by G. Murphy Donovan (October 2019)
A Contingency for Every Action, James Dietz
Truth is the treason in the empire of lies. —George Orwell
The American Intelligence Community (IC) is starting to resemble a Charlie Foxtrot, a dysfunctional culture where bad behavior seeks constant rationalization and confirmation. And like most misbehavior, real remedies might not be that complicated. Restraint is always an obvious option; unfortunately, self-control is a path seldom chosen by national security operatives these days, especially former mandarins at the major US Intelligence agencies.
Before and after the 2016 election, Obama era top spooks and top cops conspired to stage a coup. Now the plotters are doubling down as anti-administration spin meisters at major news outlets. Still, after two years of fake news and federal sedition, President Trump survives and the rip tide of scrutiny may be pulling some dirty cops out to sea.
Several Justice Department investigations are now focused on the Obama era security mandarins. Alas, the Beltway swamp is deep and wide. It’s difficult to imagine that reform or accountability at Justice or the FBI will arrive before the next election in 2020.
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Ironically, the 9/11 attack nearly 20 years ago, the worst warning failure since Pearl Harbor, produced a knee-jerk dollar windfall for American Intelligence. And the Director of NSA was actually promoted after 9/11 as if the Muslim surprise attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington were feathers in his cap. As with school system fails, national security failure is a bizarre kind of fiscal stimulus these days.
Any government agency that can shoehorn “terrorism” into their mission statements is showered today with tax dollars.
The logic of largess is bigness, the assumption that more is always better: more personnel, more toys, more facilities, and more deficit spending. Throwing money at problems is indeed the spastic reaction of politicians and apparatchiks to crises. Sadly, these days, a bigger Intelligence Community looks more like a seditious problem than a serious solution.
Intelligence performance deficits did not, however, begin or end with bigness, Benghazi, Boston—or Trump.
It took ten years for the American IC to find bin Laden. Several Muslim thugs still serve today as propaganda martyrs at Gitmo, yet to be convicted of anything. Nonetheless, all are hosted in Cuba at American taxpayer expense, indefinitely—with three hots, a cot, and a Koran.
The Israeli Mosad took out most of Black September, Palestinians responsible for the Munich massacre (1972), immediately after the atrocity.
The Russian FSB took less than two years to find and kill Shamil Baysev and cronies (2006), Chechen jihadists responsible for the children’s massacre at Beslan. Rendition, or related “detention nonsense, is seldom a measure of effectiveness for successful anti-terror operations. Back in the day, the US national security community was fond of lionizing the child killers of Chechnya as “freedom fighters.”
Vladimir Putin knew better. Dead men seldom become repeat offenders.
The Twin Towers Intelligence failure (2001) in New York was not a one off either. Muslim terror bombers were trained to fly suicide bombs in America by Americans—right under the noses of the FBI megaplex. Irony and failure are constant companions.
Terror is the tactic that best hides in plain sight.
The candor deficit may have begun with Vietnam era “systems analysis” where CIA and DOD cooked the books to suggest there was “a light at the end of the tunnel.” Vietnam era statistics that supported Vietnamization, Pacification, Chieu Hoi, bomb damage assessments, kill rates, and associated statistics were all mid-century varieties of fake science and fake news.
The Pentagon Papers (1971) might have been the only candid assessment produced by DOD during the decade long Vietnam War. Hard as it is to think of Daniel Ellsberg as a hero, surely, in his own way, Ellsberg had more moxie than Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon.
And then there was the surprise loss of Shia Iran (1979) to theocracy four years after the fall of Saigon. The “surprise” advents of nuclear weapons programs in North Korea and Pakistan were also Intelligence fails with notable strategic significance.
The Islam bomb, especially, was a watershed. Surely, minority Shia Persia could not let the majority Sunni nuclear advantage in Pakistan stand. A Persian bomb is now the parity ace, the Shia hole card.
