Egypt intelligence highlights Congress-CIA tensions

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

A US Congressional hearing over a career CIA official’s promotion turned into a heated exchange on Thursday, as Congress members accused America’s intelligence community of failing to provide forewarning of the political instability in Egypt. Speaking before the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, Stephanie O’Sullivan, former Director of the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, was faced with an unexpected barrage of questions concerning the Agency’s alleged failure to provide US policy planners with accurate warning of the Egyptian popular uprising. Shortly after the start of the hearing, which was intended to deliberate O’Sullivan’s nomination for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Director of National Intelligence, attention turned to Egypt, with members of the Committee pressuring the CIA executive to explain why the US intelligence community had failed to issue ample warnings on Egypt. O’Sullivan responded repeatedly that the CIA and other US intelligence services had provided warnings to Obama Administration officials in November and December of 2010, about extreme political volatility in North Africa. “We warned on instability”, said O’Sullivan, though “not in […] detail”, as “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be”. She insisted that US intelligence reports “anticipated and highlighted” the possible spread of the Tunisian revolt, and “warned that unrest in Egypt would likely gain momentum and could threaten the regime”. However, speaking after the heated exchange Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) appeared unconvinced by O’Sullivan’s arguments, and said that the intelligence reports she had seen were significantly lacking in collection. The Washington Post interprets the heated exchange as symptomatic of “emerging tensions” between the US intelligence community, on the one hand, and the White House and Democratic Congress members on the other, concerning the quality of intelligence on Egypt. In a separate development, Richard L. Palmer, a former CIA station chief who retired from the Agency in 1998, opined that “the situation is deteriorating to the point that Egypt will probably go the brink of or actually begin a civil war on 04 February 2011”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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