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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At February 3, 2012 at 7:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al, There is some anecdotal stories out there that suggest there were any number of signs that this agent was not under the full control of his Jordanian handler including repeated demands that he, not the handler, dictate meeting locations. This coupled with the likelihood that the agent was coerced into cooperating just leaves way too much open suggesting real underlying problems. Russ

At December 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Info on this case is hard to find even three years later. Joby warrick does a good job but says nothing about the afghan driver and why he drove a man with a suicide vest on into camp Chapman. This makes no sense and I wish someone would at least speculate as to why.

At November 3, 2015 at 10:39 AM , Blogger Al Simon said...

Blame it on lack of training and lack of discipline. Even a beginner in Special Operations Training would know that you never bring an agent into your midst at a base camp, let alone a headquarters. But all the young officers at the base wanted to see a "real agent" so Jennifer let them all come in. All this points to poor training and lack of discipline.


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