Saturday, January 2, 2010

Did Obama [screw over] the CIA?

This was written by Larry Johnson - a former CIA employee, a counter terrorism expert and a frequent guest on TV/radio shows. His blog, No Quarter, is considered a must-read for those interested in the intersection of national security, military, intelligence and geopolitical issues. I highly recommend No Quarter, where the post (below) currently appears.

Larry Johnson...

Did Obama [screw over] the CIA?
By Larry Johnson on January 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Short answer? Yes! President Barack Obama’s public statement of condolence last Thursday regarding the suicide bombing of a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan may have been heartfelt but it was a bonehead move.

In fact, it probably puts more CIA personnel at risk and compromises a CIA operation. Obama issued the following statement last Thursday:

Full text: Obama statement to CIA
Obama said he relied on the fruits of the CIA’s work every day. U.S. President Barack Obama has sent his condolences to CIA staff after the US spy agency confirmed seven officers were killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan on Wednesday, 30 December 2009. Here is the full text of the US president’s letter:

To the men and women of the CIA:
I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country.
Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country.
Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.
These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life.
The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA.
You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country.
You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.
In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before. Since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, you have served on the frontlines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st Century.
Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our Allies and partners have been more secure.
Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated.
Indeed, I know firsthand the excellent quality of your work because I rely on it every day.
The men and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan did their duty with courage, honor and excellence, and we must draw strength from the example of their sacrifice.
They will take their place on the Memorial Wall at Langley alongside so many other heroes who gave their lives on behalf of their country.
And they will live on in the hearts of those who loved them, and in the freedom that they gave their lives to defend.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.

So what is the problem? Nice sentiment. Right? Wrong. Acknowledging the location of a CIA base in a theater of war compromises mission and puts people at further risk. Here is the implication going forward–the CIA will close this base and have to find another. Anyone else who comes to this base will be assumed to be a CIA operative. While I can appreciate the political imperative to appear sympathetic to the loss of lives at the CIA, Obama had a larger responsibility–protect the CIA and their mission and ultimately the nation.

The fault does not entirely lie with Obama. The CIA was sloppy in providing operational cover for these people. Let’s face it. If the deceased had operated under military cover we would only be mourning the loss of six more military personnel. No one outside of the Agency or the families of those who died would have realized the CIA took a hit.

But most of the dead were under State Department cover. Hell, the frigging White House did nothing to try to cover that position. Instead, Barack compounded the problem of CIA’s inadequate cover by going public with his statement of condolence. I don’t ascribe a malevolent intent to Obama. This is just another example of an amateur not ready for prime time.

Barack Obama is not the first one to help blow the cover of a CIA operation. Remember the death of John Michael Spann at Kala-i-Jangi prison in Afghanistan in November of 2001? George Tenet, the CIA Director at the time, did everything short of crawling into Spann’s coffin. He too made a public spectacle of something that should have been kept low key and out of sight.

And let’s not forget the Bush Administration’s outing of CIA ops officer, Valerie Plame. I don’t want to see Republican’s doing high dungeon over Obama’s exposure of the CIA mission in Afghanistan when they came up with all sorts of bullshit justification for ruining the career of a frontline ops officer who was busy trying to collect intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.

Once again a President is playing politics with the CIA. I hated it under Bush and I hate it under Obama. The CIA should not be a political football but politicians cannot help themselves. They want to play this game.

The president, joined by Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta, addressed CIA employees at the agency's headquarters in Langley, VA, last year. The men are standing in front of Memorial Wall, which is adorned with stars representing CIA members who have given their lives in the line of duty. Seven new stars will be added following a suicide bomber's attack on an agency base in Afghanistan last week.

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