Archive for the ‘intelligence’ Category

Obama, Israel Split On Iran?

March 15, 2009

In the capitals of two staunch allies last week, top intelligence officials spoke about the nuclear threat from Tehran. Differences were clear.

By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
The New York Times

Iran has crossed the technological threshold,” the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, told the cabinet in Jerusalem last Sunday, in words that were immediately leaked to the press. Now, he added, “its reaching military nuclear capabilities is a matter of adapting its strategy to the target of manufacturing a nuclear bomb.”

Days later in Washington, Adm. Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, appeared before a Congressional committee and agreed that “there is potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation or crisis” over reports of Iranian nuclear progress. But he said the Israelis “take more of a worst-case approach to these things.”

Both men were reacting to, and interpreting, the United Nations’ confirmation last month that Iran after a quarter-century of effort had collected enough atomic material, in dilute form, to produce a bomb.

Israel and the United States have worried for years about what they would do at such a moment. Now that it has arrived, the passing of the milestone has forced into the open longstanding differences between the two allies about how urgently to treat the threat. As Admiral Blair implied, the nuclear-threat clock ticks a lot faster in Jerusalem than in Washington.

Where this new dynamic leads is unclear. But the Israelis have seized on the Iranian milestone to redouble pressure on the United States for a tougher stance against Iran, and to remind the new president that their patience has a limit. In fact, Israeli officials have quietly been delivering the message that the diplomacy Mr. Obama wants to start with Iran should begin promptly — and be over quickly. “By late spring or early summer,” one senior Israeli intelligence official said the other day, echoing a message delivered in Israel to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, they argue, the Iranians will drag talks on endlessly while speeding ahead on bomb work.

The Obama team, by contrast, is taking its time to craft a new diplomatic approach to Tehran, putting the veteran Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross at the head of a team to set up what Mr. Obama last year called a strategy of “bigger carrots and bigger sticks.” Real discussions may not begin until after Iran’s elections in June.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/1
5/weekinreview/15SANGER.html

Related:
 Never Wrong? U.S. Intelligence Says Iran Does Not Nave Any Highly Enriched Uranium

Allies’ Clocks Tick Differently on Iran

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at Natanz.

 

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

March 11, 2009
Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples tells senators during a Capitol Hill hearing that Al Qaeda has resurfaced in a country it was forced to flee seven years ago.
By Greg Miller
Los Angeles Times
March 11, 2009
Reporting from Washington — Al Qaeda has expanded its presence in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the sinking security situation to resurface in the country it was forced to flee seven years ago, the top U.S. military intelligence official testified Tuesday.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described Al Qaeda’s efforts as one of the reasons for the Obama administration’s decision last month to order additional troops to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is no longer the haven for Al Qaeda that it was before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. But in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Maples said, “I believe Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is more significant, although still at a relatively minor scale, than we have seen in the past.”

Maples also cited intelligence indicating that Iran is playing a more active role in supporting a militant group based in Pakistan that is launching attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces.

Read the rest:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworl
d/world/la-fg-intel11-2009mar11,0,421
8559.story

Intelligence Officials Testify On National Security Threats 
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Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, left, and Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples testify on Capitol Hill at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Maples said Al Qaeda has resurfaced in Afghanistan in a way not seen since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Blair said the U.S. intelligence assessment is that Iran does not have any highly enriched uranium.  Alex Wong / Getty Images

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A progressive Presidency is a terrible thing to waste. It only comes around once every so often. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Americans’ hopes for the Obama Administration were squandered in Afghanistan?

See:
http://nasir-khan.blogspot.com/2009/03/c
an-congress-save-obama-from-afghan.html

Obama’s Anti-Israel, Pro-China Intel Pick Freeman Withdraws

March 10, 2009

While still a candidate for preident, then Senator Barack Obama had to go an extra mile or two to convince American Jews he was not anti-Israel.  Then he went to Israel and to the wailing wall.

But after he was elected he nominated Charles Freeman for a top intelligence job, even  though Freeman was a well known anti-Isreal guy.

Freeman is also decidedly pro-China…..

China uses naval showdown with U.S. to flex muscle

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News Today from AFP:

A veteran US diplomat and vocal Israel critic, Charles Freeman, has withdrawn from contention for a top US intelligence post, US intelligence director Dennis Blair announced Tuesday.

Freeman “has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman?s decision with regret,” Blair’s office said in a statement.

