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.


CIA Director: Turkish Terror Attack Underscores ISIS Threat to Americans

John Brennan / AP

John Brennan / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Aaron Kliegman, June 29, 2016:

CIA Director John Brennan warned in an interview published Wednesday that the Islamic State is likely responsible for the suicide bombings Tuesday night at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport that killed 41 people and wounded hundreds more and is trying to carry out similar attacks in the United States.

“I am worried from the standpoint of an intelligence professional who looks at the capabilities of Daesh … and their determination to kill as many people as possible and to carry out attacks abroad,” Brennan told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview at CIA headquarters, using the acronym for the Arabic name of the Islamic State.

ISIS has so far not taken credit for the Turkish airport attack and Brennan did not confirm that it was responsible, but Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters shortly after the Istanbul bombings that ISIS was likely the culprit.

Brennan indicated that the method of attack points to the jihadist group rather than the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has launched attacks inside Turkey while battling the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy.

“It was a suicide bombing [which] is usually more a Daesh technique,” Brennan said. “You look at what happened in the Turkish airport, these were suicide vests. It’s not that difficult to actually construct and fabricate a suicide vest … so if you have a determined enemy and individuals who are not concerned about escape, that they are going into it with a sense that they are going to die, that really does complicate your strategy in terms of preventing attacks.”

Brennan warned that “I’d be surprised if Daesh is not trying to carry out that kind of attack in the United States.”

He credited intelligence and homeland security measures for stopping ISIS from directing an attack on the American homeland up to this point. (The terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando were carried out by individuals inspired by ISIS, not directed by them.)

The CIA chief said ISIS has a motive to attack Turkey because Ankara is going after terrorists in neighboring Syria and has helped the American-led coalition to fight the terror group. Turkey’s failure to police its border to stop foreign fighters from flowing into and out of Iraq and Syria has frustrated Washington, but Brennan said America’s NATO ally has taken steps recently to better monitor the border.

ISIS has used terror tactics to “offset” losses of territory and other setbacks in Iraq and Syria, but the group’s upsurge in attacks in the greater Middle East and Europe is also part of a wider offensive, according to Brennan.

“Over the past year and a half they have made a more determined effort to carry out attacks abroad, and we see in terms of their plans, their preparations, the movement of people as well as propagandizing outside, exhorting, inciting a much more determined effort to carry out these external operations,” Brennan said.

“Brennan was blunt about the slow nature of progress both in the fight against ISIS and efforts to push Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power,” the article reads. America’s top spy toldlawmakers earlier this month that the U.S. campaign to defeat ISIS has not curbed the group’s global reach, and he echoed those sentiments in the Yahoo interview.

“We’ve yet to really thwart Daesh’s ability to reach beyond the Syria-Iraqi borders and put in place some of the plans and preparations to carry out attacks,” Brennan said. “I am very concerned we have not had the success against Daesh in that environment as we’ve had in the core areas of Syria and Iraq.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper raised similar concerns last month, telling CNN that ISIS has the capability to launch a large-scale Paris-style attack inside the United States.

Brennan added that a key aspect of America’s strategy to defeat ISIS is to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, who he described as a “magnet” for a number of jihadist groups to fight in Syria. Brennan acknowledged that Assad is in a stronger position today, despite President Obama calling for his ouster since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began.

“Relative to where he was on the battlefield last year, [Assad] is in a better and stronger position [today],” Brennan said, blaming Russia for Assad’s stronger position by intervening on the Syrian leader’s behalf in September 2015. “The Russians sometimes want their cake and eat it too as far as having the cooperation with us against terrorists but not wanting to do anything that’s going to lead to a political settlement that will have a more durable future as far as a political agreement,” Brennan added.

Brennan expressed a broader frustration with Moscow, discussing a recent report that Russia is harassing U.S. diplomats throughout Europe. The CIA director “told his counterparts ‘in direct terms,’ that the behavior was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘destructive’ to the relationship,” according to Yahoo.

Brennan also discussed Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who disclosed highly classified surveillance programs, which infuriated the U.S. intelligence community. Brennan said that Snowden has “dishonored his oath” and should return to the United States to face charges. When asked to comment on former Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that Snowden “actually performed a public service,” Brennan said, “I do not believe that at all. I respectfully but vehemently disagree with the former attorney general.”

