Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

What now in Libya?

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

CBS News is reporting that despite advances made by the rebels, with the help of coalition air-strikes, the rebels are being pushed back:

Libya’s rebel forces continued to struggle against Muammar Qaddafi’s superior firepower on the ground, as the United States and other allies consider whether to supply them with weapons.

The rebels have given up nearly all the ground they have gained after allied airstrikes took out some of Qaddafi’s heavy weapons. Now government forces are changing tactics, leaving behind the armed military vehicles and moving in armed pickup trucks like the opposition does, reports CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark. That makes it difficult for coalition forces overhead to distinguish who’s who on the ground.

Faced with a series of setbacks after recent gains, the rebels now are starting to show their combat fatigue, reports Clark Outgunned and often outflanked in the field, they lack any sort of military strategy or leadership. They are eager to take ground, but are quick to flee when they face any real fighting. The reality is that a rebel military victory seems increasingly unlikely.

That’s just fracking great.  It seems the question that lingers in debating Obama’s War in Libya kinetic military action is what now?

The bogus humanitarian spin to this war is wearing thin as we learn more about its uncomfortable realities, and the nature of our ever-increasing involvement.


CIA operatives in Libya

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

So much for the “humanitarian” kinetic whatchamacallit:

The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.

The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

In President Obama’s “we are not at war although we are bombing Libya” speech on Monday night, he assured us that our involvement would be extremely limited and short-lived.  With boots on the ground in Libya, I guess that makes Obama somewhat of a liar.

Bloopers, foreign policy edition

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Yesterday was not a good day on the foreign policy front.  Idiocy and incompetence smart power were on display for all the world to see:

[T]he mistakes Thursday were of a […] serious variety.  The worst of them was CIA Director Leon Panetta’s absolutely inexcusable and shockingly atypical decision to announce to the Congress that in his view Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would likely be out of office by midnight. Obviously, the agency was feeling the heat because it had failed to call the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the one region of the world to which the most agency assets are (likely) directed. So it made the classic error of overcompensating for the past failure to predict event… by predicting one that didn’t actually happen.

This was a lose-lose idea. Had Panetta been right, how would it have looked if the CIA had actually been the first entity to announce Mubarak’s departure? Might it have fueled perceptions that the United States was pulling the strings behind the scenes in Cairo, that Suleiman was the CIA’s guy? (Not exactly a big stretch to begin with.) Who thought it was appropriate that the U.S. ought to get in front of Egypt’s story?

The answer, one has to assume, is someone in the White House. It is hard to imagine that on this issue this administration would let its CIA Director make public remarks to the Congress without vetting them beforehand.

Wait, there’s more:

Which brings us to the other two major statements made by the White House on Thursday.

The first of these involved President Obama’s rather breathless assertion that we were watching history unfold in Egypt and also implying that soon Mubarak would be stepping down. Once again, who was it that suggested to the president that it was in his interest…or America’s… for him to be the warm-up act for the Egyptian president’s expected big exit.

It was the kind of decision that was a sure sign that the president was spending more time listening to political and press advisors than he was seasoned foreign policy professionals.

In 2008, many of us had said that electing a narcissistic and inexperienced,  liberal ideologue from Chicago as President was a bad idea from the beginning.  But who are we to make judgments?   Obama was a “fresh” face, he was young, gave a good speech and more importantly to our media overlords, he was liberal and wasn’t George W. Bush.  But hey, any inexperience in the foreign policy department would be more than compensated for with Joe Biden as Veep.  That’s worked out  great, hasn’t it?

Yemen or not, (continued)

January 2, 2010 Leave a comment

In my previous post, I noted how the President’s briefing a few days before Christmas regarding potential holiday-season terrorist attacks, supposedly gave no mention of any attacks coming from Yemen, according to a piece in Newsweek.

Now a second post from Newsweek says that a White House adviser was briefed not only on the threat of bombs sewn into underwear, but the Saudi official giving the brief was pounding the table on Yemen as a serious threat (emphasis added):

The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official.

The briefing to Brennan was delivered at the White House by Muhammad bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s chief counterterrorism official. In late August, Nayef had survived an assassination attempt by an operative dispatched by the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda who was pretending to turn himself in.

U.S. officials now suspect that Nayef’s attempted assassin and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect aboard the Northwest flight, had the same bomb maker in Yemen, intelligence experts tell NEWSWEEK. At the briefing for Brennan, Nayef was concerned because “he didn’t think [U.S. officials] were paying enough attention” to the growing threat from Al Qaeda in Yemen, said a former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the briefing. (A senior Saudi official told NEWSWEEK Saturday that “we don’t have any concerns that the U.S. government isn’t sufficiently concerned about Yemen. In the latter part of the Bush administration and in this administration, the U.S. has been very focused on the dangers emanating from Yemen.”)