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Obama’s nominations to top jobs (Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Tim Geithner) have not all panned out.  But many of the losers once nominated to top government jobs are now gone — thanks due to the Congress, the lame vetting process used by Team Obama and the media including people like Michelle Malkin…..

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/10/a
nd-another-one-bites-the-dust-charle
s-freeman-out/

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Politico

The controversial appointee to chair President Barack Obama’s National Intelligence Council walked away from the job Tuesday as criticism on Capitol Hill escalated.

Charles W. Freeman Jr., the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, had been praised by allies and by the director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, as a brilliant, iconoclastic analyst. Critics said he was too hard on Israel and too soft on China, and blasted him for taking funding from Saudi royals. 

Freeman “requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed,” Blair’s office said in a statement. “Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret.”

The withdrawal came after Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) grilled Blair at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing Tuesday. Lieberman cited his “concern” about “statements that [Freeman] has made that appear either to be inclined to lean against Israel or too much in favor of China.”

Read the rest:
http://www.politico.com/news/st
ories/0309/19856.html

A veteran US diplomat and vocal Israel critic, Charles Freeman, ...

“One Man Abu Ghraib” CIA Station Chief in Algeria Accused of Rapes, Making Videos

January 28, 2009

“This will greatly embarrass America.  A one man Abu Ghraib.” That’s what a former CIA officer told us…

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The CIA’s station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

By BRIAN ROSS, KATE McCARTHY, and ANGELA M. HILL
ABC News

Read it all:
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/St
ory?id=6750266&page=1

Why Panetta is a Good Choice for CIA

January 12, 2009

A lot of politically snippy things will be said of President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to nominate Leon Panetta as the next CIA director. However, the one we’ll probably hear most often is that “the CIA should be led by someone with intelligence experience.”

By
The Washington Tomes

I disagree, and regardless of the arguments about intelligence experience or the lack thereof, the Panetta choice is a good one, provided some other things go along with it.

Some history is instructive. In 1976, Gerald Ford appointed George H.W. Bush as director of the CIA. Mr. Bush, an accomplished politician, didn’t have much intelligence experience either. Like Mr. Panetta, Mr. Bush had often been a “consumer” of intelligence, but – also like Mr. Panetta – was definitely not “an intelligence professional,” however one chooses to define the term.

Mr. Bush was appointed CIA director – then called the “Director of Central Intelligence” (and with an arguably wider area of responsibility than the current post-Sept. 11, 2001, CIA director has) because of the turmoil the CIA and the other intelligence agencies were then going though. This was a result of the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation, the Church (Senate) and Pike (House) investigations that totally redefined the roles, missions and authorities of the various intelligence agencies while creating the two congressional intelligence oversight committees.

Mr. Bush was a sound choice for the times because of his legislative experience (he had – like Mr. Panetta – served in the House) and because he was able to help navigate the CIA through perhaps its most troubled time in modern history.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/
2009/jan/12/panettas-role/

Obama To Make National Intelligence Nominations Today

January 9, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will announce Friday that he is naming Leon Panetta as CIA director and Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence, two officials close to the transition told CNN Thursday.

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After a surprisingly heated reaction earlier this week to President-elect Barack Obama’s apparent selection of Leon Panetta as CIA director, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the would-be spy chief appear to have put the matter behind them.

Read the rest:
http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/obama/2009/0
1/08/feinstein-softens-on-obamas-pick-of-panetta-to
-lead-the-cia.html

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Commentary from The Washington Times

The appointment of Adm. Blair, following unprecedented reappointment of Bush administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is guaranteed to antagonize many on the political left, Mr. Obama’s initial national base of core support. There is also more general concern about military dominance of intelligence. During the Bush administration, appointment of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA drew some sharp attacks.

As with criticism of Mr. Panetta, this argument ignores history. The first four directors of the Central Intelligence Agency were all senior military officers: Rear Adm. Sidney Souers, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Vice Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter, and Gen. Walter Bedell Smith.

Smith, notably successful at CIA, had been chief of staff to Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower during World War II. In retrospect, Ike and his team were remarkably effective in steering the United States through very turbulent Cold War years. Experience in the disciplined milieu of the military translated directly into success in the shadow scenery of the spy.

In tandem, Adm. Blair and Mr. Panetta may be an ideal team to bring effective policy change grounded in essential competence.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/200
9/jan/09/surprise-at-the-cia/

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From CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/
01/08/obama.intelligence.jobs/index.html

Obama Didn’t Want Man of Knowledge and Integrity at CIA

January 7, 2009

WOULD you ask your accountant to perform brain surgery on your child? That’s the closest analogy I can find to the choice of Democratic Party hack Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

Earth to President-elect Obama: Intelligence is serious. And infernally complicated. When we politicize it – as we have for 16 years – we get 9/11. Or, yes, Iraq.

