CIA Struggles to Spy in Iraq, Afghanistan

Greg Miller
CIA Struggles to Spy in Iraq, Afghanistan
Fri Feb 20 12:26:22 2004

CIA Struggles to Spy in Iraq, Afghanistan
Security problems and short-term assignments hamstring the agency, sources say. Its Baghdad chief is again replaced and outposts are closed.
By Greg Miller and Bob Drogin
Times Staff Writers

February 20, 2004

WASHINGTON — Confronting problems on critical fronts, the CIA recently removed its top officer in Baghdad because of questions about his ability to lead the massive station there, and has closed a number of satellite bases in Afghanistan amid concerns about that country's deteriorating security situation, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

The previously undisclosed moves underscore the problems affecting the agency's clandestine service at a time when it is confronting insurgencies and the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, current and former CIA officers say. They said a series of stumbles and operational constraints have hampered the agency's ability to penetrate the insurgency in Iraq, find Osama bin Laden and gain traction against terrorism in the Middle East.

The CIA's Baghdad station has become the largest in agency history, eclipsing the size of its post in Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War, a U.S. official said. But sources said the agency has struggled to fill a number of key overseas posts.

Many of those who do take sensitive overseas assignments are willing to serve only 30- to 90-day rotations, a revolving-door approach that has undercut the agency's ability to cultivate ties to warlords in Afghanistan or collect intelligence on the Iraqi insurgency, sources said.

There is such a shortage of Arabic speakers and qualified case officers willing to take dangerous assignments that the agency has been forced to hire dozens — if not hundreds — of CIA retirees, and to lean heavily on translators, sources said. The agency has also had to use soldiers for tasks that CIA officers normally perform, sources said.

Even without the personnel challenges, Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as so dangerous that it is difficult for agency officers to venture outside guarded districts and compounds without security details, making covert meetings with informants extremely difficult, sources said.

CIA officials said Thursday that the agency had no shortage of eager volunteers for tough assignments, or any lack of resolve in the war on terrorism.

But current and former officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the agency was confronting one of the most difficult challenges in its history.

One former officer who maintains close ties to the agency said it was stretched to the limit. "With Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, with Iraq, I think they're just sucking wind," he said.

But the officers also said the latest problems point to a deeper problem with the CIA leadership and culture. Some lamented that an agency once vaunted for its daring and reach now finds itself overstretched and hunkered down in secure zones.

"They claim that they've rebuilt the [clandestine service] and it's firing on all cylinders," said a former station chief in the Middle East. "Is it? I would say not. Not if you don't have trained manpower."

The CIA dismisses such criticism, and President Bush has recently voiced support for six-year CIA Director George J. Tenet. The president said he believed the agency was serving the country well. The CIA has also won praise for its role in dismantling the upper ranks of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and helping round up the top figures in Saddam Hussein's regime.

But in many respects, the CIA is an agency under siege, with several inquiries underway into its prewar assessments on Iraq, and an independent commission still investigating intelligence failures related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Continues @,1,4570519.story?coll=la-home-headlines


Searched the web for CIA WMD LEAK.

APFN IRAQ WMD "David Kelly" "JOSEPH WILSON" CIA LEAK Sat Nov 15 01:00:39 2003

Bush, Blair To Whistleblowers: We Will Destroy You
by Steve Young

How many times do we hear Prime Minister Blair speak and think to ourselves, "I wish he were our President?" In the least, how I wish our president spoke as eloquently. But eloquence of speech does not hide that fact that Blair may have been a conduit to death in Iraq, and most recently, in his own nation with the death of British Ministry of Defense scientist Dr. David Kelly.

This past week the Blair administration leaked the name of a "senior official" who was linked to the BBC story reporting that a government intelligence document stating alleged Iraqi nuclear intentions was "sexed up," including the insistence that Saddam Hussein could ready WMD with 45 minutes.

How absolutely British.

How indecently improper.

How utterly homicidal.