Alas, American intelligence fudged the call on first Islam bomb (1998) in Pakistan, and is still too timid to make a candid call on the coming Persian bomb in Iran. The American left is often a backstop for apologetic Intelligence, especially if the subject is Islam. Hence, the kid gloves crowd believes that theocrats in Iran and jihadists in Afghanistan can be “managed” with small wars and diplomacy.
The problem with truth is that it often makes action imperative. When truth is altered, the need to act decisively can always be deferred. Thus after forty years, yes, since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal: America still squanders lives and treasure in Afghanistan.
Or maybe it was the “shock and awe” of not finding any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after being assured by national intelligence estimates (see George Tenant and Colin Powell at the UN, 2003) that Saddam Hussein was equipped with “weapons of mass destruction.” The Iraq fiasco has two realities; the first Iraq War was about oil and the second Iraq War was about regime change.
And let’s be candid, since the invasion of Kuwait (1998), regime change has been the leitmotif of American foreign policy. The sponsored change motif is underwritten by a belief that imperial Sunni is the preferred variant of Islam. Taking sides in internecine Muslim surrogate wars is a kind of slow motion death wish where infidels and idiots become the predictable collateral damage.
America takes a knee in front of Mecca, it seems, for two reasons. First, Islam is said to be “one of the world’s great religions,” thus entitled to moral equivalence and related immunities. A second axiom assumes that the Sunni brand of totalitarianism is the “right side of history.” See almost any public statement on these matters by John Brennan, James Clapper, or Barack Hussein Obama.
Unfortunately, support to either Muslim faction in their millennial religious feud is a little like, as Churchill might have said; “feeding crocodiles with the hope of being eaten last.” America now provides cannon fodder to Muslim small wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, and North Africa,
Intelligence and policy partisanship in the Ummah is expensive. Cautious defense is always more costly—and often a burka for appeasement. Vietnam should have taught America that defeat in slow motion is still not a win.
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Withal, Intelligence apparatchiks lie; it’s part of their job description. Heretofore, the mendacity, the dezinformatsia, was reserved for foreign enemies. But now, if Jim Clapper can be believed, federal Intelligence needs to fool the folks who vote and pay taxes too.
“Peace” talks with the Taliban is the latest tactical hogwash.
The only thing left to negotiate with South Asia Islamists is the terms of the American skedaddle. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, Uncle Sam couldn’t take yes for an answer and that sierra hotel has gone downhill ever since.
The Stuxnet and Prism disclosures are symptoms of decay too, signs that American Intelligence has lost its original moorings. All agencies begin with good ideas until the institution becomes the enemy of democratic ideals. In retrospect, Harry Truman thought the CIA was a mistake. Imagine what he might have said about the Obama era deep state troika; Comey, Clapper, and Brennan.
Strategic warning failure is not the worst of it. Analysis is the fatal, weakest link in the US Intelligence chain. Corrupt analysis sets the stage for all manner of national security mischief. The now infamous CIA circulated fake “dossier” on President Trump is a monument to fake news, fake Intelligence, and national analytical incompetence.
(Federal, Civil Service, and associated camp follower demographics in and around Washington DC voted nine to one for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The most expensive technical Intelligence collection systems in history service a federal enclave populated by very liberal, very partisan, very blue, very vindictive political hacks. The greater Washington area, like Manhattan, is a Democrat Party sinecure.)
Just two examples suffice; John Brennan and Susan Rice. Handmaidens, we might point out, promoted for being agenda merchants, accomplished liars, and not very modest about either vice. Loyalty, not achievement or professional integrity, seems to have been the silver bullet on Obama era staff resumes.
Brennan is clearly the architect of the “Islam as great religion” mantra. He was Svengali to Clapper and Obama if you will. Decoupling terror, Islamism and Islamists from mainstream Islam is Brennan’s great national hat trick, the logic of which is a little like arguing that pigs, pork chops, and bacon are unrelated.
