the war.

Two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say the military has forced them out of their jobs because of their skeptical reporting on U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria, three sources with knowledge of their claim told The Daily Beast. It’s the first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war.

One of the analysts alleging reprisals is the top analyst in charge of Syria issues at CENTCOM. He and a colleague doubted rebels’ capabilities and their commitment to U.S. objectives in the region. The analysts have been effectively sidelined from their positions and will no longer be working at CENTCOM, according to two individuals familiar with the dispute, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The analysts’ skeptical views put them at odds with military brass, who last year had predicted that a so-called moderate opposition would make up a 15,000-man ground force to take on ISIS in its self-declared caliphate. An initial $500 million program to train and arm those fighters failed spectacularly. And until the very end, Pentagon leaders claimed the operation was more or less on track. Lawmakers called the plan a “joke” when Gen. Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM commander, finally testified last September that there were just “four or five” American-trained fighters in Syria.

Earlier allegations from CENTCOM, the military command responsible for overseeing the Middle East, had focused on leaders there fudging intelligence reports about U.S. efforts to attack ISIS and undermine its financing operations. That analysts are now raising red flags around reporting on Syrian rebel groups suggests that, at least from the analysts’ perspective, there is a broader systemic problem than was previously known.

The Pentagon inspector general and a congressional task force are investigating allegations of doctored intelligence reports about ISIS.

The working environment at CENTCOM has been described as “toxic” and “hostile.” As The Daily Beast previously reported, more than 50 CENTCOM analysts have said that senior officials gave more scrutiny and pushback on reports that suggested U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS weren’t progressing. Analysis that took a more optimistic view of the war effort got comparatively less attention from higher-ups.

In a separate development, the head of Iraq analysis at CENTCOM, Gregory Hooker, is being reassigned to a position in the United Kingdom, three sources knowledgeable of the transfer told The Daily Beast. Hooker was identified last year by The New York Times as leading the group of analysts that raised objections about the ISIS reports.

There was no evidence that Hooker’s reassignment was a retaliatory move by his superiors, rather some suggested he had requested the change.

But for the analysts who have accused their bosses of improper behavior, the climate has become anxious, particularly as now some fear for their jobs.

“[They] are scared all the time,” one official told The Daily Beast.

The Syria analysts spoke out after Austin directed his subordinates last year not to retaliate against anyone who voiced concerns about political influence or bias being brought to bear on intelligence analysis, said one individual knowledgeable of their complaints. More than 1,000 analysts work at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and their reports are meant to help senior U.S. officials and policymakers understand the facts on the battlefield.

Investigators from the congressional task force have met with analysts at both CENTCOM headquarters and, last month, in Washington, half a dozen sources with knowledge of the meetings said.

Spokespersons for the task force declined to comment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes previously told The Daily Beast that investigators were unable to obtain certain documents germane to the analysts’ allegations about altered ISIS reports, and that congressional staff had to interview the analysts in the presence of CENTCOM personnel, whom Nunes referred to as “minders.”

“They’re having a tough time talking to us,” Nunes said of the analysts whom congressional staff have interviewed in Tampa.

The Defense Department inspector general is also looking into the ISIS reports. The watchdog’s office has said the investigation, which is expected to be finished soon, “will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

At CENTCOM’s intelligence unit, there’s growing anticipation for the results of the Defense Department inspector general’s investigation. Some have said they hope it will hold those they feel are responsible for altering reports, but there’s also concern that the findings will seek to downplay the severity of the problem and won’t lead to any significant changes.

At least one change is in the works. Last week, the Pentagon announced that Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock, currently the intelligence director of the U.S.-led military effort in Afghanistan, will take over as the head of intelligence at CENTCOM. Two officials described Quantock as a “straight shooter” who could help relieve tensions at the command headquarters.

Quantock, who is expected to arrive this summer, will replace Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, whom analysts have said is chiefly responsible for altering the ISIS reports. Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, have also been accused of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast.

Investigators from Capitol Hill and the Pentagon’s watchdog have pulled analysts away from work to ask them questions. Their colleagues try to glean insights about the course of the investigation by keeping note of who is being queried and for how long.

And in another sign of rising anxiety, some believe that that military leadership is trying to piece together which analysts have made allegations about Grove, and to whom, whether they be investigators or journalists.

