Reference: Panetta Puts Lipstick on the Pig (Again)

Government, Memoranda
No Change Needed....

Message from the Director: Lessons from Khowst

Last December, our Agency family lost seven courageous and talented colleagues in a terrorist attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khowst, Afghanistan. These dedicated men and women were assigned to CIA’s top priority—disrupting and dismantling al-Qa’ida and its militant allies. That work carries, by its very nature, significant risk. CIA is conducting the most aggressive counterterrorism operations in our history, a mission we are pursuing with a level of determination worthy of our fallen heroes. We will sustain that momentum and, whenever possible, intensify our pursuit. We will continue to fight for a safer America.

Earlier this year, I directed that a task force of seasoned Agency professionals conduct a review of the Khowst attack. The purpose was to examine what happened, what lessons were learned, and what steps should be taken to prevent such incidents in the future. In addition, I asked Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Charlie Allen, a highly accomplished former Agency officer, to conduct an independent study of the Khowst attack and to review the work of the task force. They concurred with its findings. One of CIA’s greatest strengths is our ability to learn from experience, refine our methods, and adapt to the shifting tactics of America’s enemies.

The review is now complete, and I would like to thank those who participated. They did our Agency a great service. It was, to be sure, a difficult task—especially since key insights perished with those we lost. Perfect visibility into all that contributed to the attack is therefore impossible. But based on an exhaustive examination of the available information, we have a firm understanding of what our Agency could have done better. In keeping with past practice, we will provide the Khowst report to the Office of Inspector General.

In highly sensitive, complex counterterrorism operations, our officers must often deal with dangerous people in situations involving a high degree of ambiguity and risk. The task force noted that the Khowst assailant fit the description of someone who could offer us access to some of our most vicious enemies. He had already provided information that was independently verified. The decision to meet him at the Khowst base—with the objective of gaining additional intelligence on high priority terrorist targets—was the product of consultations between Headquarters and the field. He had confirmed access within extremist circles, making a covert relationship with him—if he was acting in good faith—potentially very productive. But he had not rejected his terrorist roots. He was, in fact, a brutal murderer.

Mitigating the risk inherent in intelligence operations, especially the most sensitive ones, is essential to success. In this case, the task force determined that the Khowst assailant was not fully vetted and that sufficient security precautions were not taken. These missteps occurred because of shortcomings across several Agency components in areas including communications, documentation, and management oversight. Coupled with a powerful drive to disrupt al-Qa’ida, these factors contributed to the tragedy at Khowst. Each played an important role; none was more important than the others. Based on the findings of the task force and the independent review, responsibility cannot be assigned to any particular individual or group. Rather, it was the intense determination to accomplish the mission that influenced the judgments that were made.

There are no guarantees in the dangerous work of counterterrorism, but the task force identified six key areas that deserve greater focus as we carry out that vital mission. We will:

  • Enforce greater discipline in communications, ensuring that key guidance, operational facts, and judgments are conveyed and clearly flagged in formal channels.
  • Strengthen our attention to counterintelligence concerns while maintaining a wartime footing.
  • Apply the skills and experience of senior officers more effectively in sensitive cases.
  • Require greater standardization of security procedures.
  • More carefully manage information sharing with other intelligence services.
  • Maintain our high operational tempo against terrorist targets, even as we make adjustments to how we conduct our essential mission.

