Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Government, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 6:36 pm

Almost 5 years after 9/11, the Israeli-Islamist War has revealed the shocking fact that the CIA is still getting “surprised” by events in a part of the world where the life and death of the United States can be effectively decided:

The power and sophistication of the missile and rocket arsenal that Hezbollah has used in recent days has caught the United States and Israel off guard, and officials in both countries are just now learning the extent to which the militant group has succeeded in getting weapons from Iran and Syria.

While the Bush administration has stated that cracking down on weapons proliferation is one of its top priorities, the arming of Hezbollah shows the blind spots of American and other Western intelligence services in assessing the threat, officials from across those governments said.

American and Israeli officials said the successful attack last Friday on an Israeli naval vessel was the strongest evidence to date of direct support by Iran to Hezbollah. The attack was carried out with a sophisticated antiship cruise missile, the C-802, an Iranian-made variant of the Chinese Silkworm, an American intelligence official said.

At the same time, American and Israeli officials cautioned that they had found no evidence that Iranian operatives working in Lebanon launched the antiship missile themselves.

But neither Jerusalem nor Washington had any idea that Hezbollah had such a missile in its arsenal, the officials said, adding that the Israeli ship had not even activated its missile defense system because intelligence assessments had not identified a threat from such a radar-guided cruise missile.

The list of “surprises” handed to the CIA just since the end of the Cold War is astonishing. Pierre Legrand:

Man I tell you I was shocked, shocked I tell you when I read that our intelligence agencies were caught “off guard” by the sophistication of the missiles being fired into Israel. After all they have had such a sterling record of prognostication these last few years, being caught “off guard” by India’s test of a Nuclear weapon, being caught off “guard by Pakistans test of the same, etc…guess super sleuth Joe Wilson was busy.

With people like Valerie Plame working for them I would be surprised if the agency could predict which part of the horizon the sun would rise on. Ooh sorry I “outed” a supersecret agent…”outed” hehe…love that word makes me feel so like an insider. We need to “out” a few hundred/thousand more incompetents in the CIA before we can hope to get our money’s worth.

Since 9/11, the CIA has been so busy leaking to cover its bureaucratic ass for the massive number of mistakes they’ve made and playing partisan politics against an Administration whose policies and people it despises, that it has failed in its primary duty of giving our policy makers a heads up about the kinds of threats posed by our enemies. Suppose for the sake of argument (and I do not support this supposition) that a situation arose where our navy would have to engage in combat with Hizballah. While I don’t think any of our ship captains would make the same mistake as the Israeli skipper who sailed into a war zone with a de-activated missile defense system, not knowing the offensive capabilities of the enemy could still lead to big trouble. And the blithe manner that it appears the CIA approaches analyzing these capabilities calls into question the competence of the career bureaucrats who are running the various desks and departments at the agency.

Consider that the CIA National Intelligence Estimate (leaked last summer) estimated that Iran was at least a decade away from being able to build a nuclear weapon. This is the estimate from a group who has been wrong about every nation that has gone nuclear since the 1960’s when they were surprised by the Chinese bomb in 1964. They were surprised when India first exploded a nuke in 1974. They were surprised when Pakistan detonated their own nuclear device in 1998. They have been surprised, astonished, puzzled, perplexed, ignorant, and clueless about America’s enemies for decades.

Well, it doesn’t surprise me that they’re clueless about Hizballah. And their confident assertion that no Iranians helped Hizballah with launching the anti-ship missile doesn’t make me feel any better. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been reported in the Bekaa Valley for years, facilitating Iranian aid and helping to train Hizballah terrorists. How they can make such a confident assertion when they missed the overall picture of Hizballah weaponry and capabilities is beyond me.

The agency is still dysfunctional 5 years after the towers fell. Somebody somewhere at some point has to change the “corporate culture” at the CIA or we will wake up one morning and all of us will be “surprised” as we were that horrible September day.


The Commissar has renditioned me to Bulgaria. My only complaint is that they’re still not giving me any sour cream with my borscht.


  1. The CIA is run by idiots

    That is the inference I draw from these two pieces by Rick Moran and Pierre Legrand. Not, not a reference to the administration, mind you, but to the fools like Valerie Plame in its ranks who spend more time leaking anti-Bush propaganda than analyzin…

    Trackback by ProCynic — 7/19/2006 @ 7:38 pm

  2. The CIA has unfortunately become a political arm rather than a protective group of the people (ie. at the command of our government). I’m sad to say that there is no relief in sight. They have since become only on minimal use.

