Before getting so pissed that I turned off the TV, I saw a “Chris Matthews Show” panel preen about the obvious faulty tradecraft of the CIA at FOB Chapman in Khost province. As if they knew the first thing about what happened; as if they knew the third thing about intelligence (yes, Mr. Ignatius; I’m including you here); as if they knew anything beyond what was conventional wisdom safe to spew on a Sunday chat show without fear of contradiction or exposure.
Robert Grenier has an eloquent expression of the pain that the CIA is in after the disaster at Khost. I consider this the key paragraph:
But for the grace of God, my colleagues and I could have come up similarly short on any number of occasions in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the run-up to 9/11 and the resulting American-led invasion. Brave young men and women met in wild and obscure places with dubious characters; had they not done so, we would not have had the human information network that was vital in routing Al Qaeda and the Taliban so quickly in 2001. Some flew on helicopters deep into Taliban-controlled areas to meet with tribal leaders whom we felt we could trust, but whose followers might have had the means and motivation to murder my colleagues. We fully expected to lose many of our people in those days. That our losses were light in the end was a testament to their courage, their professionalism and, yes, their luck.
And if and when CIA officers in the field implement stricter force protection procedures, those same journalists will huff about the agency’s “risk-averse” culture. Where information ends — like in the intelligence world — journalistic and political groupthink will fill the vacuum.
I also concur with this point of Grenier’s about flight 253, and it goes all the way up to President Obama and all the way out to each of us: “A wealthy nation that refuses to invest sufficiently in available technology, or to put up with travel delays necessary to see whether passengers are carrying explosives onto airplanes, chooses instead to excoriate the intelligence community for failing to see unerringly into the minds and hearts of men.”