Also see:

Obama’s CIA Boss Doesn’t Support “Government Spying”

0

Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, March 15, 2016

Well he’s certainly in the wrong business.

CIA Director John Brennan expressed his personal view that the CIA should be not be viewed as a spy agency. In the 24 February interview he said, “I don’t support government spying…. We don’t steal secrets… We uncover, we discover, we reveal, we obtain, we elicit, we solicit. All of that.”

Brennan is also the genius responsible for ideas like these…

In a paper he published in July 2008, Brennan called on U.S. officials to “cease public Iran-bashing,” and advised the U.S. to “tolerate, and even … encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence.”

Nation reporter Robert Dreyfuss, meanwhile, revealed that Brennan had once told him that (as Dreyfuss paraphrased): “talking to Hamas and Hezbollah is the right thing to do.”

Brennan stated that the 20% recidivism rate of former Guantanamo detainees “isn’t that bad” when compared to criminal recidivism.

Speaking in June 2011 about how the Obama administration would deal with terrorism following the recent death of Osama bin Laden, Brennan dismissed any notion that Islamic terrorists might attempt to build a caliphate in the Middle East.

You can really trust John with the nation’s security.

CIA Director John Brennan addressed the hack of his personal email account for the first time on Tuesday, calling it an “outrage” that shows the challenges that face the intelligence and national security communities in the modern age.

A self-proclaimed high school student said he hacked Brennan’s email last week

But Brennan said the fact that his email was hacked is not a sign that he somehow neglected his job or is unfit.

Should we really be calling this an intelligence agency?

The Obama CIA Is Putting Diversity above National Security

(David Burnett/Newsmakers/Getty)

(David Burnett/Newsmakers/Getty)


National Review, by Fred Fleitz, Feb. 23, 2016:

America’s intelligence agencies have a serious and difficult mission: protecting our national security from a world of diverse and changing threats. These include nuclear, military, terrorist, and economic threats from nation-states and non-state actors. China is a rapidly growing intelligence, military, and cyber threat. Russia has exploited a power vacuum in the Middle East caused by President Obama’s failure to exercise leadership in the region. ISIS, which did not exist in 2009, is now a global threat and could be planning new terrorist attacks with chemical weapons and dirty bombs.

Protecting our nation from such threats requires extremely competent and capable individuals to conduct intelligence operations and write analysis in challenging security and legal environments. This means the intelligence profession needs officers who will speak truth to power, obey the law, and resist pressure to politicize analysis.

CIA Director John Brennan apparently believes otherwise and that advancing President Obama’s political and social agendas should be an important part of the CIA’s mission. This may be why Brennan recently announced his “Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (2016–2019)” to make the CIA more diverse and politically correct. Brennan says in the introduction to this strategy:

Diversity at CIA is defined as the wide range of life experiences and backgrounds needed to ensure multiple perspectives that enable us to safeguard US national security. It encompasses the collection of individual attributes that together help Agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include but are not limited to characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, veteran’s status and family structures.

Brennan has mandated “diversity and inclusion performance objectives for all CIA managers and supervisors and ultimately [for] the entire workforce,” so that CIA personnel must weigh diversity and gender figures in making key assignments and senior-level promotions. Brennan’s plan also includes agency-wide “unconscious bias” training.

I support a fair and equitable workplace at CIA without any form of unlawful discrimination. But this as a dangerous development because Brennan is creating diversity quotas for hiring and promotions instead of promoting a work environment that prioritizes competence and achievement.

Brennan is doing this in response to President Obama’s efforts to create a more diverse federal work force. While there may be merit in this for many U.S. government jobs, hiring and promoting intelligence officers based on diversity quotas will not, as Brennan claims, better enable CIA to safeguard our national security. The CIA’s mission is too serious to be distracted by Obama’s social-engineering efforts meant to redress real and perceived injustices in our society.

It is not unjust to hire a white male with a Ph.D. from Harvard and a background in nuclear science to analyze the Iranian nuclear program over someone with weaker credentials who is a member of a racial or gender minority. Altering the rules so the latter candidate will win a competition for such a job is not in our national interest. Adding such considerations to CIA promotion rules will further complicate the agency’s management, which is already suffering from politicization and political correctness. This is why in the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, where I worked for 19 years, many highly qualified officers refuse to apply for management jobs — or they last in them for only a few years before returning to analyst positions.