Now don't get me wrong. David Kelly's death seems to be a clear cut case of suicide. But it may also be a clear-cut case of suicide by government. As surely as if Kelly had shot himself in the back, say, ten times, this would a crime of murder be. A political murder to be sure, but murder all the same.

The messenger took the bullet for the message. The "leak" did not categorize the "sexing" as untrue. This wasn't the British government's intent in outing Dr. Kelly. This was his punishment for exposing the truth to the public; his punishment for undercutting what many seem to think of as politics as usual, a form of politics where it is quite acceptable to take selective information and pass it off as total. They don't say that's what they do, but they do it just the same.

The U.S. of A. showed that it doesn't take a back seat to their former colonizers when two senior Bush administration officials slipped to conservative comb-over, Bob Novak, the identity of the undercover CIA officer whose husband, retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, revealed a problem with those controversial 15-17 words about Iraq/Niger uranium connection (or lack of connection).

Valerie Plame, AKA Mrs. Joseph Wilson, works on weapons of mass destruction issues in a supposedly undercover (oops, formerly undercover) capacity. Mr. Wilson believes that the information of Plame's relationship to him that was fed to Novak was an attempt to intimidate others like him from talking about Bush administration intelligence failures. Though "Bush" and "intelligence failures" ring in at number one on this week's redundancy list, the leaking of her job and name violates the law, puts a wrench in her career and possibly endangers the lives of her contacts in foreign countries. Hey, it's just politics as normal.

But at this White House, politics as normal ain't good enough as they ratcheted up the smell factor and really shoved killing the messenger out of the closet when ABC correspondent Jeffrey Kofman did a story on the network's "World News Tonight" concerning the withering morale of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

A day after the report, someone in the White House alerted the Right's answer to Edward Murrow, Matt Drudge, that Kofman is gay.

And worse yet, he's a Canadian.

Perhaps this was a "mistake." Perhaps they "misspoke" The White House seems to "mis-" a lot of things.

The rationale that the Bush administration gave for his "16 Words" is that while it may not be true, it has not yet been proven that it isn't.

Isn't that just the way we want our kids to learn how to tell the truth? Until I am proven wrong, I am right. I can just see my eight-year old son salivating to use this one on his teacher.

"My dog ate my homework. You can't prove he didn't."

Like an attorney pleading his case to the jury, the President and the administration give only the side of the information that proves their case, even though they know there is information out there that might make their case weaker -- selective evidence. It's the reason so many hate lawyers. But the President isn't our lawyer, he's our President. He's supposed to give us ALL the truth so that we can make proper decisions on the facts, not only the part of the facts that prove his case.

Isn't it the truth that should be proven before it is thrust on a nation, on a world, as canon fodder?

Shouldn't a president or a prime minister or their aides to be responsible for checking out the validity of what they say, especially when there is evidence to the contrary sitting an office or two away? The blame here was taken by CIA chief George Tenet. As a loyal-to-the-boss employee, Tenet has taken responsibility for what the President won't. Though his career seems to be in danger of being served up for blame's dinner, I don't expect Tenet to commit suicide. After all, he gets paid for keeping secrets. He was trained for it. That's his job definition.

But then again, there are CIA personnel who are speaking out. Raymond McGovern, a former CIA analyst and supervisor, said, "Never before in my 40 years of experience in this town has intelligence been used in so cynical and so orchestrated a way." McGovern said that he is speaking out for those in the CIA who can't: "The Agency analysts that we are in touch with are disheartened, dispirited, angry. They are outraged."

David Kelly left an ominous note that spoke of "many dark actors playing games." I figure he wasn't referring to the Hussein boys. Not anymore. And anyway, the very late Uday and Qusay were never this subtle. These are entire governments who are so threatened by citizens willing to speak out that they must adjust the comfort level just enough to silence them. Sometimes forever.

As Voltaire said: "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." Whistle blowing is always a risky deal. But even so, some are still willing. For that, and for the David Kellys willing to jeopardize their career and their lives to expose the truths -- and the lies -- we thank you.

Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" (Tallfellow Press) and a regular column for Jewish World Review


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