Yahoo News will post the full transcript of the interview next week.


Also see:

Islamic State expands beyond Iraq-Syria base with six armies on three world regions

Rather than shrinking, the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — is metastasizing globally by attracting waves of henchmen in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service said in a June 14 report for lawmakers. (Associated Press)

Rather than shrinking, the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — is metastasizing globally by attracting waves of henchmen in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service said in a June 14 report for lawmakers. (Associated Press)

The Washington Times – Monday, June 20, 2016

The Islamic State terrorist group has created at least six functioning armies outside its Iraq-Syria base that threaten governments in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to a new report to Congress.

Rather than shrinking, the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — is metastasizing globally by attracting waves of henchmen in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service said in a June 14 report for lawmakers.

The fact that six irregular Islamic State armies are operating in three world regions, not to mention various cells in Europe and the U.S., is in contrast to the Obama administration’s generally upbeat reports on containing the violent group.

In another break from that positive White House message, CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate intelligence committee last week that, while the Islamic State has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as thousands of fighters in those two countries, its ability to direct or inspire terrorist attacks remains robust.

“Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Mr. Brennan said.

The Islamic State’s ability to operate terrorist franchises across multiple regions presents formidable challenges to stretched U.S. forces now focused on the group’s Iraq-Syria base.

The six franchises singled out in the CRS report, “Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” are not simply cells but viable armies with training bases, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons, and hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters.

The Islamic State in Egypt. Begun in 2014 in the Sinai Peninsula, the unit is attracting Bedouin Arabs, Palestinians from across the border and foreign fighters. Its soldiers have been photographed holding shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that could bring down a commercial airliner. The Sinai group may have more than 1,000 members, whose siren call is that one day its followers will invade Israel.

It claimed responsibility for bringing down Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai with a bomb disguised as a soda can, killing all 224 people onboard on Oct. 31, 2015.

The Islamic State in Saudi Arabia. It has taken credit for a series of attacks since 2014, and calls on its followers to kill the kingdom’s clerics and security forces. A group fighter blew himself up in a Kuwait mosque last year, killing more than two dozen people. The Saudi government has arrested more than 1,600 Islamic State followers, a number that indicates the group’s message is resonating in a country that already practices a strict form of Sunni Islam.

“[Islamic State] leaders claim to have established a caliphate to which all pious Sunni Muslims owe allegiance, directly challenging the legitimacy of Saudi leaders who have long claimed a unique role as Sunni leaders and supporters of particular Salafist interpretations of Sunni Islam,” the CRS report says.

The Islamic State in Libya. This is the terrorist group’s largest franchise, with as many as 6,000 fighters who threaten the shaky government in Tripoli. It controls large sections of territory, but is under pressure from government troops who have captured much of the coastal city of Sirte. Islamic State also faces attacks from other competing Islamic groups.

The Islamic State in Nigeria. Also known as Boko Haram, this ultraviolent Sunni group has killed thousands of innocents and displaced more than 1 million people.

The Islamic State-Khorasan Province. This Afghanistan branch seemed at first to be an annoyance. But as Islamic State has shown, it has an ability to attract followers bent on carrying out carnage. Hundreds of ex-Taliban have enlisted, and the Iraq-Syria base has provided financing.

Thought initially to comprise a few hundred, the group’s ranks have swelled to as many as 3,000. The U.S. command in Kabul, which generally ignored the affiliate for months, now is authorized to bomb Khorasan fighting positions that could directly threaten American troops.

The Islamic State in Yemen. The group is capitalizing on the country’s chaos, as Iranian-backed rebels and various Sunni groups fight for control, by unleashing a series of attacks on Shiite mosques.

Robert Maginnis, author of the anti-jihad book “Never Submit,” said the U.S. allowed the Islamic State to become too large before beginning an air and ground campaign in 2014.

“The Obama administration’s slow response to the rise of ISIS gave the group the freedom to franchise across much of the globe,” Mr. Maginnis said. “Add to that the explosive effectiveness of ISIS’ very effective public relations arm, billions of dollars in its treasury and a large and easily manipulated young male Muslim population, and no wonder ISIS’ caliphate now includes six armies and perhaps hundreds of thousands of supporters across at least 13 countries and growing.”

