An Intelligence Problem
by PRESIDENTIAL POLICY: DOES IT MAKE THE GRADE?, JAMES JAY CARAFANO, PHD
August 2, 2011
President Obama has an intelligence problem. There was plenty of evidence on the national security and foreign policy front last week to suggest White House polices are increasingly at odds with both reality and the intelligence community.
For starters, Obama has been sending out the word that al Qaeda is “near collapse.” This narrative justifies a new counterterrorism strategy that the White House put out last month. But while the White House says don’t worry at the same time itissued a world-wide travel alert to “update information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security recently raised the concern of “insider” al Qeada threats in the US. Then late last week in a hearing on the Hill, government officials revealed that al Shabaab recruiting in the U.S. has been more vigorous than previously reported and that the group is working to link up with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
It also looks like there is a concerted campaign in the White House to silence any voices that are not on board with the new counterterrorism strategy and the president’s new tag line that al Qaeda is at an end. One source who has talked to officials in the government counterterrorism community, confirmed that Mike Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center (known as NCTC)was shown the door because he was not on board with the White House’s inevitable end of al Qaeda line.There is also talk that chief Department of Defense intelligence officer Mike Vickers might be headed out for the same reason. This seems credible. It is widely believed that a big shake-up in the Pentagon senior leadership is pending soon.
In fact, last week Leiter stated he disagrees with the White House claim that war with al Qaeda is all but over. “The recently departed director of the nation’s main counterterrorism center said Thursday that Al Qaeda in Pakistan still posed a serious threat to the United States, and he warned that assessments that Al Qaeda was on the verge of collapse lacked ‘accuracy and precision,” reports the New York Times.
Elsewhere in breaking news were reports from “some” US officials that Iran has been secretly aiding al Qaeda. Apparently there is a dust up within the administration on the issue as well. Some analysts would like to believe this is just a case of Iran turning a blind eye to activities. Others, like Treasury official David S. Cohen hold that Tehran is practicing a systematic campaign and may even have a secret agreement al Qaeda (following the favored Middle East dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend). This squabble can’t be good news to the White House which tried offering the hand of accommodation to Iran. That effort looks pretty silly now.
Finally there were revelations last week that the White House had been hiding facts about relations with Russia. The Associated Press reported, “U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a classified report late last year that Russia’s military intelligence was responsible for a bomb blast that occurred at an exterior wall of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, in September.” According to the report, “Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chamber’s Republican whip, said he sent a classified letter in June to the House and Senate intelligence committees asking them to investigate the incident and report back to members.” It look likes is there credible evidence that Russia is a state-sponsor of terrorism. It appears the administration had no interest in advertising the fact that they knew all about this.
One wonders how long it will be before folks start directly accusing the White House of cooking the books on terror intelligence. For that reason, the president gets a grade for the week of “D” for a doomed effort to make things look like they are much better than they are.