Archive for the ‘Intelligence failures’ category

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond

April 27, 2017

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond, Long War Journal, April 27, 2017

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.



Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating, and other members of this subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and their continuing threat to U.S. national security.

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

U.S. Estimates on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Were Incorrect

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

This assessment, which contradicted the U.S. military’s own press releases announcing raids against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was consistently repeated by U.S. intelligence and military officials. In June 2015, the U.S. military claimed in its biannual Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report that al-Qaeda “has a sustained presence in Afghanistan of probably fewer than 100 operatives concentrated largely in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, where they remain year-round.” The December 2015 report claimed that al-Qaeda is “primarily concentrated in the east and northeast.

This estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength, which consistently downplayed al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, came crashing down in mid-October 2015, when the U.S. military and Afghan forces orchestrated a large-scale operation against two al-Qaeda camps in the Shorabak district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

The scale of al-Qaeda’s presence at the two camps in Shorabak quickly disproved the longstanding 50 to 100 estimate. A U.S. military statement, quoting spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took U.S. and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes.

Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago. “The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

Weeks later, General John F. Campbell, then the commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, described one of the camps, which was run by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda’s branch in South Asia, as “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

It has been estimated that at least 150 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the raids on the two camps in Shorabak. This is 50 more al-Qaeda fighters than the upper end of the Obama administration’s estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength throughout all of Afghanistan. And the al-Qaeda members were killed in southern Afghanistan, not in the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where we have been told they were concentrated.

The U.S. military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In mid-December 2016, General Nicholson admitted that the U.S. military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan.

In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid. “If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said. The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

However, well before the Shorabak raids, it was evident to those of us closely watching the war in Afghanistan that al-Qaeda was stronger in Afghanistan than the official estimates, and was not confined to small areas in the northeast. Al-Qaeda consistently reported on its operations throughout Afghanistan, and the U.S. military, up until the summer of 2013, reported on raids against al-Qaeda cells in multiple provinces.

Surely, there was something seriously wrong with the CIA and the U.S. military’s ability to properly report on al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger.

The Enduring Taliban-al-Qaeda Relationship

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS, and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

When Generals Campbell and Buchanan discussed al-Qaeda in the wake of the Shorabak raid, they described the group as resurgent. Campbell described the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship as a “renewed partnership,” while Buchanan said it “has since ‘grown stronger.’”

But like the estimate that al-Qaeda maintained a small cadre of 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2016, the idea that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have only recently reinvigorated their relationship is incorrect. Al-Qaeda would not have been able to maintain a large cadre of fighters and leaders inside Afghanistan, conduct operations in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, establish training camps, and relocate high-level leaders from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Afghanistan without the Taliban’s long-term support.
Al-Qaeda has remained loyal to the Taliban’s leader, which it describes as the Amir al- Mumineen, or the “Commander of the Faithful,” since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Osama bin Laden maintained his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and first emir. When bin Laden died, Ayman al-Zawahiri renewed that oath. And when Mullah Omar’s death was announced in 2015, Zawahiri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s new leader. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath.

The close relationship between the two jihadist groups is also evident with the assent of the Taliban’s new deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Taliban subgroup known as the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin and the Haqqani Network have maintained close ties to al-Qaeda for years. The relationship is evident in the U.S. government’s designations of multiple Haqqani Network leaders. Two documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound show that Siraj has closely coordinated his operations with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag.

Rise of the Islamic State

Shortly after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the caliphate in 2014, announcing the formation of the Islamic State, a small number of disgruntled jihadists from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda, discarded their oaths to the Taliban, pledged their fealty to Baghdadi, and established the so-called Khorasan province.

While the Islamic State dominates the jihad in Iraq and is a major player in Syria, the group has posed a smaller threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan when compared to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their jihadist allies. The U.S. military estimated the group had upwards of 2,000 fighters at the beginning of 2016, but had lost between 25 and 30 percent of its men in the months that followed. While U.S. military estimates of the strength of jihadist groups in Afghanistan must be taken with a grain of salt, this number is likely in the right ballpark.
The Islamic State has a much smaller presence in Afghanistan when compared to the Taliban. While the Taliban controls or contests more than 200 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts, the Islamic State only controls terrain in several districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group also reportedly has a presence in the Afghan north.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has remained entrenched in Nangarhar and has withstood multiple U.S.-backed offensives over the past two years. The U.S. military has had success in killing key leaders, but the group has proven resilient.

Still, the so-called caliphate’s Khorasan province has remained on the margins of the Afghan war. It has conducted a limited number of suicide attacks and other operations in the Afghan capital of Kabul and elsewhere, but has not come close to matching the Taliban’s operational tempo.

Khorasan province has had a difficult time gaining traction throughout much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as it is unwilling to cooperate with other, long-entrenched jihadist groups. In fact, the Taliban crushed the Khorasan province’s forces in Helmand, Farah, and Zabul after they demanded that the Taliban’s fighters swear allegiance to Baghdadi.

Pakistani Jihadist Groups Operating in Afghanistan

In addition to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State, numerous Pakistan-based jihadist groups are known to operate in Afghanistan. For the most part, these organizations remain in the Taliban and al-Qaeda sphere, and leaders of the groups often backfill leadership positions when al-Qaeda commanders are killed in U.S. airstrikes.

The three largest Pakistani groups operating in Afghanistan are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) is largely made up of Taliban groups from Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. In 2010, the TTP organized the Times Square bombing plot.

The TTP has taken advantage of the turbulent and ungoverned Afghan-Pakistani border to shift its base of operations when the Pakistani military targets it in offensives. The U.S. has killed several TTP leaders in airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a dangerous jihadist group that is backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The LeT is known to operate training camps in Afghanistan and attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in 2014.26 The U.S. has killed several senior LeT operatives in airstrikes in northeastern Afghanistan over the years. The U.S. has also listed several senior LeT operatives, including Hafiz Saeed, the group’s emir, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) is another Pakistani jihadist group that is known, as of August 2014, to operate training camps in Afghanistan.27 HuM has been involved in numerous acts of terror in the region, including hijacking an Indian airplane, attacking the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

How President Trump Can Make American Intelligence Great Again

December 13, 2016

How President Trump Can Make American Intelligence Great Again, Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz, December 12, 2016

(But please see, Abolish the CIA? Perhaps Trump’s CIA will be better than the old CIA.– DM)


Source: National Review

In 2010, when I was on the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I attended a committee hearing on the North Korean nuclear program. That hearing epitomized the failure of post-9/11 reforms of U.S. intelligence and showed why the Trump administration must take aggressive steps to streamline American intelligence. Only then can it can return to being the great institution that provides the intelligence support our presidents need to protect our nation against national-security threats facing our nation today.

This process should start by sharply scaling back or eliminating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The lead witness at this hearing, seated at the center of a long witness table, was the ODNI North Korea issue manager. Seated next to him on each side were the ODNI issue manager for WMD proliferation and the director of the ODNI National Counterproliferation Center.

