Based on my experience with it, I am not a big fan of the American intelligence establishment as I wrote here. I saw too much obsession with personalities, compartmentalization, confidence in mere techniques and a certain tendency to re-write to please superiors. (Not, by the way, that it is unique in the intel world in these respects; although the personality obsession does stand out.)
But I never said that I thought that it just made stuff up. And nor do I now.
Watching the catastrophes, incompetence and mendacity of the Obama era in which the fantasies of the neo cons have been joined to those of the humanitarian interventionists I have begun to suspect that these idiocies are being perpetrated without support of the intel establishment.
Here are a few small things I've noticed that made me suspect a small group at State Department and the White House are the authors and that the intel world is cut out of the loop.
- Shortly after the MH17 crash, a group of intel operators said "we don't know a name, we don't know a rank and we're not even 100 per cent sure of a nationality". Apparently they have nothing to add to that statement. One remembers that Kerry and Psaki were quite certain that there was a "mountain of evidence". Surely the mighty US intel effort has more to offer than tweets and Bellingcat. But we have seen none of it.
- My belief that the satellite images "proving" Russian invasions of Ukraine were amateur affairs has been strengthened by the high quality, detailed photos we have seen in Syria where the Russians actually have intervened in strength. This led me to suspect that there wasn't any real evidence in the Ukrainian case. This German general agrees.
- A report that intel people tried to interfere to stop the Libya attack: "You should see these internal State Department reports that are produced in the State Department that go out to the Congress. They're just full of stupid, stupid facts."
- Suggestions based on her e-mails that Clinton was listening more to private advisors and newspaper editorials than intel sources.
Small items to be sure, and none conclusive. But maybe we have moved to the next stage in which the intel people actively object in public.
- The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (an institution high up in the US intel hierarchy) has confirmed that the DIA had warned the Administration that extremist salafists were the major force driving the insurgency in Syria and that an ISIS-like organization could be created. Here he is saying that he thinks the Administration took a "wilful decision" to ignore the warning.
- In September it was revealed that 50 intel analysts had formally complained that their conclusions were being distorted "to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria".
Intel people are supposed to do their work in secret and then retire and keep their mouths shut. The nature of the business is that you will sometimes be wrong, often ignored but you still keep quiet. You have signed pretty formidable silence undertakings. Having worked in and around the business, I can assure you that, to to be driven to the point of formally complaining (and risking your jobs, pensions and possible freedom) only happens after years of frustration.
Stay tuned. No doubt Russia's intervention in Syria, which is blowing the whole incoherent US policy apart, will bring more revelations. After all, no one wants to take the blame for catastrophe and failure. Especially when they're not responsible for the bad advice, airy projections and falsified information that got into the mess.