By Bing West
Best Defense guest commenter
Re Benghazi and the military (a matter of much lesser import than the deceptive talking points): On ABC on 12 May, George Will and retired General Cartwright excused the military by saying 10 hours was not enough time to react. The general said it takes up to "a day or two" to arm an F-16, file flight plans, arrange for refueling, etc.
Therefore the solution is to pre-stage the right kinds of forces, which requires a much larger military and a knowledge beforehand about the location and severity of the threat. By this reasoning, we do not have general purpose forces; we have special purpose forces.
Benghazi thus raises the question: Do we need more forces staged around the world or do we need senior officers who can respond to emergencies outside their normal checklists?
Last week's congressional testimony included two new revelations. First, four Special Forces soldiers en route to Benghazi to help our wounded were ordered not to go by a Special Operations officer in Stuttgart. Not only did that manifest being afraid to take a risk for your beleaguered comrades, it also raised the question of authority in the chain of command during battle. What is the authority that permits an officer thousands of miles away to override the commander on the ground?
Second, Mr. Hicks testified that Secretary Clinton approved, at about 8 p.m. Washington time, the evacuation of the embassy in Tripoli, due to terrorist threats. That was a dramatic, escalatory decision. It is unknown whether the president or the secretary of defense was notified.
In the event, the U.S. military took no new, immediate action, even though the embassy was being evacuated in addition to the chaos at Benghazi. The military has justified itself by saying the battle was over by the next morning. But no human being could predict the night before when the battle would end. That the embassy in Tripoli was not overrun was a matter of fate/luck/enemy decisions that had nothing to do with the prescience or actions of the Pentagon staff. The tardiness of U.S. forces was a failure to improvise, which in turn is a basic test of leadership in battle.
One question illustrates the inertia: Had it been President Obama who was missing in Benghazi, would the military have taken only the same actions and later offered the same rationale; to wit, "we knew the battle would be over in 10 hours, (inside our OODA loop)"?
The military at the highest level must examine its ability to improvise, and not rely on the enemy to give us "a day or two" to prepare.
I always read the Pentagon's flag officer announcements, mainly to see if someone I know has gotten an interesting job. (It is nice to see people I knew as majors are now making three and four stars. Unfortunately, it also reminds me that people who joined the military when I started covering the Pentagon are retiring.)
In this case, I don't know Rear Adm. Metts, but I sure found the move of this information warfare specialist interesting. Maybe the U.S. government is going to respond more actively to the stream of Chinese intrusions into American government and business computers:
Rear Adm. (lower half) Willie L. Metts will be assigned as director for intelligence, J2, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii. Metts is currently serving as deputy chief, tailored access operations, S32, National Security Agency, Fort Mead, Md.
And yes, that is the way the press release spelled Fort Meade.
The other night I went to a preview of Manhunt, a HBO documentary that will air on that network on May 1 and thereafter many times on CNN.
The documentary was like a high-class version of a Frontline episode, filmed and edited well, with expensive touches like music. One of the themes was how many of the analysts who targeted bin Laden were women. Another was how isolated it felt to be in the CIA after 9/11. Overall, I found the film a great document, but too inclined to give the CIA a pass, especially on the issue of torture and on some specifics, such as how the Khost bombing that killed seven CIA officers in December 2009 was allowed to happen.
But what I want to talk about today was the discussion following the film, which was even more interesting. (I took notes, having asked Peter Bergen, the documentary's executive producer, beforehand if I could, and was told yes.) It felt historic, a bit like being in the same room with the D-Day planners.
It also felt a bit like an encounter group. Clearly there had been strong disagreements within the CIA about the course they took:
What I found myself wondering as I listened to all this was a question an Army officer who worked on Guantanamo issues asked me years ago: How can you win a war for your values by using tactics that undermine them?
At the end of the discussion, I turned to the woman standing next to me, who I think had just been identified in the film as the chief bin Laden hunter. "So, are you Jessica Chastain?" I asked, referring to the actress who played that role in Zero Dark Thirty. (Yes, I know, on reflection, it was a stupid way to put it. I have been told that the Chastain character was a composite of several of the CIA women, including Jennifer Matthews, who was killed in the Khost bombing.)
"No," the woman replied, "Jessica Chastain wasn't there." Great answer!
By Richard Coffman
Best Defense bureau of Vietnamese War affairs
Hanoi's War is an important book drawing on secret Vietnamese Communist Party and government archives and chronicling how Hanoi planned and waged war in Vietnam following the defeat of the French in 1954.
More than that, the book surfaces serious dissension at the highest levels in Hanoi over priorities, strategies, and resources undermining, among other things, preparation for the Tet Offensive of 1968 and leading to arrests and purges. Had Washington and Saigon had a clearer picture of this, the war certainly would have been fought differently, and the outcome might well have been more favorable. It's probably fair to say that we knew as much about Hanoi's leadership then as we do the North Korean leadership today.
As it was, this book describes how badly U.S. bombing in the North and significant ground incursions into communist base areas in Cambodia and Lao hurt Hanoi's war effort. It further shows the utter failure and enormous cost of Hanoi's major offensives in 1968, 1969, and 1972, which forced the North into greater dependence on the Soviets and Chinese and ultimately to engage in negotiations to force U.S. withdrawal.
The author, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, a native-born Vietnamese, naturalized U.S. citizen, and professor at the University of Kentucky, had access to a wealth of official Vietnamese language archives, personalities, and unpublished manuscripts. Among others, she interviewed Hoag Minh Chinh, once North Vietnam's leading communist theoretician and a purged dissident. She had access to the unpublished memoirs of the first of communist party First Secretary Le Duan's wives, who served in the Mekong Delta for years
Lieng-Hang not only plows much new ground, but does so in a well-organized, lucidly argued, and well-written chronological treatment of the Vietnam War and Hanoi's direction of it. Readers will be grateful for her facility in writing and organizing this substantively dense material, and that she makes clear that the archives she reviewed were sanitized and by no means complete.
To students of communist ideology and tactics, Hanoi's War neatly describes the rise to the pinnacle of power of communist party leader Le Duan and his close associate Le Duc Tho, and the marginalization of Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap. Indeed, these latter two internationally acclaimed heroes of the Vietnamese communist revolution, widely thought to wield unchecked power in Hanoi, sat out the Tet Offensive, Giap pouting in Hungary and Ho taking the waters in Beijing.
We further learn that despite Le Duan's repeated failures of strategies and tactics in the war in the South and immense personnel losses and the virtual destruction of the northern economy, he held on to power by virtue of brutal and non-stop repression. Even before the infamous Hanoi Hilton imprisoned U.S. airmen, it held scores of Le Duan's political opponents and dissidents, both real and imagined. His purges even claimed senior military officers close to Giap and some who helped plan the Tet Offensive.
In these and scores of less consequential matters, this book should humble Western intelligence and diplomatic observers, journalists, historians, academics, and the international left who got so much of North Vietnam wrong then and whose mistaken interpretations and judgments persist to this day.
Make no mistake, this is not revisionist history. The book's subtitle gives us a clue to her leanings: "An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam."
The author persists in describing the Vietnam War as "unwinnable" for the United States, which certainly must come as news to such eminent contemporary historians as Lewis Sorley and Mark Moyar, whose recent works, even without primary sources on Hanoi's troubles, make clear that the outcome in Vietnam was far from inevitable. Moreover, she has a palpable antipathy for Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger even while brilliantly and in great detail describing how they simultaneously leveraged both Moscow and Beijing to squeeze Hanoi -- and against his deep instincts, Le Duan -- to get the best possible negotiated deal extricating the United States from Vietnam.