The Brennan ad vericundium guesstimate of Islam and Islamism is now a Beltway meme. And when Brennan was at CIA, any event, evidence, or atrocity that contradicted the “great religion” meme was likely to be ignored, minimized, or spun. There may be 16 Intelligence agencies in the IC, but CIA is still the big dog in the National Intelligence Estimates pound.
The Susan Rice (right) saga provides the lurid details of how these things are done, a sordid tale of how corrupt and malleable Intelligence becomes when the culprits are Mohamed’s minions.
The immediate IC assessment of the Benghazi slaughter (2012) was revised 12 times after passing through some unknown number of layers of bureaucratic review in the IC, at the NSC, and over at the State Department. In the process, facts and conclusions about terror and Islamism were altered. All of which makes the collection of evidence, and any objective analysis of those facts, superfluous.
After Benghazi, a talking point memo was “scrubbed” before it was released by CIA to Ms. Rice as blessed Intelligence. Then she was launched at the Sunday chat shows to sell a blatant lie, a sanitized edition of failure and national humiliation in Libya.
National security has devolved into a very expensive game of liar’s poker where the voting public needs to be duped. James Clapper, erstwhile DNI, admitted as much in Congressional testimony. In doing so, Clapper tells us that truth and Intelligence can be, when the need arises, mutually exclusive.
American Intelligence is now performance art, with a seditious twist.
James Clapper, prior to the Obama crew, was one of the most impressive soldiers in any administration. He began his career as a Marine enlisted grunt and rose to the rank of Air Force general. He subsequently became Director of National Intelligence. His contributions to technical Intelligence collection are impressive.
Somewhere along the way, however, General Clapper sold his warrior soul—and integrity. Somehow along the way, Clapper’s national security nabobs came to believe that they worked for the DNC, Obama, or the Clintons, not the American people.
Deception in the name of foreign or military policy might be justified, but lying in the name of venal domestic politics makes American Intelligence officers and federal cops into Beltway whores—and very expensive tarts at that.
The Obama legacy is a dubious, if not toxic, mix of appeasement fake news, fake Intelligence, and failed coups, at home and abroad. The threat matrix was inverted to appease Muslims who kill Americans whilst demonizing Russians who do not. Alas, the difference between political fascism and Muslim theocracy is a distinction without a difference. The partisan politicization of national security threats abroad and the corruption of federal law enforcement at home are the lasting legacies of team Obama and the Democrat Party.
We now know how the Intelligence Community, especially Justice and the FBI, conspired to unseat an elected president. The why of sedition has yet to get much ink. Nevertheless, Trump’s sins, real or imagined, are legion. Deep state angst about, and animus for, President Trump is no mystery.
He isn’t a lawyer. He isn’t a politician. He is an outsider, a critic of complacent, smug nabobs right and left. He beat the Press, the establishment, Bill’s wife, and the conventional wisdom on the way to the Oval office. He told the FBI that they could forget a new extravagant HQ. He told CIA that he didn’t need a daily Intelligence briefing. He told DOD that the era of regime change and endless small wars was over. He accused the Press of pimping for the left and the Democrat Party. He threatened to drain the Beltway swamp. Withal, Trump seems to pull another policy plug from the levee of conventional wisdom nearly every day.
Insomniac Trump sets the news table daily with Tweets long before the Times or the Post can get on their panties or makeup. So far, Trump has confounded his critics at every turn.
The 2020 presidential election will not, however, be a referendum on Donald Trump. It will be a referendum on the deep state and the need to depoliticize arrogant public “servants” at the federal level, partisans who are the real threat to free elections and American democracy.
Whatever 2020 brings, there will be little reason to celebrate. Trump will be gone in a couple or maybe six years. But the permanent state, the creep state, the civil “servant” left, the fake news left, and those liberal untouchables in the national security establishment will remain.
Short of revolution, the swamp and the unelected nomenclatura abides.
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G. Murphy Donovan is a former Intelligence officer who served under General James Clapper at USAF Intelligence.
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