‘Instability’ of Intelligence

February 5, 2011

The CIA along with all the US intelligence agencies were caught with their panties down on Tunisia and Egypt:

“These events should not have come upon us with the surprise that they did,” the committee‘s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said in an interview.
“There should have been much more warning” of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, she said, in part because demonstrators were using the Internet and social media to organize.
“Was someone looking at what was going on the Internet?” she asked.

No surprise here.
In reality, US intelligence is really not worth a shit — Stuff we should have known in advance: An entire meltdown of the governing/social order in North Africa and the Mid East, or maybe even from a few years back, another major CIA ineptness on nowhere-near predicting the collapse of Soviet Russia.
Are these people worth the $80 billion budgets?

(Illustration found here).

And to cover their intelligence-gathering asses, a mentally-unalert spokesman went whining:

“Did anyone in the world predict that a fruit vendor in Tunisia would light himself on fire and spark a revolution? No,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.
“But had the diplomatic and intelligence community been reporting for decades about simmering unrest in the region?
About demographic changes including a higher proportion of youth?
About broad frustration with economic conditions and a lack of a political outlet to exercise these frustrations? Absolutely,” Vietor said.

What about on-the-ground human intelligence?
Jason Ditz at antiwar.com puts the mess into perspective:

The massive surveillance of social media and record intelligence budgets have given rise to the belief that this sort of thing should have been predicted, but might speak not so much to officials’ lack of attention as their lack of understanding for the notion that average citizens are just generally unhappy to live under oppressive “president-for-life” dictators.
This would explain not just the intelligence failures but the continued US funding for such regimes.

Being ahead of the curve is what ‘intelligence gathering‘ is all about, is it not?
And Hillary Clinton’s acute analysis of the Middle East caught in a “perfect storm” of awsome, groundbreaking shit — a most-useful phrase/analogy these days, ‘perfect storm,’ original words, perfect situation as in meaning the coming quickly together of different phenomena, creating a perfect platform of circumstance for mega-disaster (except ‘perfect situation,’ doesn’t have the drama, wouldn’t be as catchy, wouldn’t make a nifty book title).
Hillary’s words sound really, really bad, as in ‘we’re casting stones in hypocritical hindsight‘ because the US has known all along of these festering environments, these ‘situations,’ which are now coming together big time in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and other places.
In places where life is so overwhelmed by vicious government — if the boss is a mean, nasty asshole, then most-likely people who work for him will be mean, nasty assholes, all the way down to the lowest level of mean, nasty asshole of a municipal inspector — a 26-year-old fruit vendor, whose meager income supported his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters at home, would douse himself with paint thinner and set himself afire.

In Egypt, the US knew what a mean, nasty asshole-operation Hosni Mubarak operated.
Late last month, WikiLeaks released some US diplomatic cables pertaining to life in Mubarak’s Egypt.
From the Guardian:

“The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators, certain political prisoners and unfortunate bystanders.
One human rights lawyer told us there is evidence of torture in Egypt dating back to the time of the pharoahs. NGO contacts estimate there are literally hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone,” one cable said.
Under Hosni Mubarak’s presidency there had been “no serious effort to transform the police from an instrument of regime power into a public service institution”, it said.
The police’s ubiquitous use of force had pervaded Egyptian culture to such an extent that one popular TV soap opera recently featured a police detective hero who beat up suspects to collect evidence.

The Internet and Egyptian bloggers also get high play in the WikiLeak cables.
In one cable (via the Guardian) an observance: Bloggers’ discussions of sensitive issues, such as sexual harassment, sectarian tension and the military, represent a significant change from five years ago, and have influenced society and the media.
A country wanting to be free.

And where is the US/Egypt going from here.
Omar Suleiman, as a person, might be even worse than Mubarak.
Suleiman, one remembers, is now Egypt’s vice president, former head of the intelligence service, appointed by Hosni and who has now come up with a transition plan to ease Mobarak out of the picture.
Even Hillary endorses Suleiman’s plans, blubbering today in Germany: “There are forces at work in any society, and particularly one that is facing these kinds of challenges, that will try to derail the process to pursue their own agenda. That´s why it´s important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government headed by Vice President Suleiman.”

Egypt might horribly be caught in the old ‘frying pan into the fire’ routine.
Suleiman is one piece of work.
He was the go-to guy for the CIA’s infamous rendition program in the Global War on Terror, and, he was on the scene getting the US its needed ‘intelligence’ to invade Iraq.
According to Jane Mayer at the New Yorker:

Technically, U.S. law required the C.I.A. to seek “assurances” from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t face torture.
But under Suleiman’s reign at the intelligence service, such assurances were considered close to worthless. As Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. officer who helped set up the practice of rendition, later testified before Congress, even if such “assurances” were written in indelible ink, “they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”
UPDATE: Further documentation of Suleiman’s role in the rendition program appears in Ron Suskind’s book, “The One Percent Doctrine.”
Katherine Hawkins, a sharp-eyed human-rights lawyer who did legal research for my book, points out that, according to Suskind, Suleiman was the C.I.A.’s liaison for the rendition of an Al Qaeda suspect known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi.
The Libi case is particularly controversial, in large part because it played a role in the building of the case for the American invasion of Iraq.

In particular, the Egyptians wanted Libi to confirm that the Iraqis were in the process of giving Al Qaeda biological and chemical weapons.
In pushing this line of inquiry, the Egyptians appear to have been acting in accordance with the wishes of the U.S., which wanted to document its case for going to war against Iraq.
Under duress, Libi eventually gave in.
Details from his confession went into the pivotal speech that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in Feburary of 2003, making the case for war.
Several years later, however, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq turned up no such weapons of mass destruction, or ties between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Libi recanted.
When the F.B.I. later asked him why he had lied, he blamed the brutality of the Egyptian intelligence service. As Michael Isikoff and David Corn first reported in their book, “Hubris,” Libi explained, “They were killing me,” and that, “I had to tell them something.”

And most-likely Suleiman was on the scene.

“He has a long history of doing all the dirty work that needs to be done in Egypt. Both domestically, and we also know that he was involved with the infamous rendition affairs with the United States,” Rime Allaf, a Middle East expert at London’s Chatham House think tank, told AOL News.
Allaf was referring to an alleged CIA program under the Bush administration in which terror suspects were secretly transported, imprisoned and tortured by U.S. allies like Egypt.
The U.S. has publicly denied the existence of any such program, but President Barack Obama nevertheless signed an executive order outlawing rendition torture in the opening days of his presidency.
“We’ve heard a lot of stories where he [Suleiman] would take a personal interest, either in the renditions or in anybody who was caught who he thought had links to Islamist groups. He was said to be personally involved in the interrogations and the torture,” Allaf said.
“He’s not a civilian, and he’s not a pleasant person.”

Intelligence has its own instability.

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