Friday, January 26, 2007

Central Incompetence Agency?

If the information in this article from the Congressional Quarterly is accurate, then it would be an understatement to say it doesn't reflect well on the CIA. They come across as a bunch of amateurs and clowns. It's getting more and more difficult to maintain confidence in our national security institutions.

The chaotic, ubiquitous violence of Baghdad has kept the CIA indoors.


According to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad’s streets.


The CIA operatives cannot safely roam the city to meet their few agents, much less recruit new ones.
It’s just too dangerous. CIA chiefs don’t want to risk one getting kidnapped, tortured on camera and beheaded.


That would certainly dampen the allure of a career in the CIA.


So “they spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs,” said a former senior CIA operations official who maintains close ties in the agency.


***


But multiple CIA sources, who spoke freely only in exchange for anonymity, said the agency’s mission of recruiting and managing human spies in Baghdad was stillborn in the weeks following the 2003 invasion and has never recovered, despite adding hundreds of personnel in the past few years.


That failure has virtually crippled U.S. strategic intelligence — inside information on the personalities and plans of the often hostile U.S.-backed government, not just the multiplying insurgent groups and armed militias — in Iraq.
“No one is recruiting the future leaders of Iraq,” says the Pentagon counterterrorism official.


Tactical intelligence — the locations and types of enemy troops and weapons — is also suffering from a lack of access to the population and almost nonexistent language skills on the part of both CIA and military intelligence personnel, say these same sources, all of whom have decades of experience in clandestine operations.


That limits “other covert ops, like providing detonators which will either not work or will explode prematurely in the hands of the bomb makers,” said the counterterrorism official.
“When you’re fighting an insurgency,” says an ex-senior CIA operative who helped rout al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, “you need hundreds and hundreds of informants.”


Says CIA spokesman Gimiliano: “We know better than anyone the gaps in our knowledge about Iraq. But we also know that CIA's achievements there are rooted not in the Green Zone, but in the ‘Red Zone’ beyond.
“Some of that information is tactical, helping save the lives of American and Iraqi soldiers, and some is strategic, helping our government understand trends in the region.”


***


In 2004 the station began swelling to its current staffing of about 500 operatives, technicians and other support personnel.
Scores of case officers were borrowed from Washington or elsewhere, particularly Europe and Africa, for short stints in Iraq, CIA sources said.
Many were out of shape and lacked basic military skills, said a source with first-hand knowledge of the situation.
They got two weeks’ combat orientation.
“They were overweight case officers from Geneva who we gave bandoleers and shotguns and then send them to Baghdad,” the source said.

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