    Comment by DEagle — 7/19/2006 @ 7:48 pm

  3. [...] Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse, for failing to support Amerika’s KGB. [...]

    Pingback by Show Trial #38 at The Politburo Diktat — 7/19/2006 @ 8:18 pm

  4. That is sort of what happens when you play the role of reacting to events rather than the role of setting the agenda. Right now Iran is setting the agenda and calling all the plays and we are playing defense. We can only hope we know what they are capable of. Times like these always favor the aggressor because everyone else is reacting their moves and the aggressor, of course, knows their own moves and capabilities in advance.

    That is pretty much going to be the name of the game until we get the ball. Imagine a game of football where after the 4th down you get an automatic 1st and 10. That is what we keep giving Iran. We might be able to hold them most of the time but they are going to get some yardage sometimes and they will eventually score.

    People have such short attention spans. Iran has been working towards this since 1979. They have been planning this for 30 years. They have had 30 years with of oil revenues to pour into preparations with almost no investment in their infrastructure. We haven’t seen anything yet, I fear. Wait till the Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea cards are played.

    Comment by crosspatch — 7/19/2006 @ 9:36 pm

  5. One wonders if the CIA has become a cocktail party with a retirement plan. Where people go to meet and greet, make connections and burnish their credentials for prospective book deals.

    Comment by corvan — 7/19/2006 @ 10:52 pm

  6. It doesn’t matter how bright the people there are. Being bright or politically correct or whatever doesn’t get you this kind of information. What ultimately gets you the kind of information you need is people helping you. Currently it is very much out of “fashion” to be pro-US in almost every part of the world. People would almost take pleasure in tripping up an intelligence operation. And I don’t mean our own media, I mean across the globe.

    Before we can go about infiltrating countries and governments and organizations, we need people who want to help us and see us as the good guys. The problem is that people growing up reading the papers overseas see us as always the bad guy. So instead we rely on foreign agencies to do it and share information, and then our media blows that and so even that cooperation stops.

    There is really not much the CIA can do about it, I think, no matter what they do. It is more about the environment they are operating in than their competence.

    Comment by crosspatch — 7/20/2006 @ 12:08 am

  7. Nice posts crosspatch…On the ball and correct in your analyzation.

    Comment by DEagle — 7/20/2006 @ 12:27 am

  8. Hezbollah, Hamas and all moronic Muslim hate filled organisations should be destroyed, take no prisoners.

    Comment by Jefferson Ross — 7/20/2006 @ 4:17 am

  9. The real problem is that even if they( they being the CIA) were demonstrably corrupt /inept, our country lacks the realpolitik ability to eliminate them. We can’t even manage to be shed of the Commerce Dept. or the criminally useless Dept. of Education.

    Comment by Chuck — 7/20/2006 @ 8:28 am

  10. Thanks very much for the link Rick! Sorry that my site is still a bit wonky and not showing a trackback.

    Just wanted to say that I do not absolve the Bush administration for its part in the continued incompetence of the CIA. Like Truman so famously said…the buck stops here.

    While we can all acknowledge that it will be difficult to clean it up being difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. As we saw it is a political battle royal and there will be casualties. Peter Goss had made a terrific start and his sacking was a tremendous blow. Hayden is a political hack whose loyalties lie with the Bureaucracy not with the American People.

    Thanks againa for the link!

    Comment by Pierre Legrand — 7/20/2006 @ 9:39 am

  11. Perhaps Valarie (bimbo, wife of Wilson) Plume, Plame, or whatever she calls herself is still serving as an “analyst”. The CIA appears to be as underwhelming as is described above. I know that there are some brilliant folks working there, but suspect the pointed haired boss (from Dilbert) has close relatives working there.

    Comment by Da Coyote — 7/20/2006 @ 10:56 am

  12. “The real problem is that even if they( they being the CIA) were demonstrably corrupt /inept, our country lacks the realpolitik ability to eliminate them.”

    No, but they can mitigate the impact of them and I believe that is well underway. CIA is apparently being reconfigured around the NCS (National Clandestine Service) and will be a HUMINT heavy group. Other work that had traditionally been done by CIA/DI (Directorate of Intelligence) is either being moved under DNI (Director of National Intelligence)or pieced out to other groups.