Indeed, Le Duan so preferred massive offensives designed to trigger popular uprisings in the South that he sent his right-hand man, Le Duc Tho, to Paris to keep the lid on the negotiations. This follows Le Duan's pattern in dispatching trusted generals to command the headstrong southern communists who believed their revolution was betrayed by the 1954 Geneva Accords. How ironic -- or perverse -- that Le Duc Tho won a Nobel Peace Prize for his service in Paris.
Finally, she attributes Hanoi's victory not to its persistence and tenacity, not to winning hearts and minds in the South, not to the enormous sacrifices of North Vietnam's armies and people, nor to U.S. politics which hamstrung and undermined the U.S. effort, particularly under Richard Nixon, but to the unwavering and irresistible pressure of post-colonial, third-world, anti-war nations fed by Hanoi's clever propaganda and diplomacy and eager to teach the United States a lesson. This, she avers, is perhaps the greatest legacy of Hanoi's war and serves as a model to those planning future revolutionary campaigns against Western powers.
This flight of fancy only slightly detracts from what is otherwise a major and unique contribution to our understanding of what we faced in Vietnam. Students of military history, the Vietnam War, and revolutionary communism have much to look forward to as these archives are more fully mined in the years ahead.
Richard Coffman served as a Marine Corps officer in Chu Lai and Danang, RVN in 1965-1966. He then served in the CIA for 31 years, analyzing the North Vietnamese leadership there from 1967 through 1972.
By Noel Koch
Best Defense guest columnist
In the run-up to President Obama's trip to the Middle East, apologists for Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy civilian convicted of spying for Israel, urged Pollard's release. This has become a recurring event led, strikingly, by Israeli leaders.
Here are two reasons why it is absurd to consider ever releasing Jonathan Pollard:
First, the Israelis have never told us who his co-conspirators were.
Second, the Israelis have never told us how much of the information they obtained was traded to nations hostile to the United States.
Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985 while trying to escape into the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In March 1987 he was convicted in a plea bargain that permitted him to avoid a public trial, as a result of which there would be no public record and thus no public awareness of the full extent of his crimes or why he committed them.
The narrative aggressively promoted by his supporters in Israel and the United States paints Pollard as a committed Zionist prompted by his love for Israel and concern for its security. It ignores other facts, e.g. before he began spying for Israel, he had already reached out to other foreign intelligence organizations, one of which actually was an enemy of Israel, in an effort to capitalize on his position as an analyst with access to classified U.S. information. The plea agreement also helped obscure the fact that Pollard was bought and paid for by the Israelis; his motive was money, not warm feelings for the Jewish state.
Israel's damage control efforts included the contention that the Pollard escapade was a rogue operation not carried out through the nation's normal espionage channels. This much would prove to be true. Pollard was not being run by Mossad. As is often the case with missteps between states, this one was rooted in personal animus. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger's reluctance to put the lives of American military personnel at the disposal of Israel's interests promptly produced the usual result: a smear campaign in which Weinberger was implied to harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. Especially ill-disposed to Weinberger was his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon. Among other things, Sharon was convinced Weinberger was refusing to share intelligence of interest to Israel. Accordingly, Sharon set about to get the alleged intelligence on his own.
Sharon's agent in this endeavor was legendary Israeli intelligence operative Rafi Eitan. Rafi found his dupe in the buyable Jonathan Pollard. Here begins an aspect of the matter hidden from public view by the manner in which Pollard was prosecuted. It has served the Israeli narrative for Pollard to be seen as some sort of super spy. He was nothing of the sort. He simply exploited his trusted access to Navy computers to withdraw information his handlers instructed him to get. At least some of the documents were secured behind alpha-numeric designators. Pollard had no idea what these designators represented. He was simply told to extract the associated documents.
Thereupon rests one reason Israel has from the outset been anxious to retrieve Pollard, and one of several very good reasons Pollard should remain in prison to the end of his life sentence. U.S. intelligence personnel have long known that Pollard didn't act alone and that there were other, still unidentified (or at least unprosecuted), traitors to America involved in this undertaking. Who identified for Pollard the specific documents he was to pull out of the computers? Israel hasn't told us.
In the netherworld of espionage, competent national agencies trade information. It is known that the information Israel bought from Pollard was exchanged with other national agencies to the detriment of U.S. interests. Some of the damage to the United States is known. Some may not be. In any case, Israel has never given the United States a complete accounting of what was stolen (to be sure, Pollard himself doesn't know) and what was passed to enemies of the United States.
Jonathan Pollard got what he wanted: money, jewelry, and paid trips in exchange for his treachery; he got what he deserved: life in prison. Unlike Judas, who had the grace to hang himself in shame, he lives in the hope that his purchasers will spring him so he can enjoy the apartment set aside for him, the money they have been banking for him, and the hero's welcome they have promised him for betraying the United States.
Noel Koch served in the U.S. Department of Defense from 1981 to 1986. During this time he worked with Rafi Eitan, advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on terrorism, and later with Amiram Nir, who held the same position with Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images
The estimable Micah Zenko wants a "first draft" of "the Third War." Actually it has been written, and is being published this week. It is The Way of the Knife, by Mark Mazzetti. It has all sorts of interesting details, like that the United States has the ability to remotely turn on a cell phone in Pakistan and then collect the precise coordinates of whoever is carrying it.
Here is an interview I did with the author by e-mail:
Tom Ricks: What are we going to learn from your book that we haven't gotten from others, like those by Peter Bergen?
Mark Mazzetti: Peter's books are absolutely terrific, and a hard act to follow! And, there have certainly been a number of terrific books covering the war on terror. What I've tried to do in my book is tell a story of a secret war, and how that war has changed places like the CIA and parts of the Pentagon. The CIA is now at the center of waging covert wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The agency certainly has had a history of far flung military adventures, but then it tried to get out of the killing business -- only to come back at it in a big way since the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has become more like the military, sending soldiers into the dark corners of the world on spying missions. There's been a real blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies.
With the "big wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan either over or winding down, I think that these secret wars have become the default way of doing business. And, only now is the pressure growing for the White House to bring greater transparency to the shadow wars.
TR: What was the biggest surprise to you in reporting and writing the book?
MM: I think that the biggest surprise was how much this type of warfare brings various colorful characters to the forefront. When the United States determined it couldn't send the 101st Airborne into a country, it began to rely on private contractors and other types of individuals to do things like gather intelligence on the ground. I spent a chapter on the private spying network run by Duane Clarridge, a former CIA officer and one of the figures in the Iran-Contra scandal. A Pentagon official hired Clarridge's team to gather intelligence in Pakistan because there was a belief that the CIA wasn't up to the task, but the entire operation ended up in recriminations and a Pentagon investigation. It's stories like this that I really tried to highlight in the book.
TR: Why do you think drones have become so controversial only recently in the United States?
MM: That's a good question. I think that up until recently, at least in Washington, you had both Republicans and Democrats uniformly supporting targeted killings and there was no constituency calling for greater transparency and accountability for these kinds of operations. Since the November election, you have seen Democrats become more vocal in challenging the Obama administration on the use of targeted killings. And, of course, there is Rand Paul's now-famous filibuster that captured concerns among Libertarians about secret government operations.