As a former CIA officer, I believe one of the worst signs of how backward the agency’s personnel system has become under Director Brennan is that his diversity plan lists Maja Lehnus as the agency’s new “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.”  I was stunned when I read this. Ms. Lehnus served as director of the CIA Weapons Intelligence and Nonproliferation Center and the director of the National Intelligence Counterproliferation Center (NCTC). According to the NCTC website, Lehnus worked for 20 years in a wide range of CIA technical and management positions on counterproliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

At a time of growing WMD threats from North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, and ISIS, why is this brilliant WMD expert being moved from such a critical intelligence mission to a position overseeing diversity quotas?

There are two discernible reasons for this.

First, this is just the latest evidence that the Obama administration is not serious about protecting U.S. national security. We know this already, given its “leading from behind” and “strategic patience” approaches to foreign policy and constant leaks of sensitive intelligence to advance their political agenda. It therefore is not surprising that Obama would make diversity and political correctness at the CIA a higher priority than improving its analysis and operations. The fact that the administration would move one of the agency’s leading WMD experts from a senior job in her area of expertise to heading Brennan’s ludicrous diversity program is a clear sign of the CIA’s distorted priorities.

Second, there are many signs that the work of the CIA and other intelligence agencies has been thoroughly politicized by the Obama administration. CIA Director Brennan has been criticized for doctoring White House talking points on the 2011 terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate to favor the Obama administration misrepresentation of this attack. Brennan also has straddled the fence on the legality of the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation program, probably due to pressure from the White House and Senate Democrats.

In recent years, we’ve also seen strong evidence that the White House has exerted political pressure to conform intelligence analysis to meet its agenda. More than 50 U.S. intelligence analysts working with the U.S. Central Command filed complaints with the Pentagon inspector general last year, 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). I witnessed similar politicization of analysis at CIA last August when I attended an unclassified briefing by a senior CIA WMD analyst on the nuclear deal with Iran; the official’s assessment sounded as if it had been directly drawn from White House talking points.

The United States urgently needs intelligence agencies that are effective and innovative, and that will speak truth to power. While many of the U.S. intelligence community’s problems predate this administration, they have gotten much worse since 2009. It is vital that the next president name strong and decisive leaders to top intelligence posts. Our next commander-in-chief must stand by their efforts to conduct major reforms that will reverse the nonsensical initiative of the Obama years and improve the ability of America’s intelligence agencies to counter the national-security threats facing our nation.

These reforms should promote fair hiring and promotion practices but should not undermine the CIA’s effectiveness with politically correct schemes that will only lower standards and create quotas. Due to the life-and-death nature of CIA’s mission, it is vital that its officers be hired and promoted on the basis of competence and achievement, not misguided social-engineering schemes.

— Fred Fleitz is a former CIA analyst and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staff. He is now senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy. This article has been reviewed and cleared for classification reasons by the CIA Prepublication Review Board.

CIA Director Brennan’s 60-Minutes Interview Encapsulates The Dangerous & Naive Approach This Administration Has Adopted In Combating The lslamic State

CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS will try to attack the U.S. in the future, but said their chances of success are definitely not 100 percent. (Photo : Twitter Photo Section)

CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS will try to attack the U.S. in the future, but said their chances of success are definitely not 100 percent. (Photo : Twitter Photo Section)

Fortuna’s Corner, by R. C. Porter, Feb. 15, 2015:

CIA Director John Brennan’s Sunday night (Feb. 14, 2016) interview aired on the CBS show ’60 Minutes,’ was profound for what he said; and, what he didn’t say.   During last night’s interview,
     Scott Pelley of CBS News asked Director Brennan:  “Is ISIS coming here [the U.S.]?”
     Director Brennan said:  “I think ISIL does want to eventually find it’s mark here.”
     Scott Pelley:  “You’re expecting an attack in the United States?”
     Director Brennan:  “I’m expecting them to try to put in place the operatives, the material, or whatever else they need to incite people to carry out these attacks clearly.  So, I believe their attempts are inevitable.  I don’t think their successes necessarily are.”
     Later in the interview, Mr. Pelley asked Director Brennan:  “Does ISIS have chemical weapons?”
     Director Brennan:  “We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield.”
     Mr. Pelley later remarked;  “The CIA believes ISIS has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine, and mustard gas.  And the capability of [ISIS] exporting those capabilities to the West [are]?”
     Director Brennan:  “I think there is always the potential for that.  This is why it’s so important to cut off the various transportation routes, and smuggling routes that they have used.”
     But, here is the real ringer: 
 
     Scott Pelley:  “What do you think our policy would be after an ISIS-directed attack in the United States?” 
 