    Most of the people such as the VIPS and Plame, etc. worked for DI. It looks as if these departments are not being moved wholesale. New departments are being created at DNI and being staffed from scratch. The old departments at DI are then disbanded and the employees dispersed across the community where they are needed.

    The net effect is that the knots of troublemakers are dilluted. So you have CIA/DI WINPAC group being replaced by DNI NCPC (National Counterproliferation Center) but the WINPAC people not being moved wholesale to NCPC.

    Also, CIA is no longer in the business of providing the daily intelligence brief to the national leadership. That is also the task of DNI. So what is happening is a reconfiguration of the US intelligence community so that the past problems are mitigated but it takes time.

    One part of the problem was that CIA had both a fairly significant collection opersation as well as being the central analysis point for information. It would be natural for a group doing analysis to favor their own collection product. In other words, if a judgement call was to be made and there is conflicting information, one might lean toward their own product in reaching a conclusion. Either that or they so hedge their analysis that they are “right” no matter how things come out. In other words, they produce useless analysis.

    So now the analysis is moved up a layer and the collection groups feed into that. There is no locally produced collection product at DNI so the input can be weighed on its merit and an analysis provided.

    Give it time. Things are changing, I believe for the better but it is going to take a while to take root.

    Comment by crosspatch — 7/20/2006 @ 11:55 am

  13. The CIA is an organization that once employed Larry Johnson as an analyst.

    That should tell you all you need to know about why they get so much so very wrong.

    Comment by Ken McCracken — 7/20/2006 @ 2:32 pm

  14. The life and death of these United States can’t be “effectively decided” in the Middle East. That’s just ridiculous. Israel could wipe the Arab nations off the map and it wouldn’t do much for us. The Arabs could wipe Israel off the map and we would still be here, still kickin. That’s just a ridiculous statement. That is not a realist approach to security affairs, which is sad, because those of us on the Right wing are supposed to be realists.

    Comment by Cato — 7/20/2006 @ 3:05 pm

  15. Do you seriously believe that what happens in Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf states or any other Middle Eastern country at risk of being overthrown by Islamism doesn’t affect the life and death of the US?

    The entire thrust of our Mid East policy is to prevent Hizballah, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist groups from becoming politically ascendant. And it won’t take a hail of rockets from Iran to destroy us. Two or three well placed nukes and this country - our economy, our way of life, our freedom - is gone. We’d be 20 years recovering. Maybe more.

    So get off your high horse and take off the blinders. The Middle East is where America’s fate will be determined.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 7/20/2006 @ 3:13 pm

  16. Unfortunately not all of us are going to be “surprised”… Just the policy makers.

    Comment by Chris — 7/20/2006 @ 3:56 pm

  17. All I got to say if you can find a CIA gal-pal in the book of Who’s Who, well what does that tell ya. Wish we had Isreali guys running intellegence not bimbo’s wishing not to exit the limelight of publicity like plume and her old assed husband joe.

    Comment by Drewsmom — 7/20/2006 @ 4:18 pm

  18. Rick,

    You’re making a wrong judgment based on incomplete and inaccurate information. First, you make many assumptions:

    -The CIA is responsible for tracking and reporting this kind of information. No other agencies are to blame.
    -The CIA “missed” a HB military capability because all CIA employees are “too busy playing politics.”
    -The CIA has had all these failures through history – that proves they’re inept because there aren’t any successes in the news, so they obvious can’t do anything right.

    Come on Rick, you’re smarter than that. Broad-brush generalizations don’t suit you.

    Tracking the movement of small numbers of relatively small weapons is almost impossible. It’s made even harder because we don’t have an official presence in Iran. Most people forget that an embassy with a diplomatic staff, a CIA station, a DATT and others provide a huge amount of both classified and open source intelligence and information. Running HUMINT operations without a station in country is much more difficult. I’m not arguing that we need to recognize Tehran and re-forge diplomatic relations, but you need to understand that no embassy or official presence in a country does place significant limits on our collection abilities.

    Tracking weapon shipments that pretty much fit in a standard cargo container is no easy task. The Iranians are aware of our capabilities after watch us and the Iraqi’s for so long that they are very good at hiding stuff. Finally, I won’t go into the issues of collecting on Hezbollah, but they, like most terrorist organizations, excel at counter-intelligence and internal security.