TR: Which of our three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and "knife") do you think historians ultimately will find the most significant?
MM: This might sound like I'm avoiding giving a direct answer, but all three wars have impacted each other, and so in some ways I think that some historians will look at this entire post-9/11 period as one that fundamentally changed both U.S. foreign policy and how the United States conducts war. Certainly, the Obama administration has relied on these shadow wars because it considers them cheaper, lower risk, and more effective than the big messy wars of occupation like Iraq and Afghanistan. But, so much of the way that an organization like the Joint Special Operations Command does business is a direct result of its work in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They took parts of what they were doing in those countries and brought outside of the "hot" battlefields.
TR: What do you think are the lessons of this third war?
MM: There's no question that the United States has become dramatically better at manhunting than it was on September 11, 2001. There is better fusion of intelligence, and the Pentagon, CIA, and other intelligence agencies are working more closely together. I think, though, that one of the lessons is that secrecy can be very seductive and that it might be too easy for our government to carry out secret warfare without the normal checks and balances required for going to war. As you well know, as much as the Pentagon can be a lumbering bureaucracy, there is a certain benefit of having a good many layers that operations must pass through in order to get approved. When decisions about life and death are made among a small group of people, and in secret, there are inherent risks.
Steve Coll's article in the issue of the New Yorker out this week, about a CIA officer jailed for leaking, is interesting especially for two asides:
-- Over the past 100 years, he writes, 10 government officials have been prosecuted for leaking. Six of them have been during the Obama administration.
-- Coll predicts that this may come back to haunt the administration: "If prosecutors find that senior White House officials broke the law while communicating with Sanger, President Obama may be unable to prevent high-level indictments."
Ricks: Rajiv, you have been unnaturally patient. [Gestures dramatically with open right hand] This is a man who, in Baghdad, was famous for shouting at people, "Right now, right now, right now!" He was a great bureau chief.
Chandrasekaran: I'm just taking all this in. It's fascinating. I find myself agreeing with an awful lot of what's being said around the table.
Just sort of building on a lot of this, I feel like the military does a great job of looking at troop-to-task calculations. We don't we do that on the diplomatic side of things? There was this assumption building on, all right, September 12: Was the Taliban really our enemy? We then -- fast-forward a couple months -- think that we can have a reasonably strong central government, civilian government, in a country with zero institutions, with no human capacity. There just, from the very beginning, weren't the necessary questions asked about what this would take, not from a military point of view, but from a whole-of-government point of view.
All these assumptions get baked in that wind up being completely contradictory and counterproductive to any efforts to build a stable government, and at no point do we step up and say, "Wait. This doesn't make sense." Part of it's a bandwidth issue. Part of it is, I think, civilian sides of our government aren't doing the necessary sorts of calculations about: Is this in our best interests? Is this doable? What would it take to do it? And then, even further, getting right back to the beginning, the question of space; one associated issue with this -- and I don't mean to blame the victim here -- we don't do a good enough job of saying no to the partners we're trying to help. Not just internationally, but the Afghans themselves. You know, when the Afghans say, "We want to centralize power in Kabul because, you know, Ashraf Ghani says it's going to help fight corruption," we don't push back meaningfully and say, "Yes, but it's completely unrealistic given the capacity of your government." When [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai says, "We want you ISAF forces to go push into these districts because we've got bad guys there," we don't do a good enough job of saying, "Wait a second; it doesn't make sense to do that."
Ricks: General Jabouri, listening to this, as someone who has dealt with the Americans, what do you think of Rajiv's analysis? Are the Americans able to say no? Do they make intelligent decisions, from your perspective as an Iraqi general and a mayor of a city?
Jabouri: I think the Americans, in the beginning, always take the ally from who said, "OK, do everything they want." And they're strong. Like Chalabi, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, someone, they always say to them, "OK, I'm from this hand to this hand [extends hands, palms up]." But after that discover they chose the wrong man. The ally is not the man who says it is always OK to do things.
Ricks: So again, a lack of sufficient thought, of understanding, going into the situation.
Jabouri: I think also they depended totally on the people outside Iraq, not from inside Iraq. The do not make a balance between that, but now we see the result in Iraq, with what happened.
Ricks: Ms. Flournoy?
Flournoy: I think this point about really being thoughtful about your political objectives and what's the goals and the strategy to achieve them and not being all things to all people is really important. And I think it is something that we really struggle with. When you ask why, I do think it does also speak to the imbalance in our own investment as a government. I mean, we have this tremendously -- well, at least historically -- well-resourced military, well trained, well cultivated. Obviously when you put thousands of Americans in harm's way, a lot of attention is going to rightfully be focused in that direction to make sure we know what we're doing and are managing that well.
But again, if you think what drives the success or failure of these operations, it is your political objectives and your political strategy and how well you frame those question. I would argue we don't grow on the civilian side grand strategists, we don't grow political strategists. You occasionally find them, and I can list a few I admire and respect. But I remember one of the most difficult moments of the Iraqi government formation, sitting in the embassy in Baghdad saying, "Well, what're we going to do? What's our strategy to help them cohere?" Not that the U.S. was going to dictate the outcome, but how are we going to help get over this hump and move forward? Having the senior political officer at the time tell me, "Well, that's not my job. My job, as the political officer, is to observe and report." And I said, "I'm sorry. We invaded a country. We are occupying this country. Your job is thinking about the political strategy that's going to help put it back together again on sustainable terms." But that's not what we train people to do; it's not what we resource them to do. And I do think it's connected to this fundamental imbalance of resources and that we didn't put enough time, attention, thought, focus, resources into the whole civilian side of what we were doing.
Dubik: In conflicts that are essentially not winnable, militarily. The military operations are necessary, but they're not sufficient. They're not even decisive.
Ricks: Emile Simpson makes this very good point in his new book, War From the Ground Up, as a young British officer who fought in Afghanistan that you've got to turn Clausewitz on his head and look as this as violent politics, not as warfare that leads to a political outcome. A lot of it is political operations coming out of the barrel of a gun.
By Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
Most Americans do not realize the sheer volume of literature that exists showing that torture is a great tool for extracting false confessions but an extremely poor tool for collecting intelligence. Here's my Top 10:
1. The Black Banners, by Ali Soufan. From my review of the book in the Army's Military Review: "Soufan describes multiple interrogations in which he earned the trust and cooperation of Al-Qaeda operatives, only to have psychologists and amateur interrogators from the CIA destroy this rapport through brutality. He reports that once they used harsh techniques, detainees stopped providing substantial intelligence." Soufan, an Arabic-speaking FBI interrogator, dispels the myth that al Qaeda terrorists are "hardened" to withstand traditional interrogation approaches. Getting al Qaeda members to talk, he demonstrates, is rarely difficult for a skilled interrogator who uses rapport-based approaches and who understands their language, culture, and religion.
2. Stalking the Vietcong, by Colonel (Ret.) Stuart Herrington. Although primarily known as a counterinsurgency classic (this book is one of the recommended readings in the famous 2006 counterinsurgency manual), this memoir describes how Colonel Herrington convinced a senior South Vietnamese official to use rapport-based approaches rather than torture. The result was not only far more reliable intelligence, but often, the "turning" of enemy soldiers so that they actively collected against their former units. Incidentally, in a more recent essay, he writes about what he learned from his 2002 and 2003 inspections of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, respectively. This essay, which is his foreword to my own book on tactical-level interrogations in Iraq, is as important as any on the subject. You don't need to buy my book to read it. It's available online here.