     Director Brennan:  “If there is a major attack here, and we had ISIS fingerprints on it — certainly, this would encourage us to be even more forceful in terms of what we need to do [to combat this looming threat].”
 
     Scott Pelley:  “If our policy after an attack in the United States would be more forceful, WHY ISN’T THAT OUR POLICY — BEFORE AN ATTACK?”
 
         Director Brennan:  “Well, I think we’re being as forceful as we can, in making sure that we’re being surgical as well.  What we don’t want to do is alienate others within that region; and, have any type of indiscriminate actions that are going to lead to deaths of additional civilians.”
 
       There it is in a nutshell.  We (the United States) aren’t going to do anything that might upset anyone in the region — apparently until we have dead Americans littering the streets of the continental United States.  Then, we’ll alienate the hell out of them.  But, we apparently have to have innocent American blood spilled here first.  This interview isn’t getting the attention and seriousness it deserves.  This administration is being derelict with respect to taking all deliberate measures to protect us here at home.  God help us if ISIS does launch a successful attack here and this POTUS and Director Brennan have to stand in front of the victim’s families and the American people and explain why they did not act more aggressively beforehand.
 
      The Intelligence Community was heavily criticized and ripped apart in the aftermath of 9/11 for a ‘failure of imagination,’ and for failing to ‘connect the dots.’  We now have a CIA Director publicly warning that ISIS intends to attack the U.S. homeland; but, we — the U.S. Government is attempting to wage an antiseptic war against an avowed and determined enemy — because we do not want to offend people in the region.  
 
    If you think the 9/11 Commission was critical and rough on the Intelligence Community — you ain’t seen nothing yet — if ISIS is successful.
 
     This kind of naive thinking is also behind the short-sighted intent to close Guantanamo; and, the imposition of overly restrictive rules-of-engagement our warfighters are operating under, as they try and kill these malcontents over there — before they come here.
 
     And, as far as ISIS’s message potentially finding fertile ground here — well, that’s why in addition to killing ISIS physically, we also have to kill the message and the idea.  I know I sound like a broken record, but there is no better way to do that than to have a 21st century Crimes Against Humanity Trials (a 21st century version of the WWII Nuremberg War Crimes Trials 70 years ago) — and indict and prosecute Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his key henchmen — in absentia if necessary — so their philosophy and message can be condemned in a similar fashion that Nazism was.  But, that might offend some people over there — so, this would appear a non-starter under this POTUS, and CIA Director.
 
     God help us if Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Winston Churchill had taken this kind of stance against Nazi Germany.  No, I do not want to go there.
 
         We have all the dots we need — to understand that we face a clear and present danger from the Islamic State.  But, we apparently believe that if we fight with soft gloves, close Guantanamo, and say the ‘right things,’ — we’ll be safe.  If it were only so.  

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

1140644896

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.

The Best TV Interview In Months – Bret Baier Interviews Former CIA Head Mike Morell

051115_sr_morrel_640_20150511_205650The Last Refuge, by Sundance, May 11, 2015:

If, like many of us, you are deep in the weeds in your understanding of the issues around Benghazi, the 2010 Arab Spring (Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen), or the CIA operation “Zero Footprint” in Libya and the follow-up operation in Syria, you will enjoy this interview with former Panetta/Petraeus replacement Mike Morell.

Or, if you have a cursory understanding of events, this interview might spur you toward further research.  “The Benghazi Brief” – Regardless of your current level of understanding behind events of the past 7+ years, this interview is well constructed.

Bret Baier has done his homework, and in a refreshing and surprising manner you can see how Baier is able to cut through the distracting ‘talking points’ (no pun intended), and draw out the reality of what lies behind Morell and his foundational motives.

***

Ex-CIA leader Morell critical of Obama administration colleagues (foxnews.com)

Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell criticized former colleagues in the Obama administration Monday over everything from the 2012 Benghazi attack to their description of the Al Qaeda threat, during an exclusive interview with Fox News’ “Special Report.”