Joining them were the National Intelligence Council (NIC) officers for WMD proliferation and East Asia, both part of the ODNI. The CIA sent two witnesses, from its proliferation and North Korea–analysis offices. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the State Department, and the Department of Energy sent one witness each.

In addition to these 10 witnesses, other senior intelligence officials attended as backbenchers. There also was a gaggle of aides, handlers, and congressional liaison staffers. There were so many that they could not all fit into the hearing room.

The hearing seemed to go on forever, since the lead witness kept inviting all his colleagues to weigh in on every question asked by committee members. Some of the backbenchers spoke too. This became monotonous, since every witness (except for the one from DIA) parroted the same watered-down consensus view. Making this worse, the witnesses’ consensus statements were proven to be completely wrong a few months later.

This mob of intelligence officials spouting the same watered-down pablum exemplified why the reform of U.S. intelligence mandated by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) has been an utter failure. Although IRTPA created the position of the director of national intelligence as a new official to oversee all U.S. intelligence agencies, to ensure that these agencies would cooperate and share information, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has developed into a huge additional layer of bureaucracy, with far too many officials, that has made American intelligence analysis and collection less efficient and more risk-averse.

This is in part due to blowback from 9/11 and Iraq War intelligence failures, but also is a typical situation for a 70-year-old, multi-billion-dollar bureaucracy that has become complex and complacent. As is true with many established government bureaucracies, political factors and fear of being wrong weigh heavily on the operations of U.S. intelligence agencies. While America still has the world’s best and most capable intelligence service, it has lost the “can-do” intrepid spirit of its predecessor, the heroic World War II-era Office of Strategic Services.

The ODNI has made this problem much worse — not just because it is an additional layer of stifling bureaucracy, but also because it has become a 17th intelligence agency, with its own intelligence analysts, thousands of employees, and a huge — and ever growing — budget.

In 2007, House Intelligence Committee members were so disturbed about the rapid growth of the ODNI bureaucracy that they approved, on a bipartisan basis, an amendment to the 2008 intelligence authorization bill to freeze the ODNI staff to the number working for it as of May 1, 2007. I drafted this amendment, which was co-sponsored by Congressmen Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) and Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.).

Hastings said at the time about this amendment:

We will not give you a blank check with which you could continue to grow a new bureaucracy before we know what you are doing with what you already have. A bigger bureaucracy does not make better intelligence.

Although Hastings was right, the Hastings/Rogers amendment was never implemented, since Congress did not pass an intelligence authorization bill that year. I hate to think how many times the ODNI staff has doubled since the House Intelligence Committee attempted to halt its growth in 2007.

The IRTPA reforms have hurt U.S. intelligence in other ways. The President’s Daily Brief (PDB), which used to be a lean and effective daily intelligence publication for the president produced by the CIA, has become an ODNI publication, weighed down with bureaucracy to make it “fair” so that all 17 intelligence organizations can participate and use it to publish articles justifying their budget requests to Congress.

The ODNI bureaucracy has also burdened intelligence agencies with unnecessary reports, regulations, and foreign travel by ODNI staff.

Aside from being an attempt to improve the sharing of information between intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the 9/11 intelligence failures, the ODNI also was created because some believed it is impossible for the CIA director to both manage the CIA and oversee the rest of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

I have long believed that these reasons are false. The CIA director, as the director of central intelligence (DCI), worked well for decades as the head of all U.S. intelligence agencies. The failure to share intelligence between U.S. intelligence agencies prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have been addressed without creating the DNI position and its huge and plodding bureaucracy. Moreover, intelligence agencies have failed to share crucial information despite the creation of the ODNI.

For example, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) issued a damning report in 2010 on how U.S. intelligence agencies failed to share information that could have prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the 2009 “underwear bomber” — from boarding a plane from Europe that he almost blew up over the city of Detroit. The report found that U.S. intelligence agencies had the information to stop Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane to the United States but had failed to cooperate with each other and share intelligence. According to the report, “no one agency saw itself as being responsible” for assessing such threats. The report identified 14 specific failures by intelligence agencies which included a bureaucratic process for adding names to terror watch lists that was too complicated and too rigid to address quickly emerging terrorist threats.

Concerning the argument that the CIA director can’t simultaneously manage the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community, if the president can manage the White House and the entire U.S. government, there’s no reason why we can’t have the CIA director in charge of his home agency and overseeing other U.S. intelligence agencies.

Eliminating the ODNI and rolling its duplicative organizations into the CIA would save at least $1 billion and could make U.S. intelligence more efficient and nimble. Such a move should include eliminating the huge number of redundant ODNI managers and officials such as those mentioned above.

More needs to be done to streamline U.S. intelligence and fix problems caused by earlier reforms and reorganizations.

For example, CIA director Brennan carried out a huge and controversial reorganization in 2015 that many critics believe created a confusing and bloated bureaucratic structure that will hurt long-term analysis and create security risks. This reorganization needs to be carefully reviewed by the next CIA director and possibly reversed.

There also are redundant units in multiple intelligence organizations that perform identical missions that should be streamlined. More of these crop up every year.

For example, U.S. intelligence agencies have increased their efforts to counter cyberwarfare over the last few years by creating large, separate organizations to address this issue. These include:

  • The ODNI Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, created in 2015.
  • The U.S. Cyber Command, created in 2009, to defend Department of Defense networks, systems and information, to defend the homeland against cyberattacks, and to provide support to military and contingency operations.
  • The Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, created in 2009, to monitor cyber threats across government agencies and critical infrastructure.
  • The CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation, created in 2015.

There are many other examples of such duplication and redundancy, especially concerning counterterrorism.

To the greatest extent possible, these types of offices should be streamlined into a single inter-agency entity with one agency having the lead.

A reconstituted DCI should also take the lead in doing a better job of encouraging cooperation between intelligence agencies by pressing intelligence officers to take temporary assignments in other agencies. Having worked as an analyst with CIA and DIA, I know their analysis missions are very similar and would greatly benefit from closer collaboration, possibly by creating a joint CIA/DIA intelligence analyst service.

Managers and experts need to be brought in from outside the U.S. intelligence community to challenge the groupthink and analysis-by-committee that has gripped our intelligence agencies in the aftermath of the 9/11 and Iraq WMD intelligence failures. To deal with emerging security threats, we need more out-of-the-box and “competitive” analysis that provides policymakers with alternative assessments of global threats. There also is a great need for better strategic analysis of future threats.

U.S. intelligence agencies also need to improve their efforts to analysze and collect against new technological developments and challenges, including social media, big data, and hostile actors utilizing increasingly powerful encryption.

Outside managers and experts could also help counter the politicization of intelligence by intelligence officers who don’t like President Trump. This was a serious problem for previous Republican presidents. Recent leaks to the press by intelligence officers about Trump’s daily briefings suggest this problem has already resurfaced.

Implementing intelligence reforms to make U.S. intelligence agencies into the innovative and effective institution they once were will take strong leaders in top intelligence positions who will act independently and are not beholden to the intelligence community. These officials must have the full backing of the president.