3. How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, by Matthew Alexander and John Bruning. From my review of Alexander's second memoir, Kill or Capture, for Military Review: "In his ?rst memoir, How to Break a Terrorist, Alexander described how he used the power of personal example to teach his team that they could be far more effective if they convinced (rather than coerced) their sources to talk. Thanks to his good efforts -- and to those he led -- his unit quickly began to produce results. Most notably, his team coaxed intelligence from sources that led to the successful U.S. air strike against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq."
4. The Interrogator: The Story of Hanns Joachim Scharff, Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe, by Raymond Toliver. Nazis are invariably depicted in movies as cruel torturers. Historical reality is different -- surprisingly so, in light of the Holocaust and how many Nazis treated members of "races" they deemed inferior. The Nazis' most successful interrogator, Hanns Scharff, "methodically and deliberately treated his prisoners with dignity." Some eyewitnesses reported that Scharff never even raised his voice in questioning. Instead, he enjoyed great success by building rapport with captured Allied pilots. After the war, the U.S. Air Force paid him the ultimate compliment by inviting him to America to teach their interrogators.
5. Mission: Black List #1: The Inside Story of the Search for Saddam Hussein -- As Told by the Soldier Who Masterminded His Capture, by Eric Maddox and Davin Seay. From the book's Amazon website: "Maddox's candid and compelling narrative reveals the logic behind the unique interrogation process he developed and provides an insider's look at his psychologically subtle, nonviolent methods. The result is a gripping, moment-by-moment account of the historic mission that brought down Black List #1." You will hear more about this book in 2014: It is being made this year into a movie starring Robert Pattinson.
6. None of Us Were Like This Before, by Joshua Phillips. Phillips explores the causes and harmful effects, not just of American soldiers recently torturing for information, but of their abusing detainees in general. The book is particularly important for those researching military suicides and "moral injury," a PTSD-like condition that derives from the cognitive dissonance that occurs when people see or do things that conflict with their own deeply held values. In one chapter, Phillips investigates the utility of torture and, after a survey of literature on the subject, concludes that there seems to be no real evidence that torture gathers intelligence well. In one of my favorite paragraphs, Phillips cites the apparent "patina of pseudo-science" that was passed on by the mere presence of psychologists at torture sessions, making it appear to others as if there were a scientifically valid basis for torture (even if these psychologists often did little to actually influence interrogation plans).
7. The History of Camp Tracy: Japanese WWII POWs and the Future of Strategic Interrogation, by Alexander D. Corbin. Corbin tells the story of a remarkably successful interrogation facility established during World War II at Camp Tracy, California, for the questioning of Japanese POWs. Camp Tracy interrogation teams consisted of one Caucasian and one Nisei, thus enabling teams to leverage language skills, cultural knowledge, and physical appearance to build rapport. In making the case that interrogators today should pay close heed to lessons learned at this facility, Corbin describes the similarities between Islamic radicals today and zealous Japanese warriors willing to conduct suicide attacks for their God Emperor. From the foreword: "The use of torture or ‘physical coercion' was not necessary; in fact, the opposite was true: Camp Tracy interrogators found that courtesy and kindness overcame most Japanese reluctance and reticence."
8. Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator's Dark Journey through Iraq, by Tony Lagouranis and Allen Mikaelian. This book teaches interrogation through counter-example -- what wrong looks like. As an impressionable new interrogator, Lagouranis had the misfortune of being assigned in 2004 to two of the worst places for interrogators in Iraq, Abu Ghraib prison and a facility run by one of Petraeus's brigades that was nearly as bad. Lagouranis's Kurtz-like descent into the heart of darkness is a cautionary tale for the U.S. military interrogation community. He summarizes his team's failure to collect intelligence through torture thus: "These techniques [EITs] were propagated throughout the Cold War, picked up again after 9/11, used by the CIA, filtered down to army interrogators at Guantanamo, filtered again through Abu Ghraib, and used, apparently, around the country by special forces...If torture works -- which is debatable -- maybe they had the training to make sure it worked. But at our end of the chain, we had no idea what we were doing. We were just a bunch of frustrated enlisted men picking approved techniques off a menu."
9. Slow Burn: The Rise and Bitter Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam, by Orrin DeForest and David Chanoff. This memoir describes how DeForest, a CIA interrogation officer in Vietnam, employed the "art of sympathetic interrogation" at the war's most successful joint interrogation center. He also describes the critical need of interrogators for access to robust databases and supporting analysis. The book makes the compelling case that if intelligent rapport-based methods supported by robust analysis had been the norm rather than simple, brutal, and ignorant tactics, U.S. and South Vietnamese intelligence would have enjoyed far greater success in the war.
10. Field Manual 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations, which can be downloaded online. The accumulated practical wisdom of generations of U.S. military interrogators has been collected into the latest iteration of this book-length manual. Here's what they have to say: "Use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the HUMINT collector wants to hear." Not the most exciting reading, but indispensable if you want to understand how the vast majority of U.S. military interrogators really think.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Pryer is a military intelligence officer who has served in various command and staff positions in Iraq, Kosovo, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and, most recently, Afghanistan. He is the author of the Command and General Staff College Foundation Press's inaugural book, The Fight for the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003 - April 2004. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
By Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer, U.S. Army
Best Defense department of war movie reviews
Torture has once again become a matter of noisy public debate. This time (thank goodness!), the reason has nothing to do with new revelations of U.S. servicemembers or CIA employees going amuck on prisoners. Instead, the cause de célèbre is a movie, Zero Dark Thirty. Critics of the movie say that it promotes the use of torture by linking torture to a piece of evidence that proved indispensable in America's search for bin Laden. This, critics like Senators McCain, Feinstein, and Levin say, is a dangerous fiction not rooted in historical reality.
Fans of the movie disagree. They argue that the movie portrays this evidence as far less valuable than that obtained by clearly legal means. What is more, they say, the movie performs a service by leaving no doubt in the audience's mind that so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs) were torture, and also by shocking the conscience of these same viewers, causing them to wonder how the U.S. government could so easily surrender founding national values to such little good effect.
I agree with the movie's apologists. The movie does not depict torture as producing indispensable evidence. It shows morally repugnant torture producing a piece of evidence that the CIA already had but had tucked away in a file and forgot about. Seven years of torture, the movie says, produced little if any intelligence that clearly legal methods could have (and did) provide. The real narrative of the movie: A new sheriff (President Obama) comes to town who outlaws torture; subsequent CIA detective work relies exclusively on more cunning, ethical techniques involving, not just humane interrogations, but other intelligence methods; and -- presto! -- in two short years, bin Laden's hideout is found and, a few months later, he is killed. Even if the movie gets many details wrong, it at least gets the basic story right.
But far more important than the movie's historical accuracy is the deeper debate it has resurrected: Does torture work? And, even if it does work, is torture something Americans ought to be using on "hardened" terrorists (or on anyone else for that matter)?
This debate is sorely needed since most opinion polls show Americans' support for torture steadily climbing. A 2011 Pew Research Center survey reported that 53 percent of Americans believe that torture should often (19 percent) or sometimes (34 percent) be used against terrorism suspects to gain information. That marked a steady 10 percent climb from 2004. A recent YouGov poll commissioned by a Stanford University professor indicated that, over a five-year period, the number of Americans approving of torture climbed 14 percent to 41 percent in 2012.
