Secret report warns US spy mission distorted by ‘war on terror’

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
America’s concentration on the ‘war on terrorism’ has distorted the mission and scope of its Intelligence Community, according to a secret report commissioned by the White House. The classified report was compiled by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which counsels Barack Obama on intelligence matters. It cautions the President that the intelligence output of organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency has been disabled by tunnel vision and operational fatigue in the pursuit of al-Qaeda. The study also states that the overwhelming focus on Islamic militancy has distracted US intelligence from focusing on state actors such as China, and has hampered the success American intelligence operations outside Muslim regions of the world. The Washington Post, which disclosed the existence of the report on Thursday, said the team of 14 advisers that produced the report was led by “influential figures” on Capitol Hill, such as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s new Secretary of Defense. The paper added that, based on comments made by senior Obama Administration officials in recent months, it appears that the classified study, which was authored last year, has been adopted by the Obama White House as a major policy directive. The Post suggested that the report prompted comments earlier this year by John O. Brennan, the CIA’s new Director, that he planned to reevaluate the Agency’s “allocation of mission” as a matter of priority. However, countering the operational fatigue caused by the nearly 15-year long ‘war on terrorism’ will take time, and it remains unclear whether agencies like the CIA can ever shed the paramilitary role they acquired under the Administration of US President George W. Bush. There are many in the CIA, for example, who are not willing to surrender the Agency’s unmanned drone program to the Department of Defense, as has been suggested by some Obama advisers. The Post hosted comments by one report contributor, former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), who argued that traditional espionage “has suffered as the CIA has put more and more effort into the operational side”. Hamilton is one of several current and former lawmakers who are concerned that the “shifting [of] huge resources to counterterrorism […] has gone too far”, noted the paper. Former senator David L. Boren, added, in reference to the existence of massive CIA stations in Afghanistan: “in the long run, what’s more important to America: Afghanistan or China?”. But CIA spokesman Presto Golson told The Post that the Agency possesses “trademark agility”, which allows it “to meet both new and traditional intelligence roles and challenges”.

One Response to Secret report warns US spy mission distorted by ‘war on terror’

  1. Pete says:

    The “ratchet” effect on resources devoted to counterterrorism (CT) is a constant bureaucratic and political problem.

    That is few officials or political leaders want to risk lower allocations to CT – just in case there is a subsequent major terrorist attack on the US. The risk is often unacceptable (to them) that their allocation decisions would then be seen as making the US more vulnerable to an attack.

    Meanwhile China most probably won’t attack the US for the short-medium term – and in any case that can be seen as primarily a military intelligence problem. So China gets fewer CIA resources.

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