He added: “Only the naive believe the ISIS threat is diminishing. Thankfully our CIA director is clearheaded enough to part with Obama’s misguided spin and confirm ISIS is a serious and growing threat to America’s homeland and our interests abroad.”

In his testimony June 16, the CIA’s Mr. Brennan provided one of the administration’s franker portraits of the Islamic State. Yes, it has lost territory, leaders and money. But it is still generating tens of millions of dollars and remains, he said, “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 spoke of its branches, such as the six singled out in the CRS report, that can “help preserve its capacity for terrorism, regardless of events in Iraq and Syria. In fact, 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 Islamic State has showed that it can inspire attacks, for example, in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida. It can plan and direct attacks, such as the Nov. 13 massacre in Paris and the March 22 bombings in Brussels.

It is capitalizing on an increasing number of unstable territories, a result of the chaos of the so-called Arab Spring in Libya, Egypt and Syria, and the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that toppled the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

The CRS report said this combustion makes it difficult to adopt one strategy to stop the Islamic State.

“The interdependent nature of conflicts and political crises in Iraq, Syria, and other countries where the Islamic State operates complicates efforts to address and durably eliminate the threats posed by the group,” the report said.

Also see:

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


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:

Law Enforcement ‘Never Guessed’ Gay Club Would Be Targeted by Jihad



While Omar Mateen was casing other gay clubs to determine where he wanted to commit jihad mass murder, law enforcement officials had no idea a jihadi might ever consider such targets.

On Sunday, the East Orlando Post reported startling words from James Copenhaver, whom it described as a “veteran investigator and former Orlando law enforcement officer.” Said Copenhaver:

I have been in this business for 30 years, and we all in law enforcement have talked about one of the theme parks getting hit by these terrorist killers. Never in all my years of training, and being involved in several investigative units, to include the FBI Task Force, would we have ever guessed a LGBT club be a target of an terrorist attack.

Why would they never have guessed?

Because the FBI and other law enforcement agencies don’t study Islam, and this is a direct result of Muslim groups demanding the removal of such material. Those who are committed to protecting us are taught to downplay and deny the motivating ideology behind jihad terror attacks.

Read more

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


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.  

An ISIS 9/11 Attack On America With WMDs In 2016

U.S. intelligence agencies confirm that ISIS has used chemical weapons, warn it will attempt direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016, and is infiltrating refugee groups fleeing Iraq and Syria. (Ho/Zuma Press/Newscom)

U.S. intelligence agencies confirm that ISIS has used chemical weapons, warn it will attempt direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016, and is infiltrating refugee groups fleeing Iraq and Syria. (Ho/Zuma Press/Newscom)

IBD, Feb. 12, 2016:

National Security: The CIA director confirms that the Islamic State uses chemical weapons days after the director of national intelligence says ISIS is planning attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016. Connect the dots.

CIA Director John Brennan, in a CBS News “60 Minutes” interview that will air Sunday, said ISIS has “used chemical munitions on the battlefield” and can construct chlorine and mustard gas-releasing weapons.

Earlier this week, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ISIS will “attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016,” and that the caliphate is infiltrating the refugees fleeing the ISIS mayhem in Iraq and Syria.

At the same hearing on Tuesday, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said ISIS operatives are “pretty skilled at phony passports, so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers,” with Syrian passport machines having been commandeered by the terrorist organization.

The “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” Clapper presented to Congress on Tuesday said ISIS “has become the preeminent terrorist threat.”

So ISIS is “the preeminent terrorist threat” in the world.

It can make and has used weapons of mass destruction.

It is hiding among refugees, using fake passports to cross borders.

And it will “attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”

Can we please put two and two together? If ISIS is going to cross our border and attack America, why wouldn’t it shoot for the moon and use chemical weapons against us in assaults that would make the 9/11 attacks look like a walk in the park?

ISIS wouldn’t even have to smuggle them in. ABC News recently asked experts such as Michael Allswede of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Thomas Inglesby of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University about terrorists making chemical weapons surreptitiously within the U.S.

“Because they’re relatively easy and inexpensive to manufacture, chemical weapons have long been considered ‘the poor man’s atomic bomb,’ ” they said, and “could be dispersed from a crop-dusting plane, from aerosols, or by distributing the chemical in water supplies.”