This trend is something that those against "torture as American policy" should be watching carefully. U.S. legislation, military regulations, and Army doctrine -- most notably the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3 Human Intelligence Collector Operations -- now enshrine prisoner treatment that is in keeping with international standards and the national values expressed by such principled American leaders as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In our republic, though, all laws are subject to change -- even those in the Constitution -- if enough Americans support this change.
There is no question which side of the torture debate I fall on. First and foremost, it is clear to me that torture fails as a tactic within the most important domain of war, the moral one. It is thus something that we Americans simply ought not to do.
When people see images of torture, most empathize with the tortured rather than the torturer. This is especially true for those who identify strongly with the tortured in the first place because of in-group, out-group bias, say, because the tortured is a fellow Muslim or a fellow Iraqi. The moral judgment that this empathy has naturally generated -- the judgment that those torturing are "cruel," "evil," or worse still, "inhuman" -- has inspired legions of America's enemies to fight us. At the same time, shame has decreased the will to fight of some Americans within the ranks and at home and damaged the political ability of coalition allies to support America's military adventures abroad. Choosing torture as policy is thus rightly seen as a kind of slow moral suicide, strengthening the fighting spirit of our enemies while sapping our own fighting spirit and that of our allies.
It is also clear to me that torture is an extremely poor method for collecting reliable intelligence. This clarity derives in part from military doctrine, training, and professional reading. But it is also rooted in personal experience.
During the summer and fall of 2003, my boss and I managed interrogation operations for Task Force 1st Armored Division (TF 1AD) in Baghdad. My boss was Major Nathan Hoepner, who wrote an email in August 2003 that would one day be quoted by Tom Ricks in Fiasco. When told by the highest command in Iraq that "the gloves are coming off" and that our unit must provide a "wish list" of harsh interrogation techniques, Major Hoepner emailed a passionate rebuttal: "We need to take a deep breath and remember who we are...It comes down to standards of right and wrong -- something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient." He concluded: "BOTTOM LINE: We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there."
Tragically, his impassioned plea fell on deaf ears. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez soon signed a policy memo encouraging the use of EITs on prisoners, tactics employed at U.S. military Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Evasion (SERE) schools to teach trainees how to survive torture with honor. Sanchez replaced this memo with another in October that ostensibly required interrogators to obtain his approval for non-doctrinal techniques. However, it actually reinforced the belief of some interrogators that they themselves had the authority to order that clothing, food, shelter, light, and warmth be withheld from detainees. Thus it was that degrading, formally promulgated tactics laid the foundation for more serious crimes at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
At the height of the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib, I regularly communicated with an interrogation chief working at the prison. The reason was to press him to have TF 1AD detainees re-interrogated. Despite his team's conducting numerous interrogations for us, we did not receive ANY useful intelligence whatsoever from Abu Ghraib. Sure, they produced reports on our detainees, but invariably, these reports contained either useless information or different versions of the same stories we had already extracted using humane, rapport-based approaches.
I was not alone in my frustration with Abu Ghraib. For example, Kyle Teamey, the S2X (senior human intelligence officer) for 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Ramadi at the time, said: "The folks at Abu Ghraib not only failed to provide any intel of value, they turned the entire Sunni population against us. Meanwhile, we were getting actionable intel by giving detainees Skittles and a cup of coffee."
Despite our nation's and military's gross failures at Abu Ghraib and several other detention facilities, most interrogators at Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan did not choose to torture. Why is this the case? One reason is that many shared the idealism expressed by Major Hoepner, which holds that torture is just something that Americans should not do.
But we should not dismiss professional competence as a reason, either. Those interrogators who had done their professional reading were less likely to engage in torture. In a future guest column, "Top 10 Books on U.S. Interrogation," I will provide a list of some of these books. Interrogators had also learned doctrine and conventional wisdom at the military intelligence schoolhouse that taught that torture is an ineffective intelligence tool. This conventional wisdom included the proverb, "The longest list of lies in the world is that given by the tortured." Many interrogators had taken doctrine and such conventional wisdom to heart, before they deployed.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas A. Pryer is a military intelligence officer who has served in various command and staff positions in Iraq, Kosovo, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and, most recently, Afghanistan. He is the author of the Command and General Staff College Foundation Press's inaugural book, The Fight for the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003 - April 2004. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
As you compile your resolutions for the new year, Best Defense is offering three different reading lists to help you. Here is a list from CIA veteran Hayden Peake. One reason I don't write much about intelligence is that I don't know much about it -- as this list reminds me -- I haven't read any of them. But he does.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance: Acquisitions, Policies and Defense Oversight, by Johanna A. Montgomery (ed.).
The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English, by Joseph C. Goulden.
Black Ops Vietnam: The Operational History of MACVSOG, by Robert M. Gillespie.
Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece, by Susan Heuck Allen.
Dealing With the Devil: Anglo-Soviet Intelligence Cooperation During the Second World War, by Dónal O'Sullivan.
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre
Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner.
Franco's Friends: How British Intelligence Helped Bring Franco To Power In Spain, by Peter Day.
Gentleman Spymaster: How Lt. Col. Tommy 'Tar' Robertson Double-crossed the Nazis, by Geoffrey Elliott.
The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, by Joshua Kurlantzick.
Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway, by Elliot Carlson, with a foreword by RAdm. Donald "Mac" Showers, USN (Ret.).
Malayan Spymaster: Memoirs of a Rubber Planter Bandit Fighter and Spy, by Boris Hembry.
Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence, by I.C. Smith and Nigel West.
Israel's Silent Defender: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence, by Amos Gilboa and Ephraim Lapid (eds.).
Learning from the Secret Past: Cases in British Intelligence History, by Robert Dover and Michael S. Goodman (eds.).
Main Intelligence Outfits of Pakistan, by P.C. Joshi.
The Politics of Counterterrorism in India: Strategic Intelligence and National Security in South Asia, by Prem Mahadevan.
Stalin's Man in Canada: Fred Rose and Soviet Espionage, by David Levy.
Stasi Decorations and Memorabilia: Volume II, by Ralph Pickard, with a foreword by Ambassador Hugh Montgomery.
By Jim Gourley
Best Defense commenter of the year
Last week Tom requested suggestions for new blogs to add to his daily reading list. I thought there were some interesting recommendations from readers, but after investigating each one I went back and clicked through the different windows in succession to gain a little more perspective.
Looking at them in aggregate provoked questions. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so what world view would the range of sites produce? How does the news feed presented by these sites differ from what Tom is probably already reading? Grouping the sites by their emphasis implies that view would be primarily technology-based, lightly seasoned by some current events in specific regions with dubious commentary. There is very little context. By and large, it lacks breadth and depth. The spectrum of information is narrow and the range of subjects too one-dimensional to provide necessary background.
I read lots of blogs, none of them regularly and not all of them related to defense matters per se, but I tend to see value in unique cultural overlaps. I seek context, perspective, answers. Lately, I find the blogosphere giving me more questions than answers.
Spend enough time
reading the tech blogs and you'll see that there are scores of unmanned weapons
systems in development in the United States and throughout the world. Within
fifteen years we may have a UAV that brings J.J. Abrams' new television series to life, warships with lasers, and bipedal battlefield
terminators assistants. All of these blog posts follow the same thematic
approach. They simply show us the technology. That's valuable information, but
I only need to see it once.
