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Hellfire Without Brimstone

We’ve been taking down the intelligence community a lot here at Connecting the Dots, and for good reason. The CIA’s failures in the run-up to 9/11, and then in Iraq, and more recently the confusion created by the National Intelligence Council regarding Iran’s nuclear program, are of major national significance. They leave the impression of an intelligence agency that, when it is not completely blind, is unable to make sense of what it seeing.

But let’s not get carried away. Let’s begin by remembering that there are some 80 stars on the wall at agency headquarters, commemorating CIA officers who died in the line of duty. One of them was Johnny Micheal Spann, who was killed in November 2001 in a prison uprising in Afghanistan as he was attempting to interrogate captured Taliban prisoners. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

And not only are there courageous men and women in the CIA, sometimes their courage results in action that is highly effective. Our impression of the agency is undoubtedly skewed because many of its successes go unheralded. And it is further skewed by those CIA officials who leave the agency’s employ to become public buffoons. Michael Scheuer, who has lied about his own CIA medal, is hardly alone in that category. There is an organization of ex-CIA officers who join him in his hybrid Chomskyite-Buchananite brand of politics. But still, we need to keep things in perspective; this is a handful of individuals who are no longer with the agency, and perhaps some of them were pushed out for incompetence or madness or both. The CIA is composed of thousands of officials, and it is an open question if these types are representative.

Today’s Washington Post reports on a CIA operation that went very well indeed. 

In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone’s operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.

To read what happened next, and to whom, click here.


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