President-elect Trump, by appointing Mike Pompeo as CIA director, General Mike Flynn as National Security advisor, and KT McFarland as deputy national security advisor, is off to an excellent start to implementing these kinds of intelligence reforms to make American intelligence great again.

Clueless Clapper Calls It Quits

November 18, 2016

Clueless Clapper Calls It Quits, Front Page MagazineRobert Spencer, November 18, 2016


While he was Director of National Intelligence, Clapper made every American less safe. He epitomized the denial and willful ignorance that characterized the Obama administration’s approach to the jihad threat. In this time of swamp-draining, Clueless Clapper is leaving the stage not a moment too soon.


Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday, and the next day he told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that doing so “felt pretty good….I have 64 days left and I’d have a pretty hard time with my wife going past that.” Why? Is Mrs. Clapper opposed to intelligence policies based on politically correct fantasies and willful ignorance?

Nothing epitomizes more perfectly the Obama Administration’s consistent refusal to come to grips with the reality of the global jihad than Clapper’s embarrassing tenure as Director of National Intelligence.

One incident that took place in December 2010, four months after Clapper took office, epitomized his abject incompetence. British authorities arrested twelve jihadists who had been planning to set off bombs in a variety of locations; that same day, Clapper appeared on Diane Sawyer’s ABC show, on which Sawyer said to him that she expected he must be very busy with the London arrests. Clapper looked confused, and admitted that he had no idea what she was talking about. Arrests? A terror plot?

Had Sawyer been conducting a man-on-the-street interview, and Clapper was in reality the befuddled accountant he appears to be, he might be excused for having no idea that a large-scale anti-terror operation had just been carried out in London. But this was the Director of National Intelligence, and he was far less informed and up to speed on the situation than was Sawyer herself, or probably an entire legion of befuddled accountants.

Obama’s team ran interference for Clapper, claiming essentially that Clapper had been so involved with the London arrests that he was too preoccupied to answer Sawyer’s question properly, but that his display of cluelessness was no indication of…cluelessness.

But it was. Clapper showed that again in February 2011, when he claimed at the height of the Egyptian “Arab Spring” that the Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular,” a claim as absurd as it was inaccurate. Although the subsequent torrent of ridicule compelled the Obama camp to issue a correction, the subtext of Clapper’s statement was clear: the Obama Administration had no problem with Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, and was not only going to do nothing to stop it, but was going actively to enable it.

The Brotherhood that Obama worked so assiduously to aid is dedicated, of course, to establishing the rule of Islamic law not only in Egypt, but everywhere that it possibly can. And if that rather commonplace fact was too much for Clapper and his boss, they could have resorted to a much simpler indicator of the religious foundation of the Brotherhood’s political program: its name. It isn’t, after all, called the Arab Nationalist Brotherhood, or the Egyptian Brotherhood, but rather the Muslim Brotherhood. Its name itself shows that it is no more secular than the Christian Brothers religious order.

Clapper also appeared woefully (if not willfully) ignorant of the Brotherhood’s pro-Sharia agenda, and no doubt completely oblivious to the implications for the United States and the world of an Egypt governed by Islamic law.

There was, of course, more. In March 2011, Clapper told Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) that Russia and China represented the greatest “mortal threat” to the United States.

Russia and China? Not North Korea and Iran, or the forces of the global jihad that grew steadily more aggressive while Clapper was Director of National Intelligence? Clapper’s statement sounded like a Rip Van Winkle who had been sleeping for twenty years or longer, and nobody had gotten around to clueing him in to the fact that the Cold War was over.

Had Clapper, a retired lieutenant general in the Air Force and longtime intelligence professional, made any study in the area of national intelligence since 1985? Was he aware that the world situation has drastically changed since 1985? Had he had any kind of thought at all since 1985?

James Clapper is perhaps the most abysmally ignorant and unqualified individual ever to have held a position of so much responsibility. While he was Director of National Intelligence, Clapper repeatedly demonstrated that he had no idea about the nature of the world today, no sense of the genuine threats that face the United States, and no clue as to what to do about those threats.

Yet instead of firing him, Obama continually made excuses for him, explaining away his idiotic remarks, and running interference for him with the international media. What Clapper did to merit such solicitude is unclear, but the stakes were far too high for the nonsense and fantasy that Clapper purveyed. While he was Director of National Intelligence, Clapper made every American less safe. He epitomized the denial and willful ignorance that characterized the Obama administration’s approach to the jihad threat. In this time of swamp-draining, Clueless Clapper is leaving the stage not a moment too soon.

Unsolicited Advice for the Trump Transition Team on National Security Intelligence

November 10, 2016

Unsolicited Advice for the Trump Transition Team on National Security Intelligence, PJ Media, Andrew C. McCarthy, November 10, 2016


It was encouraging Wednesday to hear that President Obama intends to emulate President Bush, who generously provided Obama with a highly informative and smooth transition process.

Running the Executive Branch is a daunting task, so there is no aspect of the transition to a new administration that is unimportant. But obviously, the most crucial focus for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is heading up President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, must be national security.

That transition is going to be more complicated than it should be, but there are things Gov. Christie can do – better to say, people he ought to consult — to make sure his team is getting accurate information.

The Bush National Security Council was very good about putting together briefing books so their successors could hit the ground running. The problem now, however, is the trustworthiness of what is in those books.

As PJ Media has reported, a highly disturbing report by a congressional task force this summer found that the Obama administration had politicized its intelligence product.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who has been stellar on national security issues and was among the leaders of the task force (comprised of the Intelligence, Armed Services, and Appropriations Committees), put it this way when the report was issued:

After months of investigation, this much is very clear: from the middle of 2014 to the middle of 2015, the United States Central Command’s most senior intelligence leaders manipulated the command’s intelligence products to downplay the threat from ISIS in Iraq.The result: consumers of those intelligence products were provided a consistently “rosy” view of U.S. operational success against ISIS. That may well have resulted in putting American troops at risk as policymakers relied on this intelligence when formulating policy and allocating resources for the fight.

The intelligence manipulation became a controversy in 2015, when 50 intelligence-community whistleblowers complained that their reports on the Islamic State and al-Qaeda terror networks were being altered.

The manipulation, driven by Obama’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and carried out in the Defense Department by senior Central Command (CENTCOM) officers, aimed to downplay the jihadist threat.

This is a reckless practice I have written about several times over the last eight years (see, e.g., here). The Obama administration has made a concerted effort to miniaturize the terrorist threat in order to project a mirage of policy success.

Intelligence has routinely been distorted — portraying the networks as atomized, largely detached cells that are not unified by any overarching ideology — in an attempt to make them appear smaller and less threatening. Basically, a nuisance to be managed rather than an enemy to be defeated.

Even when the terrorists are on the march, the administration claims they are in retreat. Indeed, less than 24 hours after four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya, were killed by al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in the 2012 siege of Benghazi, President Obama stated this in a political fundraising speech:

A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead.

