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Government Intelligence - does it exist?

  1. Sep 22, 2004 #1

    BobG

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    US intelligence agencies have been in the public eye a lot, lately. We've heard how they missed opportunities to prevent 9/11 (9/11 Report), how bad intelligence lead us into the Iraq war (http://intelligence.senate.gov/iraqreport2.pdf), and the intelligence estimates on the current state of Iraq that motivated Richard Lugar's and Chuck Hagel's recent comments.

    The intel on pre-war Iraq was so bad that many believe the Bush administration pressured them into providing material to support the war versus actual intelligence.

    1) Did the Bush administration pressure the CIA to provide intel that supported the war?

    2) How eager was the CIA to provide intel supporting the war?

    3) How badly does our intel system need fixing?

    Prior to 9/11 the CIA and other intelligence agencies were providing 'pretty good' intelligence, but were very conservative when it came to basing actions on it. Not great, but 'pretty good'. They could tell the administration what they 'thought' was going on, but whenever it came time to commit to some kind of action, they emphasized the caveats, the chances they could be wrong. Every time they were pressed on an issue, they tended to respond - Ah, okay, I've basically got nothing.

    If the US had actually acted on the intel provided it, we might have prevented 9/11, but definitely would have made a lot of mistakes along the way.

    Post 9/11, looking back in hind sight, the mistakes they would have made weren't nearly as bad as what actually happened. The entire attitude changed. All of their intel was 'actionable' intel with any reservations and caveats buried deep in the text of their briefings.

    The Report on Pre-War Iraq Intel couldn't find any evidence of direct pressure to alter intel conclusions to support the war or anyone who would even suggest they were pressured to alter their conclusions. That doesn't mean that a different kind of pressure wasn't applied. When you've had your butt handed to you for being too conservative and the administration is demanding intel that they can base real actions and decisions on, it affects the mindset of the people providing the intel reports.

    Bottom line is that Bush and his administration are correct that all the intel provided them suggested that Iraq was an imminent threat.

    Now, we get intelligence reports assessing the current situation in Iraq as very bad to very dangerous. Bush's response: They're guessing.

    That's bad. If you take his comment at face value, Bush is saying that his administration's trust in our intel system is so bad that the administration is now working blind - a viewpoint supported by other Bush comments about how the situation in Iraq is improving.

    Obviously, you can't take his comments at face value during an election year, but our intel system obviously needs an overhaul: one to move from an intel system that was great at meeting Cold War needs to one that meets today's needs and one to overhaul its entire psyche (in the words of 'Crash' Davis, they need a rainout!)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2004 #2
    He is suggesting that he doesn't trust the intelligence provided by the CIA as much as he did in the past. Should he?
     
  4. Sep 23, 2004 #3

    BobG

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    It's at least more understandable why Bush decided to invade Iraq. It was the right decision based on the info they received.

    But it's also a little scarier and goes beyond who's President or Secretary of Defense. Whoever is in charge needs some means of figuring out what's really going on.

    I also agree the administration is in a pretty tough spot and a little skeptism about the info they're receiving is justified.

    There's also a more professional way to deal with the problem. As Benjamin Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." This is a problem that's going to take a while to fix. What the administration has is what the adminsitration is going to have for quite a while.

    It's hard for the public to know what's going on at different management levels within the government, but when an organization makes drastic swings from one extreme to the other with no improvement in results, it's a sign that at some level, management is amplifying the problems instead of making much progress in fixing them.

    Admittedly, even knowing Bush's decisions weren't as outlandish as they appeared doesn't reduce the frustration that the government just isn't functioning as well as you'd hope. It's hard to resist the same solution the Yankees use: when the team starts losing, fire the manager. Not often effective, to be sure, but Bush should at least show a little more professionalism in dealing with a problem that's not going to go away for awhile.
     
  5. Sep 23, 2004 #4
    What is it you want him to do?
     
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