AN INTELLIGENCE ABYSS

By Major Shawn Pine

On May 16, 2002, three significant news stories circulated throughout the U.S. media. While seemingly unrelated, these three news stories exemplify the malaise affecting the U.S. intelligence community.

The first story concerned the U.S. State Department's confirmation to Congress, as part of their mandate to insure PA compliance of the 1993 Oslo Accords, that there was "no clear evidence" that senior officials of the PA had planned or approved terrorist attacks. This is not a surprising development. Since being tasked with such a responsibility, the State Department has consistently validated PA compliance with the Accords. Presumably the State Department is relying on information provided by the intelligence services to make their determination.

Unfortunately, the public record is replete with literally hundreds of violations of the Accords by Yasser Arafat and the PA including: that the Palestinian police act to prevent violence and cooperate with Israeli security forces (Annex I, Article II); that the PA disarm and disband all militias operating in the autonomous areas and to confiscate all unlicensed weapons (Article XIV; and Annex I, Articles II (1) and XI); that the PA turn over for trial all suspects whose extradition is requested by Israel (Annex IV, Article II(7)); that the PA refrain from incitement to violence (Article XXII). Subsequently, if the State Department truly believes that Arafat and the PA are fulfilling their obligations under Oslo, then the intelligence services are in far more disarray than anyone can imagine. Consequently, one can only conclude from the State Department's confirmation of PA compliance is that either the intelligence they are receiving and the analysis being applied, is extraordinarily faulty, or that the analysis is being manipulated so that the State Department can pursue its political agenda.

The Second report was a Department of Defense analysis which reached the remarkable conclusion that the IDF could not militarily defeat the Palestinians. The story reported that the conclusion was in part based upon the slow pace of Israel's offensive and failure to deliver a strategic blow to the Palestinian forces. What makes this analysis incredible is that it totally ignores the political realities under which the Israelis were operating. From the beginning of the offensive, the Israeli government came under pressure to cease operations. The Bush Administration's vacillation in its support of Israeli operations against Palestinian terrorism created a constrained environment in which the IDF operated. It is hard, if not impossible, to think that anyone within the DoD does not believe that Israel could annihilate Palestinian forces in a matter of days.

Israeli military operations were slow and methodical by design and were mainly a function of the political decision to try minimize Palestinian civilian casualties in hopes of muting international criticisms. The fact that Israel did not bring the full brunt of its military forces was a political, not a military, decision. It is important to note that pressures on the Sharon government began even before the operations began and accelerated as the operations continued. To put the Defense Departments analysis in perspective we only need to listen to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz when he remarked that the Israeli - Palestinian conflict was "not a problem that is going to get solved militarily."

Clearly, the reports are designed to give political cover for a renewed U.S. political initiative on the Israeli - Palestinian front. These reports will provide the Administration with justification for pressuring Israel to pursue a political solution with the Palestinians without appearing hypocritical as it pursues its war against Al-Qaida. By the issuance of these reports, the Administration can obfuscate Arafat's terrorist background and minimize the strength of the 100 page detailed report that Israel recently provided the United States regarding Arafat's participation in terrorism. The importance of both of these news reports is that they reflect the inherent politicization of the nation's intelligence services to produce analysis that will facilitate political objectives rather than accurately report the truth.

These two news stories are interrelated to the third piece of news and goes to the crux of the malaise that effects our intelligence services and strategic foreign policy in the Middle East. This is the recent revelation that last summer the Bush Administration had received very ambiguous information that Osama Bin Laden was planning attacks against the United States and failed to act upon them. Throughout the last decade there were undoubtedly hundreds of reports that were submitted from field agents regarding the threat Islamic terrorist groups posed to the United States. Unfortunately, these reports were probably ignored or "filed" by an intelligence apparatus mired in a bureaucratic morass and reporting to a political apparatus that would have viewed such information as politically incorrect.

The ultimate irony of the posturing by many Congressional leaders regarding the potential intelligence lapse, is that they are responsible for the morass in which the intelligence communities find themselves. Since the mid-1970's, Congress has increasingly, under the guise of reform, politicized, bureaucratized, and emasculated the intelligence organizations of the United States. The problems affecting our intelligence services began some two decades ago when, in the aftermath of the abuses of the intelligence services by the Nixon Administration, Congress began passing a number of intelligence reforms that increasingly curtailed the operational capabilities of our intelligence agencies.

The reality is that the U.S. possess the best intelligence collection apparatus in the world. Unfortunately, this collection capability came at the expense of the nation's human Intelligence capabilities. Consequently, the U.S. intelligence services are capable of collecting vast amounts of raw data but lack the resources to effectively analyze that data. Moreover, it is frequently lacks the ability to verify raw data through human collection resources. This problem will only be rectified with the debureaucratization of the agencies and by replacing the mid-level bureaucrats with new leadership that recognizes we are in a war. Unfortunately, the most troubling aspect of these recent reports is that they indicate the intelligence services are still mired in a bureaucratic and political abyss. Until the intelligence services are given the mandate to collect, analyze and produce intelligence unfettered by politics we will continue to have intelligence lapses similar to that experienced last year.



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