The briefing for Brennan could raise questions on Capitol Hill about how widely information was shared within the government about the apparently new technique used by Al Qaeda. A senior administration official said, however, that within a week after the assassination attempt on Nayef, President Obama had dispatched Brennan to Saudi Arabia to discuss the attack.


Former U.S law-enforcement and intelligence officials are scathing about the U.S. government’s handling of pre-Christmas intelligence about Abdulmutallab and the prospect of a possible attack from Yemen. “The system should have been lighting up like a Christmas tree,” said Ali Soufan, a former senior FBI counterterrorism agent who spent years tracking Qaeda suspects in Yemen (and often battled with the CIA over information sharing).

Much of the blame for the breakdown is being aimed at the National Counterterrorism Center, a unit of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created as part of a host of 9/11 reforms aimed at promoting better information sharing within the U.S. intelligence community. Frances Fragos Townsend, President Bush’s chief homeland-security adviser, says that analysts at the NCTC should have been pushing, or pinging, the system for more information on Abdulmutallab. “It was NCTC’s responsibility to connect the dots, and ask for additional dots if they don’t have enough,” she said. Instead, the original report about the visit of Abdulmutallab’s father appears to have been dropped in a “dead-letter file.

This just gets more depressing. 

No surprise here, that the massive bureaucracy created as per the 9-11 Commission is dropping the ball on making sure critical intelligence is getting to into the hands of those most capable of using that information.  To me the issue is: how many bells have to ring before the before the right people pick up on the threat?  I mean, here you have a guy who was trained by Al Queda’s Yemeni branch, whose father told the CIA about his radial intentions and was barred from entry into the UK.  

And now we’re learning that terrorism experts from around the globe were essentially pointing fingers at Yemen and told us to look at what’s going on.   Only to get swallowed up in the bureaucracy of good intentions?  Ughh…

UPDATE.  Allahpundit asks the same question I’ve been asking myself all day:

So never mind the detail about the underwear. Here’s the real question, which we’re asking for the second time today: Why wasn’t Yemen given special attention as a potential threat under the circumstances?  If, per the Saudis’ tip, Brennan had asked the NCTC to re-review leads related to that country, they may well have connected the dots and nailed Abdulmutallab before he ever got on the plane. What happened?

(Via memeorandum)

UPDATE.   William Jacobson is on the right track:

So what did Obama and/or administration officials know, and when did they know it? If we knew all bits of information about this individual, the Yemen problem, and the bomb technique, how did we not take preventative measures?

It is interesting that Obama now is taking an unusually aggressive posture, after mostly silence for several days, pointing out that the attack was planned in Yemen and that there will be retaliation.

Something sparked this rather dramatic change in tone. In the past few days, Obama undoubtedly has received multiple after-action briefings dissecting what went wrong.

Given what has leaked, and what has been disclosed publicly, it seems pretty clear that the answer to “who knew what and when” is not going to be favorable to the administration generally, and to Obama specifically. Again, not that someone knew of this actual plot, but rather, that someone or some collection of people knew the facts which under other circumstances would have alerted them to the danger.

Yemen or not?

January 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Newsweek ran an interesting piece this morning on how President Obama was briefed on the possibility of a terrorist attack during the holiday season just passed. 

It appears to be standard stuff, but something left me scratching my head (emphasis added):

The briefing was centered on a written report, produced by U.S. intelligence agencies, titled “Key Homeland Threats,” a senior U.S. official says.

The administration official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, says that nowhere in this document was there any mention of Yemen, whose affiliate of Al Qaeda is now believed to have been behind the Christmas Day attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to bring down a transatlantic airliner with a bomb hidden in his underpants.

However, the official declined to disclose any other information about the substance of the briefing, including what kind of specific warnings, if any, the president was given about possible holiday attacks and whether Yemen came up during oral discussions.


Presidential aides are concerned that Obama will somehow be unfairly accused of dropping the ball on the fight against terrorists in Yemen—a country where, in fact, the evidence suggests that Obama, as early as last summer, ordered a significant increase in U.S. intelligence activity.

In the weeks before the Christmas incident […] Obama authorized a major expansion in U.S. intelligence, military, and material support to Yemen’s government—an escalation that some officials acknowledge could be characterized as a new covert war. But Obama’s public and private actions in expanding counterterrorism operations in Yemen may not help him avoid answering further questions about what intelligence agencies told him—and didn’t tell him—about possible threats to the U.S. homeland in the days and weeks before the alleged underpants bomber boarded his Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Interesting that an “administration official” is acknowledging that the briefing did not include any mention of terrorist activities coming from Yemen, the country from which it has been confirmed that Abdulmutallab received his terrorist support.  

Yet, in the past few months, the President has initiated a “covert war” in Yemen, sending military and intelligence personnel, and money, to counter Yemeni terrorist activities.  Obviously, Yemen was an area of concern.  The article notes that an attack was suspected, but had originated in Pakistan. 

How is it that a Presidential intelligence briefing so close to the day of the attack not mention Yemen at all?