Nowhere can I find answers to the immediate questions I ask upon reading these blogs. Why are we developing these technologies? What existing weapons programs that we're currently shoveling money into will be rendered obsolete by these new weapons? Where does the care and equipping of human service members fit into this? Exactly what threats and enemies are such weapons meant to counter, and what retaliatory developments do we anticipate said enemies to attempt? Do we have a plan or are we just building stuff?
Intelligence and strategy blogs have made the pivot to China well in advance of the defense department, it seems. The American political discourse about the Chinese threat was electrified during the presidential campaign and think tanks are moving apace with speculations of what a conflict with China would look like. But in all the debate over who would do best at "getting tough with China," I didn't hear a compelling argument for getting tough in the first place. Is China really our enemy? Do they have to be our enemy? Is the conventional wisdom more conventional (or perhaps convenient) than it is wise? I have no end of questions about what the American security establishment thinks of China because there is no clear explanation of how it thinks about China. Is there a blog for that?
The defense, intelligence and national law enforcement architectures continue to meld in ways both mysterious and disturbing. The DEA has operated in Afghanistan for a number of years. Predator drones have been used to track cattle rustlers in North Dakota. Part of President Obama's legacy will be a government that can wire-tap my phone without a warrant and assassinate me without due process. I see these developments and I have more questions. Are there still such things as American defense, intelligence and law enforcement establishments, or is it gelling into a monolithic "security establishment?" How long a shadow does it cast and do civil liberties and posse comitatus fall underneath it? Is everyone contributing to this emergent construct actually okay with the potential consequences, or are we just following orders?
Blogs are a relatively new species in the journalism environment, but already the conceptualization of them has become traditional. They were conceived as web-based forums for microbursts of data to help news organizations keep up with the increasing pace of information flow. It was believed that the in-depth analysis would be left to the more substantive print media side of the house. The value of print has already been challenged and found lacking, but so too should the idea that synthesis and analysis can maintain the old pace as developments continue to accelerate. Blogs can't just be places to collate data points any longer. They need to start connecting the dots that are rapidly accumulating. I think 'Best Defense' has succeeded in that endeavor, but Tom depends on good sources of information like any human being. There are more questions than ever. More blogs ought to attempt answering them. Those answers matter now more than ever, because the new pace to which blogs have contributed is not going to wait.
Jim Gourley has been elected to the Best Defense all-star commenter team three years running.
As the blog entry notes, everyone does intelligence reading lists. (Including, three years ago, Best Defense.) But I like the list offered by "Sources and Methods" because it purposely focuses on unusual picks.
Meantime, one of the regular readers (and commenters) on this blog suggests that we compile a reading list for aliens about human life on Earth. What would be the top 10 books on that list?
(HT to DM)
By John M. McFarland
Best Defense guest columnist
Your opinion on MacArthur as the worst general in U.S. history absolutely baffles me. It just reinforces the notion that anyone, anytime, can assert some completely uninformed, ridiculous opinion on an internet blog and get away with it. Place a Washington Post byline beneath their name, and, suddenly, they have some type of credibility, or presumed knowledge or insight about anything.
One actually has to study military history to be able to articulate an opinion such as that which you have so carelessly issued. Either you have never studied it, or you were skipping that instruction when it was offered to you. If MacArthur had never set foot in WWII or Korea, he still would have been one of the greatest battlefield leaders in American military history, based solely upon his performance in WWI. If you want some suggested readings to inform yourself about MacArthur's military career, and about more basic military affairs or matters generally, I will be happy to provide them. It's never too late to learn.
One can read everything about MacArthur 5 times over, but fail to ever gain the slightest insight into him if (i) one reads everything about MacArthur with a view and goal of extracting only what fits into the preconceived notion of MacArthur to which one is already wed, and/or (ii) one is more concerned with articulating opinions or judgments that will be more readily accepted by those of one's particular social/political persuasion or perspective, rather than viewing a historical figure fully in the round. It's not necessarily what you read, but how you read it.
Now you want to strip him of his WWI accomplishments. I am familiar with the book to which you refer. That author looked at the historical record (as he perceived it) and pronounced most proudly that he had discovered that MacArthur had not actually set foot on the objective in the battle campaign for which he received a DSC (one of 4, I believe, that MacArthur received from a headquarters that was hostile to him). Because of this author's "extensive" knowledge of all things military, he concluded from this sole "fact" that MacArthur did not deserve his decoration, had not performed with valor worthy of the citation, and was a charlatan and a fraud. This author supposedly discerned 80+ years after the fact what no one in the Rainbow Division, Chaumont, or the AEF discerned during the attack. The sheer tonnage of what that author obviously does not know about military operations on a tactical level literally took my breath away. As William Manchester remarked in American Caesar, there is almost nothing derogatory that can be said about MacArthur these days that will not be believed immediately at face value by those untrained or unwilling to examine the premises of the statement.
All of the great captains of history have manifested flaws roughly commensurate with their brilliance. MacArthur is no different than, for example, Napoleon or Hannibal in this regard. The best single volume analysis of MacArthur, I believe, is Geoffrey Perret's Old Soldiers Never Die -- The Life of Douglas MacArthur. Perret is critical and judgmental of MacArthur when necessary and appropriate, but succeeds as a military historian in viewing MacArthur in the round, which you, in this regard, clearly do not. Perret judged MacArthur the second greatest soldier in American history, after U.S. Grant. Perret expressly moves him to second place because of MacArthur's dabbling in politics late in his career, and his antagonism with President Truman. Unlike you, however, Perret does not allow himself to be blinded by these episodes in analyzing MacArthur's place among the great captains of history, and certainly American military history. While I disagree with that particular conclusion of Perret, I respect his process because he has viewed and analyzed the complete sum of MacArthur's life in the whole, not little snippets of his life that are cherry-picked by authors such as you to support the preconceived end that they have already identified for their analysis.
Where have you possibly gone or whom have you possibly talked to in order to draw the conclusion that the U.S. Army has "extirpated" the memory of Douglas MacArthur?
John M. McFarland, an attorney and graduate of West Point, served in the 82d Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group before attending law school on active duty and transferring to the Judge Advocate General's Corps, where he continued his service before leaving the Army to begin private practice.
I caught up with retired Gen. Richard Cody on Monday morning and asked him if Douglas Feith or another Rumsfeld follower had pressured the Army to retire Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba after Taguba filed his report on abuses and torture at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Absolutely not, Cody said. "The reason Tony didn't go any farther, and retired as a two-star general, was that it was his time," he said. Despite Taguba's suspicions, there was no pressure from the Rumsfeld crowd, he added. (This rings true to me -- I once attended a lecture for new Army generals that informed them that all their careers would end with a phone call telling them it was their time to retire.)
As for the Taguba report itself, Cody added, "Tony did a pretty damn good job, I thought. I was proud of him. . . He spoke truth to power."
STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images
Joby Warrick, who used to sit next to me at the Washington Post, has a new book out on the guy who killed a bunch of CIA operatives in Afghanistan in December 2009. Here is a short interview I did with him about The Triple Agent.
Best Defense: There have been a ton of books on
intelligence and al Qaeda over the last several years. What makes yours
different? Why should a hard-working stiff (or one of the many readers of this
blog currently deployed to Afghanistan) pay to download it?