I have approved 23 specific actions recommended by the task force, some of which I ordered implemented months ago. They provide for organizational and resource changes, communications improvements, tightened security procedures, more focused training, and reinforced counterintelligence practices. These include:

  • Establishing a War Zone Board made up of senior officers from several components and chaired by the Director of the National Clandestine Service. It will conduct a baseline review of our staffing, training, security, and resources in the most dangerous areas where we operate.
  • Assembling a select surge cadre of veteran officers who will lend their expertise to our most critical counterterrorism operations.
  • Creating an NCS Deputy within the Counterterrorism Center, who will report to the Director of the Counterterrorism Center and ensure a more integrated effort across Agency offices.
  • Conducting a thorough review of our security measures and applying even more rigorous standards at all our facilities.
  • Expanding our training effort for both managers and officers on hostile environments and counterintelligence challenges.
  • Creating an integrated counterintelligence vetting cell within our Counterterrorism Center that focuses on high-risk/high-gain assets, evaluates potential threats, assesses “lessons learned,” and applies the latest technology and best practices to counterterrorism operations.
  • Designating a senior officer to ensure that all the recommendations are indeed implemented.

We’ve now taken a hard look at what happened and what needed to be done after the tragedy at Khowst. While we cannot eliminate all of the risks involved in fighting a war, we can and will do a better job of protecting our officers. Drawing on the work of the task force and its insights, it’s time to move forward. Nothing in the report can relieve the pain of losing our seven fallen colleagues. By putting their lives on the line to pursue our nation’s terrorist enemies, they taught us what bravery is all about. It is that legacy that we will always remember in our hearts.

Leon E. Panetta

Posted: Oct 19, 2010 06:30 PM
Last Updated: Oct 19, 2010 06:30 PM
Last Reviewed: Oct 19, 2010 06:30 PM

Phi Beta Iota: Can't fix stupid.

See also:

Journal: CIA Officer Blew Off Warning in Jordon Weeks in Advance of Jordanian Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan that Killed Seven

Journal: The Truth on Khost Kathy

Journal: CIA Leads the “Walking Dead” in USA (With RECAP Links)

Reference: Fixing Intel–A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan

Reference: Retired CIA officer–Fix the Agency

Review: Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA

Review: The Human Factor–Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

Worth a Look: Book Reviews on Intelligence (Lack Of)

Journal: CIA’s Poor Tradecraft AND Poor Management

05 Civil War, 08 Wild Cards, 10 Security, Cultural Intelligence, Ethics, Government, Methods & Process

Full Story Online

The CIA is proud to be on the front lines against al-Qaeda

By Leon Panetta

Sunday, January 10, 2010; A13

. . . . . . .

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.

. . . . . . .

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:

Continue reading “Journal: CIA's Poor Tradecraft AND Poor Management”

Journal: CIA Opens Climate Center–the Reductionism and Irrelevance Continues within a “Dumb Nation”


The Real CIA
The Real CIA

CIA Opens Center for Climate Change. The Central Intelligence Agency announced plans to launch a center on climate change to examine the potential security risks of environmental issues.  The CIA said it was working on its new Center on Climate Change and National Security to examine the national security impact of environmental issues such as population shifts, rising sea levels and increased competition for natural resources.  CIA Director Leon Panetta described the center as an effective support tool for U.S. lawmakers examining international agreements on the environment.  “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said the director. “The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”

Phi Beta Iota: Poor CIA.  Desperately seeking relevance, now it opens a Climate Center just as Al Gore gets trashed and the Skeptical Economist gains traction with the publication of The Resilient Earth.  A decade late and out of touch once again.  This is called “reductionism.”  It does not work.  What CIA needs is a Director that understands strategic holistic integrative analysis and the importance of open sources.  Not happening.  So very sad.

Journal: Integrity, Afghanistan, & The White House

02 Diplomacy, 05 Civil War, 08 Wild Cards, 10 Security, Ethics, Military, Peace Intelligence


Robert Haddock
Robert Haddock

This Week at War: America's Last Counterinsurgent?

McChrystal report unwittingly slays counterinsurgency doctrine

September 25, 2009

Robert Haddock

This summer the U.S. government has faced a deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan. Such crises tend to force policymakers to face up to the facile assumptions they have previously made. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report to his civilian masters on the faltering counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan has caused President Barack Obama and his advisers to face up to their basic assumptions about U.S. objectives and strategies for perhaps the first time. Obama and his team seem very likely to conclude from this long overdue examination of first principles that it will be impractical for the U.S. to successfully implement a counterinsurgency campaign plan in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s assessment has unwittingly tossed the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency field manual into the shredder. McChrystal’s report is brutally honest about the troubles in Afghanistan.