Intel manipulation ran rampant after Obama fired Marine General James Mattis, CENTCOM’s commander, in 2013. General Mattis had the irksome habits of demanding clear-eyed assessments of America’s enemies and forcing administration policymakers to confront the potential consequences of their ludicrously optimistic assumptions, particularly regarding Iran’s behavior. Obama officials replaced him with Army General Lloyd Austin.

Meanwhile, it was made clear to the Pentagon that because the president made campaign commitments to end the U.S. mission in Iraq, he did not want to hear information contradictory to his narrative that withdrawing our forces was the right thing to do. After retiring, Army General Anthony Tata confirmed that an ODNI official instructed the Defense Department not to put in writing assessments that portrayed al-Qaeda and ISIS as fortified and threatening.

The result, of course, was that the president was told what wanted to hear.

This eventually led to Obama’s infamous assertion that ISIS was merely a “JV” terrorist team. Naturally, when the JV team rampaging through Iraq and Syria rendered that judgment embarrassing, the White House shifted the blame to General Austin, pushing him out the CENTCOM door.

The administration has done more to sculpt the narrative than quell the enemy. So Gov. Christie and his team will need to regard with skepticism any briefing books Obama’s transition coordinators supply.

Of course, Team Trump already has a tremendous resource to rely on: retired Army General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (and the author, along with PJ Media columnist Michael Ledeen, of The Field of Fight, which pleads for a desperately needed strategy for fighting the global war against jihadists and their allies). Like General Mattis, General Flynn (in 2014) was pushed out of his job because he rejected the politicization of our intelligence product for purposes of low-balling the terrorist threat. He knows his stuff, knows what we are up against, and will be a major asset not only to the transition, but to the Trump administration.

I would also respectfully suggest that Gov. Christie consult with General Mattis and General Jack Keane: smart, experienced former commanders who have given a great deal of thought to, and sound advice to Congress regarding, the current administration’s strategic and intelligence voids.

In understanding global jihadist networks — who the players are, how the organizations collude and compete — Tom Joscelyn, editor of The Long War Journal, is the best expert in the United States, bar none. While his value would be limitless, Tom is especially knowledgeable about the jihadists released from Guantanamo Bay, many of whom have gone back to the jihad.

Yet again, this is a context in which briefings from the Obama administration would be suspect. The president adheres to another narrative driven by foolish campaign promises, namely: the cost of Gitmo as a “recruiting tool” for the enemy outweighs the benefit of detaining committed, capable, anti-American jihadists. To justify both this absurd premise and the release of the terrorists, the administration watered down intelligence that supported holding the terrorists as enemy combatants who posed continuing danger to the United States.

The new administration needs accurate information for purposes of grasping the threat and formulating sound detention policy.

Finally, it is vital to understand “Countering Violent Extremism,” the Obama administration’s strategic guidance — their playbook for military, intelligence, and law-enforcement officials on how to approach and respond to terrorism. CVE is where the dereliction that I have labeled “willful blindness” has devolved into compulsory blindness.

Under CVE guidelines, the fact that Islamic-supremacist ideology spurs the jihadist threat and knits together terrorists and their sponsors is no longer just consciously avoided; taking notice of it is verboten.

The most thoroughgoing critique of this lunacy is Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad. Its author is Stephen Coughlin, a trained military intelligence officer and an attorney who has made a point of learning how Islamic law principles inform the goals and tactics of our enemies. Steve is extraordinarily informed about the administration’s wayward assumptions. If the Trump transition team wants to check the premises on which their work is based, he’s the guy.

Let’s welcome President Obama’s assurances of a seamless transition to the Trump administration. But my best unsolicited advice to Gov. Christie: When it comes to briefing books, don’t believe everything you read.

Clinton Turned Away High-Level Chinese Defector to Assist Beijing Leaders

September 6, 2016

Clinton Turned Away High-Level Chinese Defector to Assist Beijing Leaders, Washington Free Beacon, September 6, 2016

FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2008 file photo, then Chonqing city police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a press conference in Chongqing, southwestern China. A Chinese court sentenced the former police who exposed a murder by a Chinese politician's wife to 15 years in prison Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in a decision that sets the stage for China's leadership to wrap up a seamy political scandal and move ahead with a generational handover of power. (AP Photo/File) CHINA OUT

FILE – In this Oct. 21, 2008 file photo, then Chonqing city police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a press conference in Chongqing, southwestern China.  (AP Photo/File) CHINA OUT

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton turned away a high-ranking Chinese defector who sought political asylum after the communist police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate in southwestern China four years ago.

Critics say Clinton’s handling of the defection of Wang Lijun, a close aide to a regional Communist Party leader, was a blunder and lost opportunity for U.S. intelligence to gain secrets about the leaders of America’s emerging Asian adversary.

Instead of sheltering Wang and granting him political asylum, Clinton agreed to turn him over to Chinese authorities in Beijing, and claimed he was not qualified for American sanctuary because of his past role as a police chief accused of corruption.

However, the defector’s case highlights Clinton’s policy of seeking to preserve U.S. ties with China’s communist leadership instead of pursuing much-needed intelligence gathering on China at a time when Beijing is emerging as an increasingly threatening power.

Clinton defended the betrayal of Wang in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices. The former secretary and current Democratic presidential nominee revealed in the book that the U.S. government agreed to keep secret all details of Wang’s sensational defection attempt in order to help Beijing’s Communist rulers avoid public embarrassment over a major internal power struggle and high-level corruption scandal months ahead of then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao’s transfer of power to current supreme leader Xi Jinping.

Details of the mishandling of the Wang defection have been kept secret by the Obama administration, and Clinton’s version of events were contradicted by U.S. officials and the official Chinese account. Instead of gaining long-term access to a valuable defector with inside knowledge of Chinese strategy and policies, Clinton contacted the Chinese government in Beijing and allowed security officials to take Wang into custody outside the U.S. consulate some 30 hours after he entered the property in a daring bid to flee China for the United States.

Weeks later he was charged with “defection” and other crimes, and in September 2012 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison—a lighter sentence than normal based on information he disclosed about his boss, regional Party chief Bo Xilai, the rising senior Communist leader who was later imprisoned for corruption.

Bo was a member of China’s 25-member Politburo Central Committee, a former commerce minister, and former mayor of the northern city of Dalian. He was said to be on track to become part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, the collective dictatorship that is the ultimate authority in China.

Critics say Clinton’s mishandling of the defection raises questions about her handling of China issues and national security affairs in general. She has touted her tenure as secretary of state as a key element of her bid for the presidency.

Intelligence and foreign policy experts said the main problem with the Wang case was the failure of American officials to keep the defection secret from Chinese authorities.

Clinton, the State Department, and the Obama administration in general have regarded such operational secrecy as a nuisance and impediment to their work. Under President Obama, the administration suffered unprecedented leaks of intelligence and foreign policy information, notably from Wikileaks, which disclosed more than 250,000 State Department cables. Clinton also compromised secrets by using a private email server that the FBI believes likely was compromised by foreign spy services that intercepted data from her insecure email system.