Joby Warrick: Triple Agent is a different kind of read because it is, at its core, a pure narrative, the story of an intelligence operation that unfolds over the course of a year and then goes badly wrong. There's a lot of "news" in the book, including an account of drone warfare that is as detailed, in my humble opinion, as any in the open-source arena. But the reader is pulled along by a story that is populated by unforgettable -- but very real -- characters and races to its tragic climax. For those who closely follow CT, this review by the Brookings Institute's Ben Wittes wonderfully distills what the book seeks to achieve: a penetrating and informative reconstruction of a flawed intelligence operation that, to use Ben's words, "bristles with the energy of a thriller."
BD: Did your research make you more or less pessimistic
about the Afghan war?
JW: I became less pessimistic about the prospects for defeating "core" al-Qaeda in the Af-Pak region. The CIA's drone campaign is extraordinarily effective, and the agency is getting progressively better at targeting senior leaders and disrupting their networks. On the other hand, my view of the war itself has not changed substantially. After spending time in the east and meeting with ordinary Afghans there, it's hard to imagine how a future Afghan government will retain control of provinces such as Khost or Paktia once U.S. forces are gone.
BD: What has been the unofficial reaction of CIA types to
JW: I've had wonderful response from individual CIA officers, including some who served at Khost and were present on the day of the bombing. Many said they appreciated the book's straight-ahead approach in telling the story, and the fact that, while pointing out fatal mistakes that led to the bombing, the book is respectful of ordinary men and women who served at Khost and worked under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.
BD: How do you think
the CIA should change?
JW: After the bombing, the CIA owned up to what then-director Leon Panetta described as "systemic" failures that contributed to the great loss of life on Dec. 30, 2009. A key failure was an insufficient focus on counterintelligence, which is an even tougher challenge at a time when the intelligence agencies and operatives are strained by multiple rotations and a decade of warfare. There also were mistakes that uniquely reflect the circumstances and individuals at Khost. The CIA has implemented numerous reforms, but a challenge for the agency is how to ensure proper attention and follow-through, given the relative lack of transparency and oversight.
BD: What is the one question you'd like to answer about the book that nobody has asked you?
JW: Some of the events in the book have never been described elsewhere, and I've been surprised that few reviewers or interviewers have asked about them. One favorite: a description in the book of a dirty-bomb threat that emanated from Pakistan mid-2009 and raised alarms at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Information gleaned through SIGINT intercepts suggested strongly that the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) had acquired "nuclear" material-presumably radioactive sources useable in a dirty bomb--and were trying to decide what to do with it. Concerns over a possible dirty-bomb attack directly factored into the decision to take out TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike on Aug. 5 of that year. No radioactive material was subsequently found, and to this day, no one knows what happened to it, or indeed, whether it ever existed.
I think fiction must use a different part of the brain. I wouldn't read an academic analysis of CIA-ISI relations til past midnight, but after a long day of travel, I stayed up hours to finish reading this book.
As it happens, the other day I ran into an American diplomat who is an expert in the Middle East and strongly recommended Ignatius' previous novel, The Increment, about Iran.
So what should foreign policy wonks read on the beach this summer? I'd say the complete works of Ignatius, which amount to a grand tour of the Middle East -- start with Agents of Innocence (Lebanon, and worth the price of admission just for the stomach-churning chapter in the middle about being an Israeli agent in Syria) and work your way with him through the region.
I don't think Congress should investigate this. Nor do I think the main Justice Department should. Because why? Because I don't trust either entity to handle the job: Congress was part of the problem, and whatever it does will be politicized, while the Obama Administration has made it very clear it does not want to turn over this rock.
Rather, I hope that the federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, that I've been hearing rumors about for a few years, which supposedly is looking into CIA torture issues, expands its scope to look at CIA domestic abuses.
By Anna Coll
Best Defense bureau of frenemy relations
This past Monday, SAIS and the Middle East Institute hosted the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung, RAND's Arturo Munoz, and the Atlantic Council's Shuja Nawaz for a timely panel on the intelligence service that everyone loves to hate, Pakistan's ISI. From the outset, moderator Walter Andersen and the panelists confessed that the panel's title "Inside Pakistan's ISI" was misleading, correctly pointing out that any attempt to dissect an intelligence service from the outside is at best an extremely difficult task, let alone a "Janus-faced" one, as Andersen himself noted. The panelists nonetheless raised some interesting issues:
In the wake of all the loose talk about the bin Laden raid, a friend who is a veteran of U.S. intelligence work tells me of a counterintutive phenomenon in clandestine operations: The more sensitive a planned operation, the less secret it becomes. This, he explained, is because the more sensitive it is, the more senior officials have to be read in to the matter, lest someone feel left out and blindsided when the headlines burst around them. "We called it the law of inverse compartmentalization," he said.
Those little grasshoppers wishing to know more should read Stuart Herrington's classic treatise on counterintelligence operations , Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World.
By Col. T.X. Hammes,
Best Defense bureau of intelligence context
It is virtually impossible for an agency to provide sufficient cover for a false name. If you provide information like where you went to school, what posts you have served before, etc., the information can be quickly checked. (Most yearbooks are online; graduates are listed in newspapers; property records, etc.) If you don't provide that information, then your bio sticks out.
Giving an intern the list of names of personnel at an embassy and telling them to build the person's bio from online sources -- with cross-checking -- will quickly cut through a light cover. It will also challenge even a well-constructed cover.
I think this is going to be one of the challenges for human intelligence in the 21st century.
T.X. Hammes served 30 years in the Marine Corps and is now a senior research fellow at the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University. He is the author of The Sling and the Stone.
Personally, I wish the general worried a bit more about the damage done to America by the government's embrace of torture as a policy under President Bush.
By Amanda Pfabe
Best Defense All American roving correspondent
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, spoke the other day at Johns Hopkins University's Rethinking Seminar about six security concerns that would keep him up at night were he still in the government. All six, he said, have a degree of imminence to them:
No. 1: Proliferation (specifically concerning Iran)
Hayden noted that answering questions pertaining to Iranian nuclear capabilities is easier to do than articulating how the Iranian government makes decisions. No one seems to know who or what influences policy. The confusion and mixed messages coming from Tehran surrounding the detention of the three American hikers, two of whom are still being held in Iran, in 2009 underscores the fact that Iran is a fully functioning society with a fully dysfunctional government.
His scary bottom line: Iran's quest to obtain nuclear weapons is a means to deterring the United States. Attempts to affect their nuclear capability, such as Stuxnet, will simply make them more committed to that quest.
No. 2: China
Hayden was quick to explain that China is not necessarily an enemy, as there are "logical non-heroic policies available to both sides" that can prevent conflicts. However, China's recent international behavior, such as the Chinese fishing boat's collision with Japanese coast guard vessels, can be described as triumphal and akin to that of a teenager whose strength has outstripped his judgment, experience, and wisdom. Several structural problems, including its uneven distribution of wealth, gender imbalance, and environmental disasters, promise to cause growing pains for China as it continues its ascent. Moreover, the legitimacy of the Communist Party governance is based on an unsustainable ten percent GDP growth per year.
Meanwhile, the polo players of Lahore are doing their part for the less fortunate. I get the creepy feeling that America is becoming more and more like Pakistan. It reminds me of something I heard around 2003:
You Americans think you are going to make the Middle East more like you … but I think we will make you more like us."
The other day my CNAS colleague Soriana Crisan wandered over to the National Press Club to see what the terrorism big thinkers are thinking. She came back all gloomy, but what did you expect? I think next time we should send her to a Lady Gaga concert.