This nation should be on Code Red right now with a “severe risk of terrorist attack” — a WMD terrorist attack that could kill many thousands. Except that President Obama abolished the color-coded terrorism threat advisory scale five years ago.

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.

al Shabaab Assassinates Ugandan Prosecutor of 2010 World Cup Bombing Case

Part-PAR-Par8135717-1-1-0CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, April 1, 2015:

Ugandan prosecutor Joan Kagezi was in her car with her children when men tailing her by motorcycle drove by and shot her twice.  She was the chief prosecutor in the al Shabaab case involving 13 men connected to the 2010 suicide bombing that killed 76 people who were watching the World Cup.  One American was killed by the al Shabaab attack.  The U.S. has recently shared intelligence with officials in Kampala about fears of an attack.  Security precautions are being taken for the coming Easter holiday.  Citizens are being warned to be vigilant and avoid large crowds.

It is important to understand that al Shabaab is almost always identified in media as ‘al Qaeda linked’ because of training by al Qaeda veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as formal allegiance.  Al Shabaab represents the same threat as al Qaeda but more importantly, they are significant players in the global jihad movement for several reasons.  First, al Shabaab is wired in to al Qaeda’s networks across Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Central Asia.  Second, al Shabaab has been highly successful in recruiting from the United States and has threatened the U.S.  That means they have trained fighters with U.S. passports that can travel internationally.  Third, their North American training capability is useful to IS as well.  Finally, al Shabaab was the first group to receive and train the Boko Haram faction Ansaru which connects them to the most deadly jihadist sub-group in the world.

In a recent interview, CIA director, John Brennan, committed to the narrative created during the 2012 presidential campaign that this is the season of al Qaeda’s demise.  The interviewer, Chris Wallace pushed director Brennan on the question citing that groups like IS are symptoms of al Qaeda.  Wallace suggested that groups like IS are merely offshoots with different names and to pretend that tactical victories against ‘al Qaeda central’ meant an end to the threat of militant Islamists was misleading.   Further it ignores the connections, relationships, goals, and ideals that al Shabaab, IS, AQIM, AQAP, Boko Haram, and the Taliban all share with al Qaeda. Brennan did not use the opportunity to correct the record.

To downplay the threat of al Qaeda ‘central’ as being largely defeated is no comfort to the family of prosecutor Joan Kagezi.  Mrs. Kagezi fought terrorism as the head of Uganda’s directorate of public prosecution’s anti-terrorism and war crimes division.  The battle space in combating terrorism in East Africa is unique because of this specific type of attack.  Global jihadist groups hold territory nearby, recruit in, and conduct small attacks and assassinations within civil Western societies fighting to build judiciaries with rule of law to uphold Western values.  How would the U.S. administration understand and characterize Islamist jihadi threats if American prosecutors faced the same risks as our partners in Uganda and Kenya?

Also see:

FNC’s Wallace Grills CIA Chief for Falsely Claiming Al Qaeda Was on the Run

cia-420x315Breitbart, by Pam Key, March 22, 2015:

On this weekend’s “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace quizzed CIA Director John Brennan over his 2012 claim al Qaeda was on the run during the 2012 presidential election.

After Wallace ran a clip of Brennan in 2012 saying this will be the decade al Qaeda’s demise he asked, “Director Brennan, weren’t you just flat wrong about that?”

Brennan shot back “No. When we look at al Qaeda and look what has happened to al Qaeda as the core of al Qaeda that was in the area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, they have taken some really big hits.”

Wallace continued, “But respectfully, sir, when you were saying this is the decade of al Qaeda’s demise, I don’t think most people thought there will be an offshoot called ISIS which spreads across the Middle East.”

Brennan countered by saying, “This phenomenon that Dash represents right now is a new one. It is one that has grown up in the past two years.”

Wallace inserted, “But it’s an offshoot against al Qaeda.”

Brennan continued, “We have pushed al Qaeda back and prevent their attacks, but there are these offshoots, as you say. This is a phenomenon that we have to deal with and I do think over the next decade this will be a long, hard fight.

Wallace asked, “I guess what I’m asking is didn’t you give the American people and the president give the American people a false sense of confidence back in 2012 about our fight against Islamic terrorists at a time perhaps not so coincidentally when the president was running for re-election.?”