Recently disclosed emails from Clinton’s private server reveal the Wang Lijun defection was discussed in communications with aides, raising the possibility that the Chinese could have learned of her internal discussions of the case if they had obtained access to the email server.

“The FBI did find that hostile foreign actors successfully gained access to the personal email accounts of individuals with whom Clinton was in regular contact and, in doing so, obtained emails sent to or received by Clinton on her personal account,” an FBI report states.

Had the defection remained secret, intelligence agencies could have conducted a clandestine “exfiltration” operation to spirit Wang out of the country, current and former intelligence officials said.

Clinton supporters dismissed criticism of the handling of Wang and said his dash to the U.S. consulate was calculated not as an attempt to flee China but to avoid capture by an opposing Communist political faction in Chongqing, and to alert Beijing leaders to Bo’s corruption and illegal activities.

Intelligence windfall on PRC leaders missed

Diplomats at the State Department also were opposed to helping the defector because of Clinton policies that sought to avoid actions that might upset Chinese leadership transitions. The diplomats, as with past transitions of power since the 1980s, argued that new Chinese leaders will produce hoped-for political reform and evolution away from the communist system.

But intelligence and foreign policy analysts say Clinton’s failure to grant asylum or temporary refuge to Wang squandered an opportunity to gain secrets from inside the closed world of China’s Communist leadership structure—intelligence needed in fashioning a U.S. response to China’s increasing aggression in Asia.

“Clinton and Obama do not see the world in geostrategic terms,” said Kenneth E. deGraffenreid, a former White House intelligence director under President Reagan. “Clinton had no sense of the reality of the Communist regime they were dealing with.”

DeGraffenreid, who also was deputy national counterintelligence executive in the George W. Bush administration, said defectors like Wang should be assisted when they can provide valuable secrets.

“Wang would have been pure gold from an intelligence standpoint, given the paucity of sources inside the Chinese government,” he said, adding that Wang’s links to a Chinese political faction should not have disqualified him for asylum or sanctuary.

Defector had documents and cash

Events surrounding the police chief’s dramatic defection resemble the plot of a spy novel. It began in early February 2012, days after Wang informed his boss on Jan. 28 that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, had been involved in the poisoning death of British businessman Neil Haywood in a Chongqing hotel room two months earlier. Days later, Wang was fired as chief of the Public Security Bureau in Chongqing, as the police service is called, but remained in his post as vice mayor.

Then three of Wang’s subordinates were placed under investigation, and Wang, because of his contacts in the police, learned that Bo was plotting his death by having him arrested and killing him during what he would say was an escape attempt. Discovery of the plot set in motion Wang’s plan to defect. He slipped free from a Chongqing security surveillance team and drove to the American consulate in Chengdu, several hours west in neighboring Sichuan province.

Wang was able to enter the consulate secretly on Feb. 6, 2012. He was carrying documents and a suitcase containing several hundred thousand dollars in cash, according to officials familiar with the case. He also made several telephone calls while inside.

According to the Chinese court record of the case, Wang initially discussed issues related to environmental protection, education, and science and technology with American diplomats. After the initial exchange, he then explained that he feared for his life and “asked the United States to provide shelter for him, and filled out an application for political asylum,” according to the official Xinhua news agency report on the trial.

American diplomats at the consulate, including intelligence personnel, were unable to keep Wang’s defection secret. The consulate employs several Chinese nationals who are used as informants by the local Chinese security services.

Whether through informants or communications intercepts from within the consulate, within hours Chinese security services learned Wang was inside. Police quickly were dispatched to surround the consulate, including at one point armed Chinese police from Chongqing that were loyal to Bo, the regional Party leader who was desperate to capture Wang. Later, the Chongqing police were replaced by local Chengdu security personnel.

Wang revealed that Bo and his wife, like most senior Party leaders, had amassed illicit fortunes through corruption. However, most details involved the murder of the British businessman, expatriate Neil Haywood, who was involved in financial activities related to Bo and his family and ran afoul of Bo’s wife.

“The stuff he revealed was lurid,” said one former official close to the case.

In addition to information about Bo, Wang told American diplomats he had information regarding the inner workings of the secretive Chinese leadership. Wang claimed to have internal Party and government documents but did not make them available to the consulate interviewers. He suggested the documents were being used as leverage and that he would arrange for their release if captured by the Chongqing police.

Asylum request turned down

Between Feb. 6 and Feb. 7, Wang’s appeal for asylum was turned down by officials in Washington, a decision that led Wang to seek a deal with Beijing authorities.

State Department spokesmen would not say if Clinton made the decision to reject Wang’s asylum request, citing a policy of not discussing asylum issues. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in Washington and U.S. Embassy Beijing spokesman Richard Buangan both insisted Wang left the consulate of his own volition.

Wang had decided that without political asylum or consulate refuge his sole resource was to bargain with Beijing authorities in exchange for protection from Chongqing police.

Clinton in her memoir and in earlier public remarks sought to portray Wang as corrupt, thuggish, and brutal, an assessment analysts say could be applied to most Chinese police and security officials.

Wang was known as an aggressive fighter of organized crime, first in northeastern Liaoning province and later in Chongqing where he targeted China’s notorious Triad gangs. The private intelligence firm Stratfor reported that the Triads at one point put out a $1 million contract on his life.

“Wang Lijun was no human rights dissident, but we couldn’t just turn him over to the men outside; that would effectively have been a death sentence, and the cover-up [of Bo’s corruption] would have continued,” Clinton wrote in the book. “We also couldn’t keep him in the consulate forever.”

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 1989 harbored Chinese dissident Fang Lizhui for over a year when the astrophysicist took refuge there after the military crackdown on unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Clinton made no mention of Wang’s formal asylum request and instead wrote that consulate officials asked the defector what he wanted before giving him up to Beijing security officials. “We reached out to the central authorities in Beijing and suggested that he would voluntarily surrender into their custody if they would listen to his testimony,” she wrote.

The former secretary of state also stated she did not realize the significance of Wang’s offer to defect or the impact it would have. Additionally, she ordered complete secrecy surrounding the case to help Chinese leaders avoid a scandal during a major leadership transition in the coming weeks.

“We had no idea how explosive his story would prove or how seriously Beijing would take it,” she wrote. “We agreed to say nothing about the matter and the Chinese were grateful for our discretion.”

The “enormous scandal” that followed Wang’s arrest and his disclosures about Bo “shook confidence in the Communist Party’s leadership at a sensitive time,” Clinton wrote, adding that Hu Jintao “badly wanted a smooth transition, not a national furor over official corruption and intrigue.”

Clinton falsely says defector not qualified

Earlier, Clinton said during remarks to Chatham House, a British think tank, that Wang “did not fit any of the categories for the United States giving him asylum.” She said he “had a record of corruption, of thuggishness, brutality” and was “an enforcer for Bo Xilai.”

But a State Department document from 2010 contradicts her assertion. The document, labeled “secret,” outlines in detail how officials at U.S. diplomatic outposts should handle foreign nationals who seek to defect. The foreign nationals are called “walk-ins” and can provide valuable intelligence.