    So blame politics at the CIA all you want. The fact is, it’s not like the movies where we have an all-seeing-eye and can monitor everything on the planet 24/7. Our collection capabilities are limited in many ways, and what resources we do have must be prioritized. There are a lot of threats out there to monitor and we can’t devote resources to everything.

    I’m not saying all this as an excuse, but if you do a little research, you’ll easily find out why anticipating events like the ones you mentioned is so difficult. There has been a ton of study on this problem going back decades and there still are no easy solutions. Most of the research is unclassified and published if you want to look into it.

    Comment by Andy — 7/20/2006 @ 7:55 pm

  19. Andy:

    Your points, as usual are made reasonably and filled with much truth.

    I won’t dispute your major points - but I will say that 5 years after 9/11, one would think that some of the problems you mentioned could have been addressed. No coverage in Bekaa where many of these missiles were flown? No infiltration of Syrian intelligence? Those greedy bastards were stealing money from the Lebanese hand over fist.

    My point is that it seems to be business as usual - no one willing to change so that problems such as you mentioned can be attacked from a different direction. This is the culture that many have commented on, including the 9/11 commission.

    But you’re probably right about the politics - although that too I think you’re much too sanguine about.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 7/20/2006 @ 9:56 pm

  20. “My point is that it seems to be business as usual – no one willing to change so that problems such as you mentioned can be attacked from a different direction. This is the culture that many have commented on, including the 9/11 commission.”

    And I would counter that by saying there are some significant changes going on. Maybe not enough yet, but making major changes in intelligence operations in the middle of a very active period is difficult.

    We are also stuck with a bunch of leakers someplace and that causes two problems. First, information has to be routed around “leaky” organizations and second, it makes it difficult to get agencies to share information if they fear the information will be leaked from the agency they are sharing with.

    I have some degree of faith that these issues are being addressed, just not sure yet how effectively and I am not sure I want or need to know.

    Comment by crosspatch — 7/21/2006 @ 12:17 am

  21. Change in Government is always slow, cumbersome and expensive. The intelligence system is no different. The political considerations on systems acquisition is one area that has been a huge hindrance to the IC but isn’t widely reported. Congress is influenced by a strong defense contractor lobby and even procurement agencies like the NRO to purchase expensive systems over inexpensive ones. The amount of wasted money in the IC is huge. Agencies like the NRO, supported by the defense industry, advocate for expensive space-based capabilities when the same requirement could be met with much less expensive airborne or ground systems. The NRO is black hole for defense money. It’s over 15 years since the first gulf war and lessons learned have still not been implemented.

    Another issue is the changing nature of intelligence. During the cold war, it took relatively few intelligence assets to meet our requirements. Finding Soviet missile sites, armored divisions, etc. was pretty easy. The Soviet beaurocratic system made our technical exploitation through sigint easy as well.

    Today, the picture is much different. Intelligence is THE focus. In all cases, unlike the cold war, the problem is not destroying forces and the enemy, it’s finding them. This is a fundamental change in intelligence that we are still trying to meet with many legacy systems and capabilities. In the 80’s, it too few intelligence resources to find a Soviet armored division. The problem was having enough firepower to defeat the threat. Today the situation is reversed. We need huge intelligence resources to find and fix targets. Take Zarqawi - the firepower required to take him out was 1 plane and two bombs, but the intelligence required to find and fix that target was monumental. Reversing the entire way we plan and fight adversaries has been a daunting challenge that is still ongoing.

    So that’s the larger issue we face. Change is coming, but it’s very slow given our nimble adversaries and dealing with our own funding restrictions and beaurocratic BS.

    There certainly are a few in the CIA who play politics. I think that most of them have “retired” at this point though. The majority of people in the CIA are patriotic red-blooded Americans who don’t like the leaks any better than we do.

    Anyway, hope that’s enlightening, back to work for me now.

    Comment by Andy — 7/21/2006 @ 12:41 pm

  22. Andy,

    It is actually downright scary what the CIA was once capable. Since the mid 1975s, they have become ham fisted. I mean they once knew that the Soviets and Chinese were having “issues”. This is inspite of the fact that the majority of the world considered Communism as essentially a “Borg-like” entity.

    Comment by Svenghouli — 7/22/2006 @ 2:58 am

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