Wars have been lost and nations have fallen due to intelligence failures. The United States, through pure luck, continues to survive despite intelligence failure after intelligence failure. A clear example is the case of Dr. Shakil Afridi. Dr. Afridi is a Pakistani physician who was covertly hired by the CIA to help locate Osama bin Laden. He set up a vaccination clinic as a cover to obtain DNA samples of persons suspected of links to al-Qaeda, and it was Dr. Afridi who helped lead the CIA to bin Laden’s hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan. After the bin Laden kill mission was completed, Dr. Afridi’s name somehow was released to Pakistani authorities, resulting in his arrest and conviction for treason. He is presently serving a 30-year prison term in Pakistan.
The disclosure by the CIA of Dr. Afridi’s covert status and the failure of the CIA to protect its source by removing him and his family from Pakistan, represent a stunning betrayal of everything the CIA should stand for. The full repercussions of this calamity will never be known. It will never be known how many foreign sources refused to help the United States for fear that they too would be considered disposable by the CIA and left to their fates in hostile countries.
On July 18, 2007, Stephen R. Kappes, Deputy Director of the CIA, swore out a Declaration in the Valerie Plame Wilson lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (Case No. 07-CV-4595).
He swore that, “Human intelligence sources can be expected to furnish information to the CIA only when they are confident that the CIA will do everything in its power to ensure that their cooperation will forever remain secret.” Failure to do so, “could cause a foreign government to take retaliatory action against that individual, his family, or his associates.” Any betrayal of the source by the CIA “could be expected to seriously damage this nation’s ability to retain current sources and recruit new sources.” “The CIA takes great care in protecting human sources for another noteworthy reason, they deserve our protection.” “They deserve our most diligent protection for placing themselves in peril for the United States’ benefit.” These are nice sounding words, unfortunately they do not represent Obama Administration policy.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a tepid May 25, 2012, speech in which she called the prison term for Dr. Afridi “unjust and unwarranted.” Secretary Clinton publicly assigned no responsibility to the CIA for this debacle. Likewise, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees continue to sleepwalk regarding their oversight responsibilities. Chairpersons Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers respectively have shown no willingness to address any of the systemic problems that plague the U.S. intelligence community. Their hearings are all carefully scripted. The witnesses are all friendly to the CIA and therefore the hearings never produce anything of importance or interest. No one from The Kabul Press has ever been asked to testify, because issues of efficiency, effectiveness and accountability have no place in a Congressional oversight hearing.
The Afridi scandal provides a host of issues that should be explored. One in particular is the use by the CIA of international aid workers as CIA spies. Such a practice is abhorrent as it puts all aid workers at risk as they may be perceived to be on the CIA’s payroll. How many aid workers have been killed or injured as a result of this CIA tactic? How many aid projects and efforts have been curtailed because of suspicious of CIA involvement?
Neither Congress nor the Administration has asked who at the CIA is responsible for the Afridi scandal? The Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949, Title 50 U.S. Code, Section 403-1(I) states that the Director of Central Intelligence shall be responsible for the protection of agency intelligence sources. That Director is David Petraeus and the buck is supposed to stop with him. Director Petraeus has been publicly silent on the Afridi matter, yet he has not been particularly busy because he took a vacation last week to Chicago where he was the Grand Marshal for the city’s Memorial Day parade.
Why have Senator Feinstein and Congressman Rogers not called for Director Petraeus’ resignation? Their velvet oversight means that no one is responsible for anything, because nothing can ever be foreseen, everyone is doing the best they can and the problems are always due to the fact that the intelligence agencies lack sufficient resources.
The reality is that the intelligence community is bloated with resources, consultants and Beltway Bandits. It is also adrift due to a lack of accountability and due to the lack of a coherent Government-wide strategy for addressing the Arab Spring and the tidal wave of discontent around the world for U.S.-supported dictators. Lacking a strategy, the CIA is left to utilizing counter-terrorism tactics, foremost among them being targeted killings. The State Department has likewise drifted back toward what it is most comfortable with, which is dictatorships in Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain, to name just a few.
This drift is seen also in the 2012 prosecution of Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri activist who was recently convicted of funneling campaign contributions to members of the U.S. Congress, including Senator Dick Durban and Congress members: Dan Burton, Yvette Clark, Nick Rahal, Jim Moran, Joe Pits, and Gregory W. Meeks. The prosecution was fuzzy because the U.S. Government and the United Nations were previously committed to a Kashmiri plebiscite on its status, just as was conducted for Kosovo. The Obama Administration’s policy on Kashmir remains confused and unproductive, which mirrors its policy on Chechnya, Palestine and other hotspots.
A drifting mistake-prone and ineffective CIA is viewed by many political insiders as a good thing because too many officials and consultants have too strong an interest in seeing that the war with al-Qaeda continues indefinitely. To them victory is not an acceptable option. This strategy also satisfies the Federal bureaucracy because mediocre has become the new acceptable. Eventually the U.S. Government’s luck will run out and the American people will have to pay the consequences for these repeated intelligence failures. Until then the view within the Obama Administration is “What, me worry.”