Referring to the Sep. 11, 2012 fiery attack on the CIA annex in Tripoli that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, Morell said that security at the CIA annex was “far superior” to security at the State Department annex and there was “no doubt in my mind that there was a failure at the State Department. No doubt about it.”

Morell, who served in the Obama administration from 2010 to 2013 and was acting director of the agency for several months, also said that while he became a focus of congressional inquiries over changes he made to the administration’s “talking points” explaining the attacks, “I never intentionally misled anybody. I never lied to Congress.”

Another set of “talking points” later surfaced in an email from deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes specifically drawing attention to an anti-Islam Internet video and saying one goal was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

“I think that is crossing the line between national security and politics,” Morell said.

As for the Benghazi attack itself, Morell said he and other government analysts had concluded “there wasn’t a lot of pre-planning here.” He described the attackers as looking “more like a mob than they are an organized military force.”

Referring to the Al Qaeda threat, he acknowledged originally misreading the effect of the Arab Spring by thinking it was going to undercut the terrorist organization. Instead, he said, it turned out be a “huge boon” for Al Qaeda.

However, he said that as the Obama administration was talking about Al Qaeda being on the run, the CIA was briefing the White House about the spread of Al Qaeda’s ideology. “We told the story as it was happening,” he added.

As for security in the United States, Morell said the country faces unprecedented national security challenges and terror threats on American soil will “remain significant for a long time.”

“I’ve never seen more threats to our country at any one time in my 33 years in the business … I think in the history of our country,” Morell said. “These are very dangerous times. … I think we are at risk of another attack here, and I want Americans to know that.”

Morell cited a range of global threats, from cyber-attacks to terror strikes to nuclear proliferation, emanating from China, Russia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

However, he argued, they are “first and foremost” intelligence issues and that having superior information-gathering capability will be “absolutely vital to the future of this country.”

Morell, whose new book is titled “The Great War of Our Time,” says he wants to set the record straight about the CIA, which he thinks many Americans have dismissed as an unrestrained spy operation.

“The CIA is not a well understood organization, and there are many myths about it,” he said. Another myth is that it can’t do anything right.”

He argued the agency must operate under Executive Office authority and inform Congress of its actions.

“I wanted to paint the true picture of the agency,” he said. “They get it right most of the times. And sometimes we get it wrong, like any organization.”

Also see:

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.

Obama’s Militarization of CIA

cia (2)By John R. Schindler, April 3, 2015:

One of the standard tropes about the Central Intelligence Agency, and the whole Intelligence Community, in recent years is that CIA has become excessively militarized since 9/11. To meet the needs of the War on Terror, the story goes, Langley ditched conventional espionage and analysis in favor of drones and paramilitary operations that pleased the White House — especially when George W. Bush lived there — at the expense of traditional CIA missions.

Like all enduring myths, there’s more than a little truth to all this. There’s no doubt that, in response to 9/11, CIA’s counterterrorism mission, which was awfully important before the Twin Towers fell (few remember that then-Director George Tenet told the Agency it was “at war” with Bin Laden after Al-Qaida’s 1998 East African embassy bombings), became even more so mid-morning on September 11, 2001. CIA got into the killing business in a serious way, in many places, developing a close-to-seamless relationship between itself, NSA, and the military’s spooky Joint Special Operations Command to hunt down terrorists worldwide.

This represents the most impressive secret killing machine in military history, with lethal snake-eaters guided by real-time, precise intelligence, and one which President Obama especially has not been squeamish about using. This militarization of CIA has led to criticism of the Agency from outsiders, many of whom didn’t like CIA anyway and really don’t like it when it has its own drones and special operators. They have some valid points to make, not least that years of prioritizing the counterterrorism mission has cost the Agency some capabilities in more traditional espionage and analysis, particularly because Langley’s best and brightest, as always, wanted to be where the action is — that’s the path to promotion and secret fame — and eschewed “legacy” missions in favor of killing bad guys in tandem with JSOC. Rising stars have flocked to the Agency’s Counterterrorism Center — led since 2006 by “Roger,” a convert to Islam (he has a prayer rug in his office), who looks like an undertaker but whose dedication to the mission is legendary — since that’s CIA’s pointy spear. Needless missteps that have gotten CIA officers killed thanks to sloppy tradecraft are grist to the mill of “too-much-CT” criticism.

