Sunday, January 29, 2012

Khost Rethought

In my blog titled, “Time to Bring Back the Dinosaurs” I suggested that had CIA received an infusion of good, old-fashioned tradecraft, the Khost massacre might have been avoided. In light of the article titled, “A family bereaved and divided,” (Washington Post 29 Jan. 2012) it would appear that assigning full blame to the base chief, Jennifer Matthews, was most unfair.

So, where to begin affixing blame? First, I’d suggest it was negligence on the part of the Agency to permit Jennifer to apply for the posting. What was behind this? The Agency is not noted for personal consideration when making assignments. So, was it impossible for the Agency to find any operations officers to accept this job? Was this why they put an analyst vice an operations officer into this dangerous place? Granted, she was a highly trained analyst. Maybe she’d worked with operations officers in conducting debriefings, but she was not an agent handler. She had not received special operations training which should have been the sine qua non for such a job.

Next, I’d fix blame on the case officer in liaison with the Jordanian service. An Agency officer cannot accept a foreign intelligence service’s word for the trustworthiness of an agent they’d recruited. It was incumbent on the Agency officer in liaison with the service to conduct his own validation procedure. This, he clearly had not done. Why not? Had he just been remiss? Had Headquarters been so enthused at running jointly with the Jordanians an agent who claimed to have direct access to bin Laden that they told this officer, “Just get on with the program?” We’ll never know the answer to this question.

It was poor tradecraft for Headquarters to order the debriefing to take place at Forward Operating Base Chapman. Jennifer should have been ordered to travel to a more secure location maybe in the Kabul area where better security could have been exercised. When is it permitted to bring an unvetted agent into your base, to meet face-to-face with other CIA officers? Never!

Jennifer deserves praise for having agreed to undertake such a dangerous assignment. She left home and hearth to do her part to protect our Homeland by operating against al Qaeda. Her husband, her children, her family can be proud of this CIA analyst who was prepared to give up so much, to take such a risk, all in the hopes of making this world a safer place. In the end, she gave her all.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

On understanding the Afghan military partnership

This was contributed by a former colleague. He knows more about the intelligence business than the whole blooming Agency combined.

Now a French trained Afghan has killed four French trainers.

To some of my acquaintances who believe that Islamists are for the most part peaceful and so on, I make the following comment. I lived in three Arab countries, and traveled in a number of others, and dealt with locals on a regular basis, but never came to the point where I felt I could really trust one of them completely. So, I posit the following to these people.

Let us assume that you live next door to a devout Afghan Muslim family. For some years you and your family have had good relations and you are in social situations essentially comfortable together. One day a Mullah comes to the male in the Arab family and says something like this.

"Your American neighbor has a close relative fighting in Afghanistan who with his military unit was responsible for blowing up a Mosque in your village outside of Khandahar. Some of your relatives were killed. It has been decreed that in retaliation you must kill your next door neighbor--even if you should later be killed by the infidels you will be a martyr."

Now here is the problem. Which will win out, your friendship with the Arab in which case he will not act against you, or he will, because of his total devotion to Islam, follow the instructions of the cleric and comply with the instructions passed to him. (I for one would not want to deal with this option.) Of course, one can introduce factors that would tend to obviate this dilemma in some way. But in its essence it is still out there.

I have never given up my strong sense of cynicism about Arabs and how, when, and where they place their loyalty. As you know, Brits said you can't buy an Arab but only rent him. Certainly in our Stations it was an attitude that was easy to adopt and act on.

We had a friend in Baghdad, an elderly but wealthy Arab who had the Carrier Air Conditioner distributorship for several Arab countries. He felt he was too old to continue to manage it and so gave the business to his son to manage. The son did so for a brief while and then disposed of it, making a lot of money. He promptly went to Beirut to live in a big penthouse, and became a playboy. Don't know the end of this since we were evacuated at the time of the 6 Day War, but such intra-family betrayals are not, I believe, unusual.

I never felt they trusted each other, and now, with factions arising in the mobs of the Arab Spring, it is easy to see that unity and loyalty does not rate high among them. Well, I guess we, you, I and others of us have fought our battles, will become victims, of the wisdom of our contemporary leaders who see good in all those things, people, and places we question.

And thus ends my colleague's offering. Are all Muslims this devious? No, not the modern ones. But a Muslim who believes in guiding his life according to Sharia,....

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Is Our Government out of Control?

Is our government out of control? This is an interesting question. Rarely is such a question posed in the case of a democratic government. Kleptocracies, thugocracies and other forms of tyrannical governments, yes, it's a valid question. But let's look at ours, for a moment.

Most recently a couple that wanted to build a home on land they'd purchased were told by the government that it was believed that their land constituted a wetland. This after they'd received all state and local permits necessary. Yes, all 0.6 acres constituted this marshland (the Feds believed) and it had to be preserved. So, please restore everything as it was before you unloaded tons of earth and built footings and basement walls. Yes, this is our EPA and U.S. Army engineers at work. They aren't worth a spit in protecting a city the size of New Orleans from the ravages of flooding, but they're sure going to keep this spot of land pristine.

This is tied in with the goal of our government to foster anything and everything that is "green." So, let's start with Solyndra. That U.S. company was on the ropes of failure before it came to the notice of the White House. President Obama committed tons of cash to help it flourish. We all know how well that worked out, don't we? There is no way for the U.S. to manufacture solar panels and undersell those imported from China. Why do we permit this? Why don't we protect our own manufacturers? Go ask our Ideologue-In-Chief. All the workers at the Solyndra plant are now in the ranks of the unemployed.

The latest brilliant move was when the government required oil companies to blend 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline or face fines. Great idea except for one little problem. No one's making cellulosic ethanol because it's terribly expensive. Putting this product into gasoline should have a startling effect on the price per gallon.
What's the problem here? It is the natural result of a government run by an ideologue. He's not trying to save us from importing oil, he's worried about the effects of exhaust gasses upon the climate. If he's so worried about reducing oil imports, why not open up more of our proven reserves to drilling?

President Obama entered into the presidency prepared to put into effect his far-left philosophy of government featuring everything from a "greening" of the Earth to a taxation plan that would take from those who worked for their income and give to those who never worked a day in their lives. His ideologically-derived goals will - repeat - will be met, come hell or high water. The public welfare be damned.

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