“Walk-ins (1) may be sources of invaluable intelligence; (2) pose numerous security challenges; and (3) may need protection,”states the cable, made public by Wikileaks. “Improper handling of walk-ins can put them and post personnel at risk and result in the loss of important intelligence.”

The document lists all categories of potential defectors expected as walk-ins, including “members of the national police and the military,” as well as “political party officials.”

Wang held several senior positions in Chongqing, including deputy Communist Party chief; deputy chief, party chief, and head of Chongqing police, and vice mayor.

Instead of asylum, Clinton could have helped Wang by authorizing “temporary refuge” at the consulate, but that option also was rejected.

The walk-in handling procedures call for making sure walk-ins are not false defectors sent by foreign intelligence services. They also call for keeping all requests for asylum or temporary refuge secret.

“If a walk-in is of intelligence interest, the case will be handled by the Intelligence Community (IC) once that interest is established, and reporting on the case will occur in IC channels,” the document states.

The instructions also give diplomatic officials wide latitude in dealing with defectors, and call for limiting support if supporting the defector endangers diplomatic personnel.

It could not be learned if Wang was handled as an intelligence defector, but from Clinton’s comments it appears he was not.

However, the CIA gained some valuable data from Wang that is useful for conducting operations in China’s difficult intelligence environment. Chinese security services are known to employ large human and technical surveillance operations against foreign officials.

White House wanted defector thrown out

During the 30 hours Wang stayed inside the consulate, senior Obama administration officials at the White House also intervened. National Security Council staff officials and officials within the office of Vice President Joe Biden were worried that the attempted defection would upset Biden’s upcoming meeting in Washington with then-Vice President Xi Jinping on Feb. 14.

Biden aides, including national security adviser Antony Blinken, viewed the Wang defection as potentially derailing the Xi visit. The aides wanted the State Department to resolve the defector case quickly although it could not be learned if they pressed Clinton to turn Wang over to Beijing officials.

Wang was convicted during a secret trial in a Chinese court in Chengdu on Sept. 24, 2012, of the crime of defection—a charge rarely made publicly in China—for fleeing to the consulate. He also was convicted of abuse of power, bribe-taking, and for helping cover up the murder of Heywood.

The court in Chengdu where the secret trial was held was told that Wang was “a state functionary who knew state secrets,” confirming his successful defection would have been valuable for the United States.

DeGraffenreid, the former White House intelligence director, said American intelligence in the past accepted Soviet defectors who were implicated in criminal activities during their intelligence careers. They include former KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin, who defected in the 1990s, and Ion Pacepa, a Romanian intelligence chief who defected in 1978.

“The point is we’re not putting these people in for the Nobel Peace Prize,” deGraffenreid said. “We’re trying to find people with insider knowledge. My category for defectors is can we get good intelligence. If that standard is not in [the Obama administration’s] manual, they ought to put it in.”

Exfiltration difficult but not impossible

Intelligence analysts said the difficulties of getting Wang secretly out of China were large but not insurmountable.

Once Chinese security agents had surrounded the consulate, the most likely course of action would have been to get Wang safely out of the diplomatic outpost to another secure location. From there, the CIA could have mounted an operation to provide transit out of the country, operations CIA officers in the past have been trained to carry out.

Another option would have been secretly to assist Wang in getting out of the consulate safely, and then helping him use his own skills and resources to get out of China with a promise of asylum at any U.S. diplomatic post in the region he was able to reach.

John Tkacik, a former State Department official who specialized in China affairs, said exfiltration became impossible once Chinese security was alerted to Wang’s presence at the consulate.

“Wang’s intelligence value was known immediately to the consulate, and Wang’s proffer of information on the murder of a British man by an extremely high-ranking Chinese official apparently was leverage to convince the U.S. consuls that he was worth the effort,” Tkacik said.

The diplomats appear to have hesitated in eliciting even more valuable information from Wang over concerns that getting him out of the country was hopeless, and that prolonged temporary refuge of a senior Communist Party cadre would have severely strained U.S.-China diplomatic relations prior to an upcoming U.S.-China summit, he said.

“In hindsight, the summit was a waste of effort, and China continued to antagonize both the U.S. and America’s allies for the next four years,” he said. “So, if the U.S. had managed to pry more intelligence from Wang over the ensuing weeks, whatever was gleaned would have been a net benefit.”

Continued U.S. government secrecy surrounding the case does not provide any gain for the United States since Wang is now in prison for 15 years, Tkacik added.

Clinton campaign spokesmen did not return emails seeking comment.

Peter Navarro, economics professor at University of California Irvine and adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Asia, said Clinton failed to properly handle the defection.

“The mishandling of the attempted defection of Wang in 2012 reveals either an incompetence on the part of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state or further evidence of the propensity of both Bill and Hillary Clinton to subjugate U.S. interests to the interests of China’s ruling communist party,” Navarro said.

“At a minimum, Wang should have been given temporary refuge status and been debriefed to determine whether his plea met the appropriate criteria for asylum — and what critical information he could have shared.”

Navarro said the fact that the Clinton campaign team refuses to comment on the case “puts another brick in Hillary’s stone wall approach to her failures.”

Trump Will Face a Huge Challenge with U.S. Intelligence If He Wins

August 18, 2016

Trump Will Face a Huge Challenge with U.S. Intelligence If He Wins, Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz, August 18, 2016

cia logo

Before his classified national-security briefing yesterday, Donald Trump said he didn’t trust U.S. intelligence. His comments attracted the expected condemnations and ridicule from the media pundits and foreign-policy experts. However, based on my 25 years working in U.S. intelligence, I believe Trump’s concerns are well-founded.

On Wednesday, Trump received the intelligence briefing traditionally provided by the U.S. Intelligence Community to newly nominated presidential candidates. This briefing was preceded by calls from the Clinton campaign, other Democrats, and, privately, by some intelligence officials that Trump be denied these briefings because, they claim, he can’t be trusted to protect classified information.

Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, actually asked intelligence analysts to give Trump fake briefings.

The Washington Post’s intelligence reporter Greg Miller reported on July 28 that a senior intelligence official told Miller privately that he would refuse to brief Trump because of concerns about Trump’s alleged admiration of Russian president Putin and because “he’s been so uninterested in the truth and so reckless with it when he sees it.” Reuters ran a similar story on June 2, reporting that eight senior security officials said they had concerns about briefing Trump; Reuters did not indicate how many of the officials cited were intelligence officials or Obama appointees.

These calls to deny intelligence briefings to a presidential candidate are unprecedented, but they also reflect a serious problem within the U.S. intelligence community that awaits a possible Trump administration: the politicization of American intelligence by the Left.

I saw this constantly during my 19 years as a CIA analyst. CIA officers frequently tried to undermine CIA directors Casey and Gates because they disagreed with President Reagan’s policy goal of defeating the Soviet Union. Several testified against Gates’s nomination to be CIA director in 1991 by lodging false claims that he and Casey had politicized intelligence. Former senator Warren Rudman, a moderate Republican who headed President Clinton’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, described these attacks by CIA analysts as “an attempted assassination, an assassination of [Gates’s] character . . . McCarthyism, pure and simple.”