However, it’s easy to overstate all this. CIA has kept on doing all its traditional missions since 9/11. Spies and analysts have been rolling along, doing what they’ve done since the Agency was established in 1947. Outside critics often miss the big picture, as I’ve noted before, and few journalists and academics have much “feel” for how CIA and the whole IC actually operate. It all looks rather different when you’re inside the bubble.

It’s disappointing that hardly any commentators have noted that CIA is currently being taken down a path of real militarization. The major reformsrecently proposed by Director John Brennan are causing serious bureaucratic churn out at Langley. Brennan, using the highly successful Counterterrorism Center (CTC) as a model of how to fully integrate case officers and desk-bound analysts, wants to fundamentally transform CIA by creating a series of mission centers that will bring the spooks and geeks together in one big happy intelligence family.

There are many reasons to be skeptical. First, Brennan, a skilled politician who has Obama’s ear, adheres to the view that what ails CIA are “stovepipes” — what cynics term “cylinders of excellence” — that separate the spooks (the Directorate of Operations or DO) and the geeks (the Directorate of Intelligence or DI). Breaking the 1947-era china, then, will fix all this, or so the theory goes. This seems unlikely, given the IC’s spotty history of reorganizations. Moreover, the differences between the DO and the DI, which can create friction, are mainly due to the very different personality types that occupy them. Besides, few care to note that the CTC, Brennan’s model for CIA integration, actually belongs to the DO.

Brennan’s reorganization plan recasts the Agency along the lines of the U.S. military, where the armed services are the force providers but operations are placed in the hands of the joint Combatant Commands. In this concept, for instance, the DO will train up case officers, then send them to mission centers to do their job. This model, which copies how the Pentagon does business, represents a far greater militarization of CIA than anything else since 9/11, or in the Agency’s entire history. Yet hardly any outsiders have noticed this, much less commented on it.

Many spooks are none too happy about Brennan’s reorganization since they believe it will reduce the DO’s ability to control espionage operations, which seems to be a safe assumption, and what the director actually intends. As a sop, the DO got its old name back — it was rebranded as the National Clandestine Service in the post-9/11 reforms, for no particular reason — while the DI will berenamed the Directorate of Analysis. However, the discomfort in spook circles was serious enough that the Deputy Director for Operations, the mighty DDO,announced his retirement rather than preside over changes that many think equal disbanding the DO, de facto.

The outgoing DDO, Frank Archibald — Langley never admitted his true name but it was outed in the media years ago — was a career case officer and a former Marine with extensive experience in covert action and tours with the Special Activities Division, the CIA’s in-house snake-eaters. The paramilitary SAD, which has expanded enormously since 9/11, has been a focus of criticism by outsiders as its relationship with JSOC has grown exceptionally close.

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that Archibald’s replacement as DDO is “Mike” — another former Marine and veteran paramilitary operator whose last job was the chief of SAD. Brennan leapfrogged over several more senior DO officers to elevate “Mike” to the top spy job, so the intent is clear, as the new DDO is known to be a “team player” regarding the nascent reorganization of the Agency.

Recasting CIA along Pentagon lines and putting a hardcore snake-eater in charge of remaking the DO sends a strong message that Brennan, and therefore Obama, think a more military-like Agency is what the country needs. This, to be charitable, is a debatable point, not to mention something that Congress should be discussing.

It doesn’t help that the media is silent about the implications of all this. Like so many things, the voices that waxed hysterically when Bush was said to be militarizing CIA are quieter when Obama does that, and more. This follows the usual pattern in Washington, DC. CIA involvement in extraordinary renditions — the bureaucratic term for kidnapping terrorists abroad — generated massive media attention during Bush’s second term, yet not much since, while hardly anybody cares to note that the policy actually commenced in 1995, under President Clinton, with the abducted terrorist being executed. Like so many things, it seems to be different when Democrats do it.

Based on the IC’s history, it feels safe to predict that Brennan’s far-reaching reorganization will cause years of churn out at Langley, and eventually there will be a re-reorg to undo these deep organizational changes when they turn out to have created more problems than they solved. That do-over will be the task of the next director, and will be handled tactfully, once Brennan has gotten his Medal of Freedom and his book deal. In the meantime, CIA personnel will do their best to complete their mission, as they have done every day for nearly seven decades.

Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya

Global Research, March 10, 2015, By Eric Draitser: (h/t @ClareMLopez)

The revelations that US ally Abdelhakim Belhadj is now leading ISIS in Libya should come as no surprise to those who have followed US policy in that country, and throughout the region. It illustrates for the umpteenth time that Washington has provided aid and comfort to precisely those forces it claims to be fighting around the world.

According to recent reports, Abdelhakim Belhadj has now firmly ensconced himself as the organizational commander of the ISIS presence inside Libya. The information comes from an unnamed US intelligence official who has confirmed that Belhadj is supporting and coordinating the efforts of the ISIS training centers in eastern Libya around the city of Derna, an area long known as a hotbed of jihadi militancy.
While it may not seem to be a major story – Al Qaeda terrorist turns ISIS commander – the reality is that since 2011 the US and its NATO allies have held up Belhadj as a “freedom fighter.” They portrayed him as a man who courageously led his fellow freedom-lovers against the “tyrannical despot” Gaddafi whose security forces at one time captured and imprisoned many members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Belhadj.

Belhadj served the US cause in Libya so well that he can be seen receiving accolades from Sen. John McCain who referred to Belhadj and his followers as heroes. He was initially rewarded after the fall of Gaddafi with the post of military commander of Tripoli, though he was forced to give way to a more politically palatable “transitional government” which has since evaporated in that chaotic, war-ravaged country.

Belhadj’s history of terrorist activity includes such “achievements” as collaboration with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of course his convenient servitude to the US-NATO sponsored rampage across Libya that, among other things, caused mass killings of black Libyans and anyone suspected of being part of the Green Resistance (those loyal to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya led by Gaddafi). Although the corporate media tried to make a martyr of Belhadj for his alleged torture via the CIA rendition program, the inescapable fact is that wherever he goes he leaves a violent and bloody wake.

While much of this information is known, what is of paramount importance is placing this news in a proper political context, one that illustrates clearly the fact that the US has been, and continues to be, the major patron of extremist militants from Libya to Syria and beyond, and that all talk of “moderate rebels” is merely rhetoric designed to fool an unthinking public.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend…Until He Isn’t

There is ample documented evidence of Belhadj’s association with Al Qaeda and his terrorist exploits the world over. Various reports have highlighted his experiences fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and he himself has boasted of killing US troops in Iraq. However, it was in Libya in 2011 where Belhadj became the face of the “rebels” seeking to topple Gaddafi and the legal government of Libya.

As the New York Times reported:

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in 1995 with the goal of ousting Colonel Qaddafi. Driven into the mountains or exile by Libyan security forces, the group’s members were among the first to join the fight against Qaddafi security forces… Officially the fighting group does not exist any longer, but the former members are fighting largely under the leadership of Abu Abdullah Sadik [aka Abdelhakim Belhadj].

So, not only was Belhadj a participant in the US-NATO war on Libya, he was one of its most powerful leaders, heading a battle-hardened jihadist faction that constituted the leading edge of the war against Gaddafi. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than when the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) took the lead in the attack on Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Aziziya. In this regard, LIFG was provided intelligence, and likely also tactical support, from US intelligence and the US military.

This new information about Belhadj’s association with the suddenly globally relevant ISIS certainly bolsters the argument that this writer, among many others, has made since 2011 – that the US-NATO war on Libya was waged by terrorist groups overtly and tacitly supported by US intelligence and the US military. Moreover, it dovetails with other information that has surfaced in recent years, information that shines a light on how the US exploited for its own geopolitical purposes one of the most active terrorist hotbeds anywhere in the world.

According to the recent reports, Belhadj is directly involved with supporting the ISIS training centers in Derna. Of course Derna should be well known to anyone who has followed Libya since 2011, because that city, along with Tobruk and Benghazi, were the centers of anti-Gaddafi terrorist recruitment in the early days of the “uprising” all through the fateful year of 2011. But Derna was known long before that as a locus of militant extremism.

In a major 2007 study entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records” conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point, the authors noted that:

Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia… The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa’ida which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa’ida on November 3, 2007…The most common cities that the fighters called home were Darnah [Derna], Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with 52 and 51 fighters respectively. Darnah [Derna] with a population just over 80,000 compared to Riyadh’s 4.3 million, has far and away the largest per capita number of fighters in the Sinjar records.