The extreme left, to which Panetta’s nomination panders, howled that Bush and Cheney corrupted the intelligence system. Well, I worked in the intel world in the mid 1990s and saw how the Clinton team undermined the system’s integrity.

Al Qaeda a serious threat? The Clinton White House didn’t want to hear it. Clinton was the pioneer in corrupting intelligence. Bush was just a follow-on homesteader.

By Ralph Peters
New York Post

Now we’ve fallen so low that left-wing cadres can applaud the nomination of a CIA chief whose sole qualification is that he’s a party loyalist, untainted by experience.

The director’s job at the CIA isn’t a party favor. This is potentially a matter of life and death for thousands of Americans. But the choice of Panetta tells us all that Barack Obama doesn’t take intelligence seriously.

Mark my words: It’ll bite him in the butt.

After the military, the intel community is the most complex arm of government. You can’t do on-the-job training at the top. While a CIA boss needn’t be a career intelligence professional, he or she does need a deep familiarity with the purposes, capabilities, limitations and intricacies of intelligence.

Oh, and you’d better understand the intelligence bureaucracy.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was blindsided – and appalled – by the Obama mafia’s choice, has the essential knowledge of how the system works. She, or a similar expert, should have gotten this nod. But the president-elect wanted a clean-slate yes-man, not a person of knowledge and integrity….

Read the rest:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/01072009/post
opinion/opedcolumnists/an_awful_pick_148973.htm

Pros and Cons of Picking Panetta for CIA

January 7, 2009

There are, I suspect, quite a few jobs in government for which having no experience is not a liability. But few would list CIA director among them. Which is why Barack Obama‘s pick of Leon Panetta is causing so much consternation.

A former congressman, Mr. Panetta, 70, served as budget director and then as chief of staff in the Clinton administration. But he’s never spent a day in the intelligence community.

The outgoing chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa), and the incoming chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), are cool to the choice. Both Ms. Feinstein and Mr. Rockefeller had recommended deputy director Steven Kappes.

By Jack Kelly
Real Clear Politics

Mr. Obama originally had planned to tap John Brennan, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center at the time of his retirement in 2005. But the rumored appointment ignited a storm of protest from left wingers who opposed the coercive interrogation techniques the CIA used on some high level al Qaida prisoners.

“The fact that I was not involved in the decision-making process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored,” Mr. Brennan said in a Nov. 26 letter withdrawing his name.

By yielding to Mr. Brennan’s critics, Mr. Obama made it all but impossible to pick anyone who held a senior position in the intelligence community during the Bush administration, which may be why Mr. Kappes was passed over.

If you think it dangerous, at a time when we are engaged in two wars, to have a novice at the CIA, then you’re likely appalled by the Panetta nomination.

But if you think of the CIA as a rogue, dysfunctional agency that needs to be reined in, you may think Mr. Obama’s choice is inspired.

Many of those worried about Mr. Panetta have an outdated view of the importance of the CIA. After 9/11 a huge new layer of bureaucracy was imposed on the intelligence community. This was mostly stupid, because there was too much bureaucracy already. But it made the CIA much less important.

Most of the intelligence we gather is collected by the National Security Agency, through its electronic eavesdropping, and by the satellite photos taken by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

The CIA essentially got out of the HUMINT (human intelligence) business when the Clinton administration slashed its budget in the early 1990s. Most of such little intelligence as the CIA now gathers comes from interrogation of prisoners. But most prisoner interrogations are done by the military.

The CIA does still have its analysis branch, which has missed most of the major developments of the last 20 years. And analysis work has been migrating to the various multi-agency intelligence centers established after 9/11.

The real head cheese is the Director of National Intelligence. For DNI, Mr. Obama has selected retired Admiral Dennis Blair. He’s a former commander of Pacific Command and a former associate director of the CIA, a Rhodes scholar who once water-skied behind the destroyer he was commanding. Admiral Blair doesn’t need Mr. Panetta’s advice on intelligence matters.

But as a skilled bureaucratic infighter whose loyalty will be to the president and not to the CIA, Mr. Panetta may be, thinks Michael Ledeen, just the right guy “to watch Obama’s back at a place that’s full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none.”

Because I think the CIA requires wholesale reform, I think better of the Panetta nomination than most other commentators do. But I have two huge concerns.

