Monday, September 08, 2014

Worse than Watergate

Stephen Hayes has a must read piece that should trigger earthquakes in DC.

Al Qaeda Wasn’t ‘on the Run’

Why haven’t we seen the documents retrieved in the bin Laden raid?

In July, Lieutenant General Flynn left his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a year earlier than scheduled. Many intelligence professionals believe he was forced out, in part because heand many who worked for himaggressively challenged the administration’s view that al Qaeda was dying. Flynn’s views were shaped by the intelligence in the bin Laden documents.

Before he left, Flynn spoke to reporter James Kitfield, of Breaking Defense, who asked why he pushed back on the White House’s view that al Qaeda had died with Osama bin Laden. “There’s a political component to that issue, but when bin Laden was killed there was a general sense that maybe this threat would go away. We all had those hopes, including me. But I also remembered my many years in Afghanistan and Iraq. We kept decapitating the leadership of these groups, and more leaders would just appear from the ranks to take their place. That’s when I realized that decapitation alone was a failed strategy.”

Flynn recalled pushing to get information to policymakers with the hope that it might influence their decisions. “We said many times, ‘Hey, we need to get this intelligence in front of the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the national security adviser! The White House needs to see this intelligence picture we have!’?” He added: “We saw all this connective tissue developing between these [proliferating] terrorist groups. So when asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat out lying.
Hayes also gives us another reason why ValJar and Co. where so eager to accept the resignation of Gen. Petraeus:

Officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency and CENTCOM responsible for providing analysis to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan wanted to study the documents. But the CIA had “executive authority” over the collection and blocked any outside access to them.

The ensuing bureaucratic fight, reminiscent of the intragovernment battles that led to the reorganization of the intelligence community after 9/11, unfolded over the spring and fall of 2011. It was resolved, at least temporarily, when then-CIA director David Petraeus weighed in on behalf of the team from CENTCOM and the DIA, a move that did little to improve his standing with the CIA bureaucracy. Petraeus was angry when he learned that the CIA hadn’t been actively exploiting the documents, and as the former head of CENTCOM, he was sympathetic to the pleas from military intelligence. The dispute made its way to Clapper, who met with representatives of the warring agencies and agreed that DIA and CENTCOM should be allowed to study the documents.

The CIA provided access on a read-only basis, but even that limited look into bin Laden’s world made clear to the military analysts that the Obama administration’s public story on al Qaeda reflected the president’s aspirations more than reality.
Hayes article makes Max Holland’s work on Watergate journalism and Mark Felt/Deep Throat especially relevant. People like David Ignatius and Peter Bergen have some explaining to do.

You can see a talk by Holland here. The whole thing is interesting (as is his book Leak). But there is one point that now has new resonance.

Near the end of his talk Holland says this:

"The idea that Nixon would misuse the CIA for his own political purposes-- that really was the most serious count that led to the bill of impeachment."
Hayes makes the case that this White House found CIA much more helpful than Nixon’s did. Which is why, if Hayes is even half right, then we have a problem much worse than Watergate.

RTWT and share it. Plus, it doesn’t hurt the shame a few journalists for not pursuing this story.


An Inconvenient Book (review of Max Holland Leak)

An inconvenient book (Part two)

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