The liberal tilt within the CIA, especially in the Directorate of Intelligence (the analysis office), grew worse during the Clinton years as personnel were hired and promoted to support Clinton-Gore policy objectives. These included wasteful initiatives such as the DCI Environmental Center, launched at the same time the CIA was dangerously downplaying counterterrorism analysis.

Unfortunately, the intensified liberal tilt at the CIA during the Clinton years was not reversed by the George W. Bush administration. Bush kept on Clinton’s CIA director, George Tenet, who had no interest in cleaning house or taking steps to ensure that CIA analysis would be balanced and not politicized. When his successor, Porter Goss, tried to clean up the agency, CIA careerists fought back aggressively by leaking to Congress and the media, eventually forcing Goss out.

As a result, intelligence careerists often paid no price for engaging in blatantly political activities to undermine the Bush administration. One officer in the CIA inspector general’s office was fired after she admitted she’d leaked classified information on Bush counterterrorism programs to aWashington Post reporter. In 2005, several intelligence officers attempted to sabotage John Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador — an act of political skullduggery for which they were never punished.

The most notorious example of partisan political activity by U.S. intelligence officers occurred just before the 2004 presidential election when Paul Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia, while giving a speech at a dinner on September 21, criticized President Bush and CIA director Tenet for ignoring critical intelligence that he claimed might have prevented the Iraq War. Incredibly, CIA management had cleared Pillar’s comments, saying that the substance of his remarks, but not the speaker or the audience, could be disclosed. The late columnist Robert Novak, who attended the dinner, sparked an uproar when he reported Pillar’s identity and the dinner anyway. Clearly, Pillar’s presentation was intended to affect the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal condemned such political activities by CIA officers in a scathing September 29, 2004, editorial titled “The CIA’s Insurgency”:

It’s become obvious over the past couple of years that large swaths of the CIA oppose U.S. anti-terror policy, especially toward Iraq. But rather than keep this dispute in-house, the dissenters have taken their objections to the public, albeit usually through calculated leaks that are always spun to make the agency look good and the Bush administration look bad. . . . Yet what the CIA insurgents are essentially doing here, with their leaks and insubordination, is engaging in a policy debate. Given the timing of the latest leaks so close to an election, they are now clearly trying to defeat President Bush and elect John Kerry.

Politicization of America’s intelligence agencies by the Left has grown worse during the Obama years. Recall that the CIA drafted the politicized (and later discredited) 2012 talking points on the Benghazi terrorist attacks. Additionally, the agency now uses racial, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and other quotas for CIA hiring and promotions.

Significant examples of politicization in other intelligence agencies since 2009 include the congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. During a briefing to the House Intelligence Committee in February 201, Clapper tried to downplay the Muslim Brotherhood as a radical Islamist group, saying: “The term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”

And in 2015, as widely reported, more than 50 U.S. Central Command intelligence analysts lodged a formal complaint with the Pentagon’s inspector general. In the complaint, they alleged that their intelligence assessments were being intentionally manipulated by senior officials to downplay the threat from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda branch in Syria) in order to support the Obama administration’s claim that the U.S. was making progress in defeating these Islamist terrorist groups. A recent congressional task force concluded this month that these complaints were valid and expressed alarm that nothing has been done to improve CENTCOM intelligence analysis in response to them.

In light of this history, it is no surprise that Democrats, intelligence officers, and the liberal media urged that Trump be denied an intelligence briefing as the GOP presidential candidate. Naturally, they did not raise similar concerns about briefing Hillary Clinton, although the FBI director determined she was “extremely careless” in handling classified information as secretary of state, even sharing classified intelligence with people who had no security clearance. Comey also stated that due to this carelessness, it’s possible hostile actors have gained access to the highly classified information that traveled through the multiple private servers Clinton used.

It’s true that intelligence briefings to presidential candidates are offered at the discretion of a sitting president. But calls to deny these briefings to Trump or to give him fake briefings are an affront to the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power and could undermine his presidential transition if he wins the election.

It is not up to Senator Reid or U.S. intelligence officers to prevent a duly elected major-party presidential candidate from receiving intelligence briefings because they don’t like him or because he is from the wrong political party. Of more concern is whether some intelligence personnel, out of political bias, would refuse to provide a President Trump with the intelligence support he would need to protect American national security.

Trump may have been too hard on U.S. intelligence agencies when he said that they got it wrong before the Iraq War; and perhaps he was unfair to lambaste Obama’s dismissal of ISIS as the “jayvee” team. Intelligence agencies must be held accountable for their work, but their analysis will never be 100 percent accurate. In addition, intelligence agencies only advisepolicymakers. They cannot force a president to use their analysis.

I was pleased to hear that Trump realizes he will have a lot of work ahead of him to fix the U.S. intelligence community if he becomes president. To get the objective, accurate, and hard-hitting intelligence support he will need if elected, Trump must name strong, decisive leaders — including good managers from the business community — to top intelligence posts. He must hire people who understand that America’s intelligence agencies do not work for themselves, for either party in Congress, or the foreign-policy establishment; they work for the president. Any U.S. intelligence officer who is not prepared to loyally provide whomever wins the presidency with his best efforts should find another job.

House Task Force: ISIS Intel Reports Altered to Skew Success of U.S.-Led Campaign

August 10, 2016

House Task Force: ISIS Intel Reports Altered to Skew Success of U.S.-Led Campaign, Washington Free Beacon, August 10, 2016

FILE - In this Monday, June 17, 2013 file photo, U.S. special operations forces watch a rehearsal by special operations forces from Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon as part of Eager Lion, a multinational military exercise in Zarqa, Jordan. The government-owned Al-Rai newspaper says a Jordanian policeman opened fire on American contractors at a police training center, killing two and injuring three. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

FILE – In this Monday, June 17, 2013 file photo, U.S. special operations forces watch a rehearsal by special operations forces from Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon as part of Eager Lion, a multinational military exercise in Zarqa, Jordan.

The U.S. military’s Central Command distorted intelligence reports to make the American-led campaign against the Islamic State and al Qaeda appear more successful than it actually was, a House Republican task force found.

Officials familiar with the task force’s findings told the Daily Beast that the roughly 10-page report, which is expected to be publicly released by the end of next week, will confirm earlier complaints from lower level analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency that Centcom higher-ups had doctored intelligence.

Leaders of Centcom’s intelligence directorate also pressured their subordinates to downplay the threat of ISIS in military reports, the officials said.

The task force, which included members of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, was formed after more than 50 intelligence analysts filed a formal complaint accusing senior Centcom officials of inappropriately altering their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The complaint, sent to the Pentagon’s inspector general, said senior officials had created a “Stalinist” work environment where subordinates felt “bullied” into drawing conclusions unsubstantiated by facts.

President Obama unwittingly repeated some of the altered intelligence during briefings, the Daily Beast reported. When the initial Centcom complaint came to light last year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter demanded that military officials provide “unvarnished intelligence.”