Here is her report:
By Sorina I. Crisan
Best Defense terrorism punditry bureau
Hey Tom, as you requested, here are some "high points" from the Jamestown Foundation's 4th Annual Terrorism Conference, held on Thursday, Dec. 9.
- Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, kicked off the proceedings by arguing that there is no "understanding of what terrorism strategy is." Today, al Qaeda is a networked transnational movement that is just "a shadow of its former self" but has been able to survive "because it has managed to adapt to a changing environment." He said we should employ a dual strategy of capturing terrorists and breaking the recruitment cycle by better reaching the youth demographic.
Why doesn't anyone ever tell me these things?
I'd avoided reading Col. Robert S. Allen's book Lucky Forward, a history of Patton's Third Army, because it has the reputation of being a gushing bio by a former aide. Allen was assistant G-2 -- that is, the no. 2 guy in the intelligence section --for Patton's Third Army during World War II.
I finally picked up the book yesterday, and in doing some preliminary research, was surprised to learn that a few years ago, Allen, who shot himself in 1981, has been revealed to have worked briefly with the KGB in the 1930s. The KGB code-named him source "Sh/147," according to Spies: the rise and fall of the KGB in America, a 2009 book by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, who dug through the KGB's archives.
This is complex but interesting. In 1931, Allen, then the Washington bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor, along with Drew Pearson, then of the Baltimore Sun, anonymously wrote a gossipy book titled Washington Merry Go-Round. After being identified and fired from their newspaper jobs, in 1933, Allen and Pearson started a syndicated column of the same name. The same year, the KGB's New York station reported to Moscow Center that Allen looked to be a good source because he was plugged into the Roosevelt Administration, just then taking office, and put him on a $100-a-month stipend, according to Spies, which Yale University Press published in paperback earlier this year. That wasn't great pay, but remember that this was during the Depression. "Given the lack of any reference to him after the first two months of 1933, it is likely the relationship did not last more than a few months," the book says. "There is no indication of whether he or the KGB ended their association."
Allen, an Army reservist who went on active duty in 1942, also was "one of the few people cleared for the ULTRA secrets" in Europe during World War II, according to the website of the George Patton Museum. Sadly enough, he lost an arm during the war, was briefly taken prisoner, and then when back home was elbowed out of the column by Pearson, who replaced him with Jack Anderson. Lucky Forward, by the way, is as gushy as I expected. Patton can do no wrong, and Allen describes his immediate superior, Col. Oscar Koch, as "the greatest G-2 in the U.S. Army" (46, Manor Books paperback edition). It also is written in a kind of Winchellesque staccato. "There was one force, however, Montgomery could not keep from Falaise. The Air." (89)) It does have some minor tidbits. But no, it would not make my list of the top 500 books to read about World War II.
If I were the KGB, I would have been mighty tempted during World War II to blackmail Allen into sharing Ultra knowledge. Learning all this also makes me wonder just how Drew Pearson came to be the one who broke the hot news about General Patton slapping two hospitalized soldiers in Sicily in the summer of 1943. That happened before Patton took over the Third Army, but Allen might well have been hearing things.
I see where the U.S. government has disclosed that its total intelligence budget is $80.1 billion. (I was surprised to see that the military chunk of that is so big -- $27 billion. I am guessing that a lot of that goes to satellites, probably the part of defense spending most neglected by reporters.) That means the U.S. intelligence community as a whole has a larger economy than any these countries, going by the IMF's estimates for nominal GDP, 2009:
Salah Malkawi/Getty Images
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, a veteran of Army counterintelligence, is one of the outstanding journalists of our time, but his latest crusade against military bands seems to me to be off target. Yes, spending $4 million on a band facility for a unit with just 5,500 troops (the Army Materiel Command) is wrong. But that money is so small compared to the waste of things like rank inflation (that is, generals doing things that lieutenant colonels used to do). Or maybe the whole ballistic missile defense program, which strikes me as the coastal artillery of our time.
But mainly, don't look at weapons and front-line units, look at the bloated support structure, and all the spending on defense contracting that goes to double-dipping retired generals and colonels. I also suspect that in the swamp of the national security establishment, one of the wettest places is intelligence, especially the production of data and analysis that really is publicly available. A former CIA director once told me that the biggest surprise to him in the job was that the agency really wasn't ahead of the newspapers much. I think there are billions of dollars sloshing around Northern Virginia there. Just go have a drink in the bar at the Tysons Corner Ritz Carlton sometime. I suspect the taxpayer is picking up the tab for most of those martinis being sipped by former CIA station chiefs.
A long-term plan to "infiltrate" think tanks, eh?
That is not a project that requires years of effort and much expenditure. I think someone was scamming Moscow Center. "Yes, comrade, we are planning to infiltrate the think tanks in five or ten years. Meanwhile, please send funds for a new car."
I also suspect the FBI is hyping this one.
I am a bit surprised to find myself thinking that if this soldier really did what he is accused of doing-just throwing classified information onto the internet randomly-than he should go off and do time.
Why surprised? Because I was the recipient of tons of leaks over the years as a reporter. Most were not potentially dangerous, and a much of it was way overclassified. And when I did have stuff that could endanger troops and other people, my editors had a procedure in place to discuss it with officialdom before going to press. They didn't give the government the power to censor, but they did give them a serious chance to make their case.
I believe in the First Amendment, close to absolutely. Newspapers should be allowed to pretty much publish whatever they want. I believe that does our country far more good than harm. Yet I also believe in military discipline. People should do their jobs and keep their words-reporters and soldiers alike. Yes, that sometimes puts people at odds, but the founding fathers, in their wisdom, gave us an adversarial system, designed to check and balance power.
But then, I am a rule of law guy. Prosecuting this soldier is the right thing to do-but even more so would be going after all those who tortured people in our name. In fact, let's go after the torturers first, because they have done far more damage to our country and values. If the government has some free time left over after dealing with that stain, then sure, go after this kid.
laszlo-photo / http://www.flickr.com/photos/laszlo-photo/3560013736/sizes/m/
Here's a guest post by Guy Filippelli, a former Army intelligence officer with experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where he was one of the unsung heroes of the surge era. He says the DNI really needs to be ENI -- that is, the "Enabler of National Intelligence."
By Guy Filippelli
Best Defense deputy chief intelligence bureau
First, the DNI needs to excel as a "service" organization. I know at the senior levels we like to speak about a "J2" or "principal advisor." I believe a more fitting comparison in certain areas might be to a HQ or Special Troops BN Commander.
Second, the DNI needs to "manage the commons" -- data, clearances, enterprise software licenses, general training, program management, etc. Major improvements in these areas would win major fans among the agencies.
Third, the DNI needs to be a "collaborative enabler" -- hosting physical and virtual engagements to bring together the individual agencies and the outside world of business, academia, etc.
What I'm trying to get at here is a mindset shift. It's not about taking control of the agencies, it's about discovering where the opportunities exist to add value to the existing processes. The DNI needs to simply start with "what's broken?" or "what's under-performing?" and start to reinforce.
By the way, I think this is fundamentally inconsistent with putting a 4 star admiral accustomed to running a massive, hierarchical organization in charge. This was doomed from the outset. We need somebody used to putting "the client" first -- in this case, the client need equally be the subordinate agency as well as the White House. I'd rather see the CEO of a major services company step in. I rarely advocate for the McKinsey types, but this might indeed be a good fit for one of that culture.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.