It was Mr. Panetta, as President Clinton’s budget director, who gutted our HUMINT capability. And Mr. Panetta’s eagerness to define anything that makes terrorists uncomfortable as “torture” means we’ll be getting precious little information from future interrogations.

Mr. Obama is taking a big chance. If there is a successful terrorist attack on the U.S. during his watch, this is the appointment that will doom his presidency.

 

Democrats Admit: “We Are Our Own Worst Enemies”

January 6, 2009

The new Congress sweeps into town Tuesday with many members comparing themselves to the 1933 Congress that enacted much of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and changed the government’s relationship to its citizenry.

By NAFTALI BENDAVID and GREG HITT
The Wll Street Journal

These times are very different from 1933, when the 73rd Congress enacted 16 major laws during Mr. Roosevelt’s First 100 Days. Today’s economy, for all its struggles, doesn’t remotely resemble the turmoil of the Great Depression, with its 25% unemployment. Also, the public’s appetite for broad change isn’t yet clear.

None of this is deterring the Democrats. Like the Congress of 76 years ago, they are converging on Washington with a popular new president, significant congressional majorities and, perhaps most important, a shaken public eager for government to try something new.

“We are at a unique moment in history — we have an opportunity that maybe comes only once in a generation,” Rep. Henry Waxman said recently. “We may well turn out to be as historical as the Congress was in 1933.”

Democrats see the best chance in decades to expand health coverage, move toward energy independence, tackle climate change and re-regulate the financial-services industry.

“We certainly have the obligation to attack big problems,” says Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, sitting under a large photo of Mr. Roosevelt in his personal office. “We have been playing small-ball for a long time here.”

The first order of business on the Democrats’ agenda will be acting on a two-year economic-stimulus package. Still under construction, the plan could be as large as $775 billion, and it could include about $300 billion in tax cuts, $350 billion in infrastructure spending and billions more in aid to states and other measures. Democratic leaders hope to have the bill on President-elect Barack Obama’s desk by mid-February.

Underlying the recovery plan and the Democrats’ other agenda items is a determination to shift the nation’s economic balance of power back to workers and the middle class — by making it easier for employees to unionize, pushing banks to restructure mortgages and rewrite credit rules, and providing health coverage to more people.

What’s to stop the Democrats? There are serious obstacles, starting with the party itself, which is hardly unified. Some Democratic congressional factions, like the more-conservative Blue Dogs, are deeply suspicious of expanded federal spending. Democrats from old industrial states worry that colleagues from California want to be too hard on the auto industry. Coal-state Democrats fear the party’s environmental wing will go too far with efforts to clamp down on fossil fuels.

Read the rest:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123120199307655729.html

Even Democrats Cool To Obama’s CIA Pick

January 6, 2009

After his first idea for the CIA was flogged by liberal bloggers, President-elect Obama picked Leon Panetta to head the nation’s top spy agency.

But former CIA agents and Congressional Democrats are not thrilled with this choice either….

Related:
CIA: At Least One Obama Nominee Idea Derailed
.
 Obama’s CIA Pick from “Left Field” Agents Say; President-Elect Wants It That Way

By Eli Lake
The Washington Times

President-elect Barack Obama‘s reported choice of Leon Panetta, a former congressman and White House chief of staff, to head the Central Intelligence Agency has provoked sharp criticism from senior Democrats whom the White House will need to gain his confirmation.

The Obama transition team did not return phone calls seeking comment on the nomination, which was confirmed by other Democrats and intelligence officials.

But the incoming chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein – like Mr. Panetta, a California Democrat – issued a statement saying “my position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

US president-elect Barack Obama has chosen former lawmaker and ... 

An aide to the current chairman of the committee, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, said his boss had similar concerns.

“He believes the director of the CIA needs to have significant intelligence experience,” the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “He has also had the long-held belief that the director of the CIA and senior intelligence officials in general need to not be from the political world.”

The criticism over the choice of Mr. Panetta follows nearly universal praise for Mr. Obama’s earlier major appointments and highlights the president-elect’s first bumpy patch.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/20
09/jan/06/democrats-cool-to-panetta-at-cia/

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From Politico:

Spencer Ackerman gets a statement from Dianne Feinstein’s office:

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” said Senator Feinstein, who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

That seems to reflect the view inside the CIA, and suggests a tough confirmation hearing.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0
109/Friction_on_Panetta.html

Dianne Feinstein

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/
01/05/panetta.cia/index.html