And so, the US military and intelligence community has known for nearly a decade (perhaps longer) that Derna has long been directly or indirectly controlled by jihadis of the LIFG variety, and that that city had acted as a primary recruiting ground for terrorism throughout the region. Naturally, such information is vital if we are to understand the geopolitical and strategic significance of the notion of ISIS training camps associated with the infamous Belhadj on the ground in Derna.

This leads us to three interrelated, and equally important, conclusions. First, Derna is once again going to provide foot soldiers for a terror war to be waged both in Libya, and in the region more broadly, with the obvious target being Syria. Second is the fact that the training sites at Derna will be supported and coordinated by a known US asset. And third, that the US policy of supporting “moderate rebels” is merely a public relations campaign designed to convince average Americans (and those in the West generally) that it is not supporting terrorism, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The Myth of ‘Moderate Rebels’

The news about Belhadj and ISIS must not be seen in a vacuum. Rather, it should be still further proof that the notion of “moderates” being supported by the US is an insult to the intelligence of political observers and the public at large.

For more than three years now, Washington has trumpeted its stated policy of support to so-called moderate rebels in Syria – a policy which has at various times folded such diverse terror groups as the Al Farooq Brigades (of cannibalism fame) and Hazm (“Determination”) into one large “moderate” tent. Unfortunately for US propagandists and assorted warmongers however, these groups along with many others have since voluntarily or forcibly been incorporated into Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL.

Recently, there have been many reports of mass defections of formerly Free Syrian Army factions to ISIS, bringing along with them their advanced US-supplied weaponry. Couple that with the “poster boys” for Washington policy, the aforementioned Hazm group, now having become part of Jabhat al Nusra, the Al Qaeda linked group in Syria. Of course these are only a few of the many examples of groups that have become affiliated with either the ISIS or Al Qaeda brand in Syria, including Liwaa Al-Farouq, Liwaa Al-Qusayr, and Liwaa Al-Turkomen to name just a few.

What has become clear is that the US and its allies, in their unending quest for regime change in Syria, have been overtly supporting extremist elements that have now coalesced to form a global terror threat in ISIS, Nusra, and Al Qaeda.

But of course, this is nothing new, as the Belhadj episode in Libya demonstrates unequivocally. The man who was once Al Qaeda, then became a “moderate” and “our man in Tripoli,” has now become the leader of the ISIS threat in Libya. So too have “our friends” become our enemies in Syria. None of this should surprise anyone.

But perhaps John McCain would like to answer some questions about his long-standing connections with Belhadj and the “moderates” in Syria. Would Obama like to explain why his “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has become a humanitarian nightmare for that country, and indeed the whole region? Would the CIA, which has been extensively involved in all of these operations, like to come clean about just who they’ve been supporting and what role they’ve played in fomenting this chaos?

I doubt any such questions will ever be asked by anyone in the corporate media. Just as I doubt any answers will ever be furnished by those in Washington whose decisions have created this catastrophe. So, it is for us outside the corporate propaganda matrix to demand answers, and to never let the establishment suppress our voices…or the truth.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Also see:

Cables Show CIA Tried to Connect with Hamas Despite U.S. Ban

The US president, Barack Obama, threatened the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, according to the spy cables. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

The US president, Barack Obama, threatened the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, according to the spy cables. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

by IPT News  •  Feb 23, 2015:

Spy cables reveal that the CIA attempted to interact with Hamas, despite U.S. government prohibitions on contact with the designated Palestinian terrorist organization, the Guardian reports.

The cables, obtained by the Al Jazeerah network, indicate that American intelligence was eager to establish connections with Hamas and recruit agents within the Gaza Strip. According to the leaked documents, a CIA officer and South African intelligence agent met in East Jerusalem during fighting between Hamas and Israel. A cable sent to Pretoria on June 29, 2012 revealed that the CIA agent “seems to be desperate to make inroads into Hamas in Gaza and possibly would like SSA [the South African State Security Agency] to assist them in gaining access.”

In return, the South African agency suggested that the SSA would be able to access American intelligence priorities and understand CIA collection methods throughout the proposed interaction between the CIA and Hamas.

The CIA is prohibited from providing material assistance to a terrorist organization; however, attempting to recruit a spy from within a terrorist organization would be within the intelligence agency’s mandate.

“[The] CIA supports the overall US government effort to combat international terrorism by collecting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence on foreign terrorist groups and individuals. [The] CIA conducts those intelligence activities in compliance with the United States constitution, federal statutes and presidential directives,” a CIA spokesperson said.