Brennan concluded, “We said al Qaeda was on the run. We said that al Qaeda was really bloodied. It was not the same organization that it was at 9/11 as well as in the years after that. There was no sense that I think either I or the president or others gave to the American people that terrorism was going away. But we’ve made great progress against a lot of these groups that had plans in place to carry out attacks.”


Also see:

Think Not, Look Away

pic-2By JOHN BUNDOCKMarch 18, 2015: (h/t @michaeldweiss)

From John Brennan’s hopes of reaching out to “moderates” among Hezbollah to the Countering Violent Extremism conference, the Obama administration has made counter-information campaigns a central part of its foreign policy. This is particularly the case on the “cyber front;” whether through hashtag campaigns or YouTube back-and-forths.

In the war to counter online jihadist recruitment, the Department of State’s Think Again Turn Away Twitter account (@ThinkAgain_DOS) is exemplary of this trend. Many of the statements put out by the account are indeed admirable, whether in exposing the Islamic State’s (ISIS) atrocities or celebrating the unity of Syrian rebels and Kurdish nationalists in Kobane. However, the account’s rapid retweet-and-forget strategy, coupled with the administration’s selective concern for extremism, has proven not merely counter-intuitive to meaningful dissuasion, but has also serviced the interests of the jihadist propagandists themselves.

The account’s most intrinsic flaws are reflective of the problems besetting the overall messaging campaign of the State Department and Inherent Resolve. In championing any and all who oppose ISIS, the organization has endorsed the accounts of various apologists for the Iran-led Shiite militias.

The first instance, a tweet mourning a regime soldier who had evidently fallen in battle with jihadists was written off as a mistake that was deleted. However, a pattern has emerged recently of retweetingpartisans of groups like Asaib Ahl al-Haq (or “special groupies”). Initially these “special groupies” seem innocent enough, engaging in mass information distribution (or “Info dumps,”) and being generally amicable to watchers of the region. They soon become regarded as “reliable” even as their sectarian agenda becomes evident. What’s more worrisome is how this sets a norm for other observers of the region: if the Department of State believes these agents, so might members of prominent think tanks. This is particularly problematic given these accounts’ willingness to actively spread disinformation or harass genuine experts on militant groups.

A case in point was the distribution of the @SunniTribes “sockpuppet” account. In January, a Shiite militia source tweeted out celebrations of ISIS fighters purportedly being beheaded at the hands of the allied al-Jaghaifa tribe. When the atrocity was called out, a “@SunniTribes” account spontaneously merged to blame the atrocities on the Albu Mahal tribe in Ramadi. Haidar Sumeri then used this fake account as “proof” that the Albu Mahal tribe was responsible. Furthermore, from the original account blaming the Jaghaifa tribe, only the heads are shown; no Jaghaifa flag is present. Instead, there were images of the Ubaidi tribal militia Fursan Emarat al-Ubaid carrying heads. A brief perusal of the militia’s YouTube account indicates its proud affiliation with Sadrists. While members of the Jaghaifa tribe certainly “were” in al-Khafsa village and had worked alongside the Ubaidis in another village, uncertainty remains as to whether they actually committed the war crime in question. The Jaghaifa tribe may well have been guilty, as asserted by the original militia source, but the reliability is called into question given the propaganda tactics these “special groupies” deploy. Relying on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) militants and their apologists for public information opens up the possibility of being the stenographers for the jihadists you so condemn.

On March 12, Think Again retweeted Hala Jaber’s, journalist for The Sunday Times, tweets about an ISIS suicide bomber. Considering that Jaber has at times served as a kind of stenographer-propagandist for the Assad regime and Hezbollah, Syrian rebels can be forgiven for thinking this was a foreshadowing of Kerry’s rapprochement with the IRGC satrap himself.

With these facts in mind, perhaps the gaffes are not so much flaws as they are features. As the Obama administration stated its willingness to negotiate with Assad and his Shiite jihadist backers to end the conflict, it should not be surprising about what has happened to “countering violent extremism:” they have simply decided that some extremists are better than others. Barack Obama once advocated “we don’t look away” in the face of mass atrocities, and hypocritically proved otherwise. In keeping with this about-face, maybe @ThinkAgain_DOS should change its name to “Think Not, Look Away.”

John Bundock is a recent graduate from Fordham University who writes on Middle Eastern politics.