The report does not contain decisive evidence that senior Obama administration officials had ordered alterations to the ISIS and al Qaeda intelligence.

One official familiar with the House task force’s findings said that while the investigation was “ongoing,” the report “substantiates” claims from lower-level Centcom employees.

Nice attack: Why the terrorists are winning the intelligence war — Spengler

July 15, 2016

Nice attack: Why the terrorists are winning the intelligence war — Spengler, Asia Times,, July 15, 2016

The way to win the war is to frighten the larger community of Muslims who passively support terror by action or inaction–frighten them so badly that they will inform on family members. Frightening the larger Muslim population in the West does not require a great deal of effort: a few thousand deportations would do. Western intelligence services do not even have to deport the right people; the wrong people know who they are, and so do many of their neighbors. The ensuing conversation is an easy one to have. “I understand that your nephew is due for deportation, Hussein, and I believe you when you tell me that he has done nothing wrong. I might be able to help you. But you have to help me. Give me something I can use–and don’t waste my time by making things up, or I swear that I’ll deport you, too. If you don’t have any information, then find out who does.”


Yet another criminal known to security services has perpetrated a mass killing, the Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Why did the French police allow a foreign national with a criminal record of violence to reside in France? Apart from utter incompetence, the explanation is that he was a snitch for the French authorities. Blackmailing Muslim criminals to inform on prospective terrorists is the principal activity of European counter-terrorism agencies, as I noted in 2015. Every Muslim in Europe knows this.

The terrorists, though, have succeeded in turning the police agents sent to spy on them and forcing them to commit suicide attacks to expiate their sins. This has become depressingly familiar; as Ryan Gallagher reported recently, perpetrators already known to the authorities committed ten of the highest-profile attacks between 2013 and 2015.

The terrorists, in other words, are adding insult to injury. By deploying police snitches as suicide attackers, terrorists assert their moral superiority and power over western governments. The message may be lost on the western public, whose security agencies and media do their best to obscure it, but it is well understood among the core constituencies of the terrorist groups: the superiority of Islam turns around the depraved criminals whom the western police send to spy on us, and persuades them to become martyrs for the cause of Islam.

Nice truckBullet impacts are seen on the heavy truck the day after it ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

These attacks, in other words, are designed to impress the Muslim public as much as they are intended to horrify the western public. In so many words, the terrorists tell Muslims that western police agencies cannot protect them. If they cooperate with the police they will be found out and punished.  The West fears the power of Islam: it evinces such fear by praising Islam as a religion of peace, by squelching dissent in the name of fighting supposed Islamophobia, and by offering concessions and apologies to Muslims. Ordinary Muslims live in fear of the terror networks, which have infiltrated their communities and proven their ability to turn the efforts of western security services against them. They are less likely to inform on prospective terrorists and more likely to aid them by inaction.

The terrorists, in short, are winning the intelligence war, because they have shaped the environment in which intelligence is gathered and traded. But that is how intelligence wars always proceed: spies switch sides and tell their stories because they want to be with the winner. ISIS and al-Qaeda look like winners in the eyes of western Muslim populations after humiliating the security services of the West.

As a result, western European Muslims fear the terrorists more than they fear the police. The West will remain vulnerable to mass terror attacks until the balance of fear shifts in the other direction.

As the Prussian army drove into France during the 1870 war with France, Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought the advice of the American military observer, none other than Phil Sheridan, whose cavalry had burned out the farmers of the Shenandoah Valley in the last stages of the conflict. What should Bismarck do about French snipers and saboteurs from villages along the Prussian route of march? Sheridan told Bismarck to burn the villages, leaving the people “with nothing left but their eyes to weep with after the war.” That, and hang the snipers, Sheridan threw in.

Like Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who burned a great swath through Georgia and the Carolinas, Sheridan believed that war is won not just by killing soldiers but by denying them support from a broader civilian population. There’s nothing particularly clever about this insight. One learns from James Lee McDonough’s new biography of Sherman how ordinary the great man was–a competent military officer without a minute’s combat experience before the war began, then an honest but unsuccessful banker. When the war came Sherman came close to a nervous breakdown, trying in vain to convince his masters that they would have to kill 300,000 Southern soldiers and devastate the Confederacy to win the war. He then distinguished himself in combat at Shiloh in 1863 and went on to become the scourge of the Deep South.

The Union always had more men and more resources; what it lacked was generals with the stomach for the job. That meant not only the grisly war of attrition waged by Grant, another middling commander with absolute resolve, but also retaliation against civilians: When snipers fired on Union soldiers from Tennessee or Kentucky villages, Sherman expelled residents, burned houses, and laid waste to crops. There are lessons here for what we used to call, quaintly, the Global War on Terror.

Destroying ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Muslim terror groups is not particularly difficult, far less difficult than Sherman or Sheridan’s task during the Civil War. It simply requires doing some disgusting things. Western intelligence doesn’t have to infiltrate terror groups, tap phones, mine social media postings and so forth (although these doubtless are worth doing). Muslim communities in the West will inform on the terrorists. They will tell police when someone has packed up and gone to Syria, and when he has returned. They will tell police who is talking about killing westerners, who has a suspicious amount of cash, who is listening to broadcasts from Salafist preachers.

They will tell western security services everything they need to know, provided that western security services ask in the right way. I mean in Phil Sheridan’s way. Like the victorious Union generals of the Civil War, the West does not have to be particularly clever. It simply needs to understand what kind of war is is fighting.

Most Muslims are peaceful people who disapprove of terrorism, but many are not.Opinion polls show a large and consistent minority  of 20% to 40% approves of at least some form of terrorism. Support for ISIS generally is low, but much higher for Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. By any reasonable count there are a few hundred million Muslims who in some way approve of terror, although very few of them would take part in terror attacks. But they are the sea in which the sharks can swim unobserved. They may not build bombs, but they will turn a blind eye to terrorists in their midst, especially if those terrorists are relations. They also fear retaliation from the terrorists if they inform.

viveFlowers are seen attached to a fence to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice in front of the French embassy in Rome, Italy, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The way to win the war is to frighten the larger community of Muslims who passively support terror by action or inaction–frighten them so badly that they will inform on family members. Frightening the larger Muslim population in the West does not require a great deal of effort: a few thousand deportations would do. Western intelligence services do not even have to deport the right people; the wrong people know who they are, and so do many of their neighbors. The ensuing conversation is an easy one to have. “I understand that your nephew is due for deportation, Hussein, and I believe you when you tell me that he has done nothing wrong. I might be able to help you. But you have to help me. Give me something I can use–and don’t waste my time by making things up, or I swear that I’ll deport you, too. If you don’t have any information, then find out who does.”

This approach to quashing insurgency has worked numerous times in the past. It is not characteristic of peacetime life in western democracies, to be sure, but neither was Phil Sheridan’s ride through the Shenandoah. We prefer to think about winning hearts and minds. Winning the hearts and minds of a people, though, isn’t difficult once they fear you.