The CIA is proud to be on the front lines against al-Qaeda
By Leon Panetta
Sunday, January 10, 2010; A13
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We have found no consolation, however, in public commentary suggesting that those who gave their lives somehow brought it upon themselves because of “poor tradecraft.” That’s like saying Marines who die in a firefight brought it upon themselves because they have poor war-fighting skills.
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From: Robert Steele, KR-594
To: Leon Panetta
Subj: Getting in touch with reality
As someone who scored in the top ten of their 65 person clandestine Ops I and Ops II training, and then went on to achieve five times the regional recruiting average across three tours focused on terrorists and extremists, ultimately serving in three of the four Directorates and being selected for the CIA Mid-Career Course; and as someone who has actually served in the US Marine Corps and in zones of conflict, I beg to differ with your Washington Post Op-Ed.
A number of us have tried to help you, from the day we intuited your selection, a selection I applauded because of your unique background as both a Chief of Staff in the White House (knowing what the President needed to know) and as a Director of the Office of Management and Budget (understanding means in relation to ways and ends).
The death of so many CIA personnel was a failure of tradecraft at multiple levels and also, I am sorry to have to point out, a failure of management. Were you to demand an honest report of the skills and experience of all those associated with this incident, you would learn two things:
1. The US military is not capable of doing tactical combat intelligence in an insurgency
2. Neither is the CIA—none of your people was trained, equipped, nor organized for this specific mission. Neither was the first person who died in Afghanistan and knew nothing of how to manage a prison (e.g. search the inmates before letting them loose in the general population).
The number of people that died negates your Op-Ed claim–I have no doubt you believe what you signed off on, but proper tradecraft, apart from arranging a meeting outside the wire, would have had ONE person search the purported agent in a containment area where no one else could be injured. But then, you do not understand tradecraft, you just sign off on pieces of paper people put in front of you. Pity. It is now clear that we can expect a one to one return of suicide bombers for drone missile attacks, and I fully expect you–for lack of deep all-source multinational intelligence– to allow the President to make the mistake of walking into Al Qaeda’s trap (with the Yemeni government as a co-conspirator, in for the funding).
In my entire career, handling over 60 agents, and having up to 15 developmentals at any one time, I was ordered by HQS once to bring someone into an official facility for a polygraph–this is the same HQS that refused to pay for my underground hotel room and my PCS house at the same time, after I was directly threatened with assassination by the military junta in charge of the country where I was penetrating the extremists aligned against them.
Back then we did not break cover under such circumstances–today we frolic with the liaison services of 42 dictators, wink as they carry on with rendition and torture, and pretend that their minor successes–all bought with massive amounts of “aid” that goes straight to their off-shore bank accounts–are our own.
You are in charge of a bureaucracy. Worse, you are in charge of a bureaucracy that has lost touch with reality and that suffers a culture in which lying to one another is a matter of routine. I quit the clandestine service the day I was told to walk down the hall and “case officer” another CIA clandestine branch. That was code for “tell any lie you have to, come back with what I want.”
I respect the good people trapped in a bad system. I respect the good intentions of yourself and everyone associated with the secret intelligence community. What I cannot tolerate is lies, deception of our President and our public, and a managerial approach to intelligence that is criminally inept. Lies kill our comrades. If I can help you get a grip on reality, it would be a privilege to serve you. Meanwhile, you might read my HUMINT Trilogy—that’s all the stuff no one who works for you is willing to think about or bring to your attention.
Robert David STEELE Vivas, KR-594
PS If you insist on a USMC comparison, the Beirut barracks is the one to use. That’s the roof to the right, not the foundation.
PPS By the way, my personnel file at CIA probably shows me as “resigned in lieu of action.” That is not correct. CIA certified my GS-14 service while a GS-12 rank in person, and I resigned to accept the challenge of creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center, serving at the TS/SCI level for an additional 20 years after my departure from CIA. The Employee Review Panel (ERP) that Ted Price had scheduled as Chief of the Career Management Staff after I told him I refused to be a corrupt case officer any longer, and found a righteous job within the Advanced Planning and Evaluation Group of the Collection Requirements and Evaluation Staff (CRES/APEG), never took place. Had I not had an offer from the USMC, I would have crushed Price in the ERP and moved over to the DI. My file is wrong. The information you are getting internally is wrong. I am acutely conscious of the near-pathological ire I arouse in those that do not like to hear the truth, but I stand by my own epitaph: “the truth at any cost lowers all other costs.” Semper Fidelis, Robert