CIA Chief John Brennan: Deceptions About Islam

John_Brennan-450x253Frontpage, March 17, 2015 by Raymond Ibrahim:

By constantly projecting Western standards on Islamic jihadis, CIA head John Brennan has come to epitomize the U.S. intelligence community’s intellectual failures concerning the true sources of the jihad.

Last Friday, March 13, Brennan insisted that Islamic State (IS) members are not Islamic. Instead, “They are terrorists, they’re criminals. Most—many—of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct.”

Note his usage of terms familiar to Western people (“terrorists,” “criminals,” etc.). Islamic State jihadis may be all those things—including “psychopathic thugs”—from a Western paradigm, but the fact left out by Brennan is that, according to Islamic law and history, savage and psychopathic behavior is permissible, especially in the context of the jihad.

But perhaps Brennan knows all this and is simply being “strategic”? After all, the CIA head also “warned against ascribing ‘Islamic legitimacy’ to the overseas terrorist group, saying that allowing them to identify themselves with Islam does a disservice to Muslims around the world.”

Brennan of course is following Barack Obama’s lead; a month earlier the president said:

We must never accept the premise that they [Islamic State] put forward, because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.

The problem is that, according to Western norms—built as they are atop Judeo-Christian principles—Islam has been “perverted” from day one. As far back as the 8th century, mere generations after Islam was born, Byzantine chronicler Theophanes wrote in his Chrongraphia:

He [Islamic prophet Muhammad] taught those who gave ear to him that the one slaying the enemy—or being slain by the enemy—entered into paradise [e.g., Koran 9:111]. And he said paradise was carnal and sensual—orgies of eating, drinking, and women. Also, there was a river of wine … and the woman were of another sort, and the duration of sex greatly prolonged and its pleasure long-enduring [e.g., Koran 56: 7-40, 78:31, 55:70-77]. And all sorts of other nonsense.

More to the point, every atrocity IS has committed—beheading, crucifying, raping, enslaving, or burning people alive—is legitimate according to Islamic lawand the teachings and deeds of Muhammad, that most “perfect” and “moral” man (Koran 33:21, 68:4), as documented here.

Based on Islamic historical texts, Muhammad sent assassins to slaughter his critics—including poets and one old woman whose body was dismembered by her Muslim assailants; he had an “infidel” tortured to death with fire in order to reveal his tribe’s hidden treasure; he “married” that same man’s wife hours later (the woman, Safiya, later confessed that “Of all men, I hated the prophet the most—for he killed my husband, my brother, and my father”); and he reportedly used to visit and have sex with his nine wives in a single hour. (For more, read “The Perverse Sexual Habits of the Prophet.”)

Again, all this information is based on Islamic texts deemed reliable and regularly quoted by Muslim scholars and theologians—not fabrications by “Islamophobes.”

Even so, the point here is that, whatever the “truth” about Islam, its origins and founder, the premise that Brennan, Obama, etc., constantly put forth—that it would be counterproductive for “us” to confer any Islamic “legitimacy” on groups like the Islamic State—is fatuous at best. As I explained in a 2009 article titled “Words Matter in the War on Terror”:

Muslims are not waiting around for Americans or their government — that is, the misguided, the deluded, in a word, the infidel — to define Islam for them; much less will subtle word games and euphemisms emanating from the West manage to confer or take away Islamic legitimacy on the Islamists of the world. For Muslims, only Islamic law, the antithesis of international law, decides what is or is not legitimate, or in legal terminology, what is mubah or mahrum.

Furthermore, the U.S. government would do well to worry less about which words appease Muslims … and worry more about providing its own citizenry with accurate and meaningful terminology.

Words matter. Whom those words are directed at matters even more. The world’s Muslims aren’t holding their breath to hear what sort of Islamic legitimacy the U.S. government is about to confer on any given Islamist group, since it is not for non-Muslims — the despised infidels — to decide what is and is not Islamic in the first place. Americans, on the other hand, who still wonder “why they hate us,” are in desperate need of understanding. Using accurate terminology is the first step.

Indeed, for all of U.S. leadership’s fear that we “infidels” not “legitimize” the Islamic State, Al Azhar—perhaps the most “legitimate” of all Islamic institutions—refuses to delegitimize the jihadi terrorists. And little wonder, since Al Azhar’s curriculum teaches everything that IS is doing—including burning people alive.