Click on title above for complete article, below for Phi Beta Iota comment and links to three “fix” pieces.

Continue reading “Journal: Integrity, Afghanistan, & The White House”

Journal: How Many CIA’s and How Threatening is the CIA to the Lives of Leon Panetta and Barack Obama?

Analysis, Budgets & Funding, Government, Leadership-Integrity, Methods & Process, Peace Intelligence, Policies, Policy, Reform, Strategy, Strategy-Holistic Coherence, Threats, Threats
Robert Steele
Robert Steele

We were surprised this morning to learn that Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran whose credibility we respect, is saying that Leon Panetta and Barack Obama may be treating CIA with kid gloves for fear of being assassinated by the “insider” CIA that itself fears criminal prosecution for the death of over 100 detainees in CIA custody.  Food for thought.  Read McGovern's thoughts at The Media Consortium, “Ray McGovern Warns of ‘Two CIA's.'”

There are two sides to this matter.  How many CIA's?  Does CIA assassinate U.S. citizens including leaders?

Continue reading “Journal: How Many CIA's and How Threatening is the CIA to the Lives of Leon Panetta and Barack Obama?”

Journal: Loch Johnson on It’s Never a Quick Fix at the CIA

09 Justice, 10 Security, 11 Society, Ethics, Government, Methods & Process, Policy, Reform, Strategy
Full Story Online
Full Story Online

Professor Loch Johnson is one of two people who have served on both the Church Committee and the Aspin-Brown Commission.  The other is Britt Snider, Esquire.

Today he examines the lack of integrity on the Hill, or totthless, inattentive oversight.  He does not address two factors that we comment on below the fold:

1.  There are five CIAs, and as long as the Wall Street and White House CIAs are doing what they are told to do, no one really cares about the integrity or the pathos of the other three.

2.  Leon Panetta could have been the greatest Director in history, just as Barack Obama could have been the George Washington of this century, but both sacrificed their integrity for partisan gain, deliberately ignoring the urgent calls for both reform at CIA and non-partisan reality-based policy-making in the White House.  Phi Beta Iota

By Loch K. Johnson

Sunday, August 30, 2009

skip sad story . . . . . . .

The Church Committee discovered that intelligence abuses ran far deeper than initially reported. The CIA had indeed spied on Vietnam War dissenters at home, but the FBI had gone further, disrupting the lives of antiwar protesters and civil rights activists. It was “a road map to the destruction of American democracy,” committee member Walter Mondale said during a public hearing.

Church was equally appalled by the overseas excesses of the CIA, including covert actions against democratic regimes — such as Chile's — and assassination plots. He blasted the agency for “the fantasy that it lay within our power to control other countries through the covert manipulation of their affairs.”

Continue reading “Journal: Loch Johnson on It's Never a Quick Fix at the CIA”

Journal: CIA Blows–Blackwater, $5M Bar Bill, and Reprise of Rendition Atrocities

09 Terrorism, 10 Security, Ethics, Government

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is more of a laughingstock around the world than most realize.  From being called “useful idiots” (tontos utiles) in Latin America to much, much worse in the Middle East, it appears to have become a bloated bureaucracy incapable of achieving anything of positive significance.  Intelligence is an inherently governmental function, and clandestine and covert intelligence especially so.  Both require the very highest standards of integrity and professional skill.  CIA appears to be lacking in both, and nothing has changed under Leon Panetta.  It is in our view high time that the President and Congress require a full General Accountability Office (GAO) of every aspect of CIA operations, as well as those of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Below are three headlines that turn our stomach.

Continue reading “Journal: CIA Blows–Blackwater, $5M Bar Bill, and Reprise of Rendition Atrocities”