Commentary Magazine


Topic: intelligence

Veteran Intelligence Pros for Syria’s Assad

Earlier this month, a group of former intelligence analysts and operatives who call themselves the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) issued a statement regarding Syria. It began:

We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed …

Read More

Earlier this month, a group of former intelligence analysts and operatives who call themselves the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) issued a statement regarding Syria. It began:

We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this. In writing this brief report, we choose to assume that you have not been fully informed …

Their statement continues to push the bizarre conspiracy theory that Israel had a part in the chemical attacks. Let’s put aside how poorly this theory reflects on the men and women of the U.S. intelligence community, who count these conspiracy-mongers among their distinguished alumni, and instead focus on the “our former co-workers are telling us” portion. There are two possibilities here: One, intelligence analysts are readily violating their oaths to protect and secure the information with which they work by gossiping with colleagues; or, two, the VIPS are simply lying about their access in order to look more relevant to the media.

Either way, VIPS’s actions are worth considering. A quick Lexis search shows that their most recent letter was picked up by the New York Times, the International Business Times-Germany, the Toronto Star, Iran’s Fars News Agency, and a number of blogs. If the intelligence veterans involved in VIPS are bluffing about their access, then that should be the first issue journalists address when reporting on the letter.

Let’s assume that the journalists did determine that men—many of whom have been out of the intelligence community for years—still gossip openly with colleagues on the inside, colleagues who must now be fairly senior in a bureaucracy that rewards seniority more than ability. Their chatter raises more problems. W. Patrick Lang, one of the signatories, once served as a registered foreign agent for a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician; in effect, he was a lobbyist for the Syrian regime. That members of the intelligence community would leak to such a figure should raise concerns. Lang also once confessed that his intelligence colleagues leaked information to influence the outcome of the 2004 U.S. presidential election. “Of course they were leaking,” the American Prospect reported Pat Lang as saying in the November 2005 issue. “They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They’d say things like, ‘This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won’t re-elect this man.’”

VIPS are pushing policy and in a quite dishonest way. Rather than simply report on the VIPS statements, the New York Times would do better to consider the implications of the group’s actions. So, too, should the internal affairs and security wings of the various intelligence communities whose alumni now are members of VIPS. For VIPS condones and represents not only a problem with leaking among the intelligence community, but also a malicious and politically driven kind of leaking that, as the Fars News Agency demonstrates, already provides comfort and propaganda to the enemy.

Read Less

More Evidence of the Damage of Leaks

Yesterday, I wrote about the damage that leaks can do to sensitive intelligence operations. Now, ABC News has reported: “The long running operation with the deep cover operative was one that intelligence agencies planned to keep running. It was pulled up short in the past week when leaks developed and put the infiltrator in jeopardy. Sources involved in the intelligence operation said the plan was to keep the operation running until a more complete picture of the still developing plots and plans of the Yemen based group and its sinister, creative bombmaker, were learned.”

This provides further evidence of the damage of spilling secrets. The question is who leaked and why? It does not necessarily have to have been an American leak although the fact that the story was broken by Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press, an American reporter based in Washington working for an American news organization, suggests that it was. Heads should roll–if the administration can figure out who was responsible. Even if this operation were blown by a senator or representative based on classified briefings, the culprit should at least be named and shamed. If it was an executive branch official, he or she should be not only fired but prosecuted as well.

Yesterday, I wrote about the damage that leaks can do to sensitive intelligence operations. Now, ABC News has reported: “The long running operation with the deep cover operative was one that intelligence agencies planned to keep running. It was pulled up short in the past week when leaks developed and put the infiltrator in jeopardy. Sources involved in the intelligence operation said the plan was to keep the operation running until a more complete picture of the still developing plots and plans of the Yemen based group and its sinister, creative bombmaker, were learned.”

This provides further evidence of the damage of spilling secrets. The question is who leaked and why? It does not necessarily have to have been an American leak although the fact that the story was broken by Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press, an American reporter based in Washington working for an American news organization, suggests that it was. Heads should roll–if the administration can figure out who was responsible. Even if this operation were blown by a senator or representative based on classified briefings, the culprit should at least be named and shamed. If it was an executive branch official, he or she should be not only fired but prosecuted as well.

Read Less

What the Criminal-Justice Model Gets Us

Buried deep in the Washington Post account of the Obama administration’s  intelligence failures regarding the Christmas Day terror attack is this nugget:

Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials.

And why has he clammed up, sitting uncooperatively while the Obami scramble around trying to put the pieces together surrounding the not-at-all isolated extremist? Because Obama has declared we will treat these incidents as criminal-justice matters. He is arrested, Mirandized, lawyered up, and now mute. This is, of course, madness. Rather than subject Abdulmutallab to serious and, if need be, enhanced interrogation that might uncover the extent of the plot, other plotters, the identities of those assisting him, the extent of the Yemen operation that supplied him with the explosive, and other life-saving information, we have defaulted to the pre-9/11 criminal-justice mode. We are reduced to “hoping” he will co-operate. This is what our anti-terror policies have brought us. And when the next attack or the attack after that occurs and we wonder why we didn’t have better intelligence, someone might recall that intelligence is gathered by more than hope.

Buried deep in the Washington Post account of the Obama administration’s  intelligence failures regarding the Christmas Day terror attack is this nugget:

Abdulmutallab remains in a Detroit area prison and, after initial debriefings by the FBI, has restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney, according to federal officials.

And why has he clammed up, sitting uncooperatively while the Obami scramble around trying to put the pieces together surrounding the not-at-all isolated extremist? Because Obama has declared we will treat these incidents as criminal-justice matters. He is arrested, Mirandized, lawyered up, and now mute. This is, of course, madness. Rather than subject Abdulmutallab to serious and, if need be, enhanced interrogation that might uncover the extent of the plot, other plotters, the identities of those assisting him, the extent of the Yemen operation that supplied him with the explosive, and other life-saving information, we have defaulted to the pre-9/11 criminal-justice mode. We are reduced to “hoping” he will co-operate. This is what our anti-terror policies have brought us. And when the next attack or the attack after that occurs and we wonder why we didn’t have better intelligence, someone might recall that intelligence is gathered by more than hope.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.