Meanwhile, Brennan whitewashes and praises the jihad. Speaking back in 2010, the politically correct CIA chief said:

Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.

Inasmuch as he is correct that “jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community”—he greatly errs by again projecting Judeo-Christian notions of what constitutes “holy,” “legitimate,” and “innocent” onto Islam.

Jihad is nothing less than offensive warfare to spread Islamic rule, a cause seen as both “legitimate” and “holy” in Islam. (Read this “moderate” Muslim scholar’s “logic” on the (invisible) differences between jihad and terrorism.) Moreover, jihadis regularly seek to “purify” their communities by purging them of “infidels” and their influences.  As for “innocence,” by simply being a non-Muslim, one is already guilty in Islam.  And when Muhammad’s disciples warned him about attacking non-Muslim tribes in the night, since women and children might get killed accidentally, the prophet replied, “They are from among them” and proceeded with the raid.

All this leads to the following question: If the Islamic State and other jihadi organizations are not animated by Islam, then what, according to the CIA chief, is really fueling their jihad? Brennan spelled this out very clearly back in 2010 when he described Islamic terrorists as victims of “political, economic and social forces.”

In other words, the way to defeat the Islamic State is by offering its members better “job opportunities”—as so eloquently expressed by the State Department recently in the person of Mary Harf.

Ironically enough, Brennan’s invocation of “political, economic and social forces” brings to mind the fact that I warned against precisely these three pretexts, and in the same order, in the opening paragraph of my written testimony submitted to the US House of Representatives on February 12, 2009—since removed from their website—a year before Brennan invoked “political, economic and social forces” as the true sources of Islamic jihad.

I close with that opening paragraph as it appears more relevant now than it was over six years ago when I wrote it:

The greatest hurdle Americans need to get over in order to properly respond to the growing threat of radical Islam is purely intellectual in nature; specifically, it is epistemological, and revolves around the abstract realm of ‘knowledge.’ Before attempting to formulate a long-term strategy to counter radical Islam, Americans must first and foremost understand Islam, particularly its laws and doctrines, the same way Muslims understand it—without giving it undue Western (liberal) interpretations. This is apparently not as simple as expected: all peoples of whatever civilizations and religions tend to assume that other peoples more or less share in their worldview, which they assume is objective, including notions of right and wrong, good and bad. …. [T]he secular, Western experience has been such that people respond with violence primarily when they feel they are politically, economically, or socially oppressed. While true that many non-Western peoples may fit into this paradigm, the fact is, the ideologies of radical Islam have the intrinsic capacity to prompt Muslims to violence and intolerance vis-à-vis the ‘other,’ irrespective of grievances…. Being able to understand all this, being able to appreciate it without any conceptual or intellectual constraints is paramount for Americans to truly understand the nature of the enemy and his ultimate goals.


Here is the entire interview with Charlie Rose where John Brennan made those comments during the question and answer period. (Go here for the transcript)

CIA’s Global Mission: Countering Shared Threats

QUESTION: Thank you. Chris Isham with CBS. Could you explain a little bit about the ideological dimension of the war on terrorism. You mentioned ideology fuels many of the organizations we see today. But this administration continues to be very reluctant to identify Islamic extremism as that fuel. I wonder, do you think that’s a good idea to continue to resist that?

BRENNAN: Well, quite frankly, I’m amused at, you know, the debate that goes on about, boy, you know, unless you call it by what it is you don’t know what you’re fighting. And let’s make it very clear that the people who carry out acts of terrorism, whether it be al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, are doing it because they believe that it is consistent with what their view of Islam is.

It is totally inconsistent with what the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world. And so by ascribing it as, you know, Muslim terrorism or Islamic extremism, I think it really does give them the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don’t deserve at all.

They are terrorists, they’re criminals, many of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers, who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct—and I do think it does injustice to the tenets of religion when we attach a religious moniker to them.

The Muslims I know and people I have worked with throughout the Middle East throughout most of my career find it just disgraceful that these individuals present themselves as Muslims.

So I think we have to be very careful also in the characterization, because the words that we use can have resonance. And so if things that we talk about publicly, you know, this is, you know, Islamic extremist, a lot of these individuals are proud of being referred to as Islamic extremists. We don’t want to give them, again, any type of religious legitimacy because what they do has no basis in any upstanding religion.