E’ arrivato il momento dell’allenamento quotidiano a base di "duro ferro" , ma prima qualche pensiero di Angelo Codevilla sulla reale efficacia dell’intelligence made in USA e sul modo di affrontare e combattere il terrorismo:


Conventional wisdom used to be that US intelligence was the lifeblood of the war on terror. By 2004 no one contested that intelligence, especially the CIA, was at the heart of policies that had failed to stem terrorism and had turned military victory in Iraq into embarrassment. The high level commissions that examined current failures began to suspect that these reflected longstanding, basic faults. They only scratched the surface. In fact US intelligence1 in all its functions – collection, quality control (otherwise known as counter intelligence), analysis, and covert action –is hindering America’s war (…)

In the summer of 2004 newspaper readers were shocked by the CIA’s admission to Senate investigators that it had precisely zero agents in Iraq in the years prior to the invasion, because getting and keeping agents in such places is tough. Was it not CIA’s job to have agents in tough places? (…)

To those close to the intelligence business however, such things are an old story. There never was a golden age of CIA. Its performance against terrorism is not so different from what it was during the Cold War (…)

Now all agree that CIA fouled up big, and all are foursquare for reform. But the main proposals embraced by Democrats and Republicans with equal mindlessness, consist of rearranging bureaucratic wiring diagrams. It is anyone’s guess how such “reform” would increase knowledge of the outside world, instill the self criticism necessary for quality control, produce intellectual rigor out of wanton analytical sloppiness, or turn US covert action from bloody opera buffa to a serious instrument of policy. Just as important, no one seems to have asked whether any intelligence system imaginable could bring success to the current policy of trying to discover individual terrorists before they strike. To consider what it would take to make US intelligence into an asset in the war on terror, we must first look at its basic problems.


US intelligence has never had more than a few sources of human reporting of which it could be certain, and the capabilities of US technical collection devices, both imaging and electronic, are too well known.

Money has never been the problem with CIA’s espionage. Its clandestine service has some 2500 “case officers” abroad. But this “clandestine” service is clandestine in name only. 98% of its officers are spooks only to the point of claiming they report to some part of the US government other than CIA. The 2% super spooks hide their connection to the US government but make no attempt to hide the fact that they are Americans. Rather than prowling the back alleys pretending to be Ruritanian arms dealers, or using identities of convenience to worm information out of unwitting sources, CIA officers are limited to the kinds of contacts that US embassy personnel have. Because personnel standards at CIA are lower than for the Foreign Service, the quality of CIA reporting seldom has equaled that of the State Department (…)

Their relationship with spies typically consists of managing relations with foreigners who seek them out – so called walk ins. The chief problem here is figuring out whether self proposed agents are really working for a hostile intelligence service. That problem is most serious when foreign intelligence services themselves are providing information. This is especially so regarding terrorism, since Arab governments – whose agendas run counter to America’s – supply a substantial portion of CIA’s information on it. The smelliest information comes from “interrogations” conducted by ignoramus officers, of prisoners who may or may not know anything but who are constrained to say something.

Collection by various kinds of cameras and electronic intercepts suffers from problems not entirely dissimilar. CIA wallpapered its lobby with a drawing of downtown Moscow copied from satellite photos, showing every building. Its implication, added to the well advertised fact that the best resolution of satellite photography could theoretically read license plates, gives the impression of omniscience. The equally well advertised fact that US antennas on satellites, on land, sea, and air, intercept billions of communications strengthens that impression. Theoretically, these antennas can also tell when a truck’s engine is on, among other things. Yet cameras and antennas are much less useful than they seem, especially with regard to terrorism. (…)

When the US government has struck terrorism on the basis of satellite reconnaissance, its bombs and missiles have destroyed empty mud huts. “Pounding sand” is what the pentagon calls it. When the Pentagon used satellites to pick targets for its “shock and awe” campaign against Iraq in 2003, it ended up destroying empty buildings.

Electronic intercepts are even more problematic. Theoretically, if the enemy does not know that his electronic messages are intercepted, we could read them. And if the enemy does know, he must chose between having them intercepted and not sending them. In fact, just as in the case of satellites, the enemy can use his knowledge to give us the impressions he wishes, while sending messages either non electronically or through means he knows are safe (…)

The CIA’s uncritical acceptance of “low hanging fruit” regarding terrorism is part of the same phenomenon. Paranoia would not have been necessary to ask why, if the Arab intelligence services that told us that al Qaeda was responsible for terrorism knew so much about it, they were powerless to prevent it from operating in their police states. After the 1998 US cruise missile attack on an innocent Sudanese pharmaceutical factory that Arab intelligence had designated, and US technical sources had confirmed as an al Qaeda chemical warfare facility, common sense would have counseled skepticism about those sources. No way. In 1993 the CIA decided that Arab regimes were innocent, that “loose networks” of renegades and Islamic extremists were responsible for terrorism, and that to confirm the validity of a source one need only confirm the truth of some of its details.

Since then, CIA has held to its paradigm of terrorism with acts of denial and definition that shock common sense. Foremost is its squaring of the facts with the dogma that no Arab regime, especially that of Iraq, was responsible for the 1993 or (and) the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Here is a thumbnail sketch. One of the 1993 bombing’s masterminds is a secular person who entered the US on an Iraqi passport as Ramzi Yousef (the name under which he was convicted and sent to federal prison). He left the US for Baghdad as Abdul Basit Karim, on a Pakistani passport obtained on the basis of Kuwaiti documents that had been doctored during Iraq’s  1990 occupation of Kuwait. The real Kasim, who disappeared during that occupation, was physically different from Yousef. Only Iraqi intelligence could have merged the two identities. The man who CIA says is Yousef’s superior and uncle, and who it calls the mastermind of the 2001 attack, who also took part in the 1993 one, and joined Yousef in the 1995 Philippines plot to bomb US airliners over the Pacific, is a secularist Baluch who goes by the name Shaik Khalid Mohammed. A third secularist by the name of Ali, otherwise known as Ammar al Baluchi provided funds for all three attacks. Only Mohammed had anything to do with al Qaeda, and that only after 1996, long after his own network had performed operations like that of 9/11. Where did the money and motivation for that network come? Could it be that this network thinly disguised as a family worked for Iraqi intelligence, which had long recruited Baluchs for a variety of tasks? (…)

Analysis and Groupthink

As regards terrorism as well as during the Cold war, scarcity of hard information combined with political prejudice to produce Groupthink at CIA. During the 1960s and 70s CIA analysts distorted reality concerning Soviet missiles even more radically than they did regarding Iraq in 1993 – 2003. Just as in Iraq, CIA’s human collectors did not know with what characteristics the other side intended to endow its weapons. And our technical devices were able to discern only indirect indications of what these might be. Nevertheless to maintain their prejudices CIA analysts had to ignore the plainest facts – just like in Iraq. Beginning in the mid 1960s the Soviet Union began a massive buildup of its missile force, and of warheads with the combination of power and accuracy for disarming “first strikes.” But CIA’s dogma had it that the Soviets would not try to match the number of US missiles or seek that capacity. When the Soviets’ numbers did, CIA analysts judged that they would not exceed them. When their missiles exceeded ours in number, CIA judged that the Soviets would not endow them with accuracy. When they did that, CIA judged that this would not matter because the Soviets just had to know that it would be unreasonable to use the force they had built. This line of reasoning developed over a decade, and involved countless redefinitions of what technical evidence was and was not acceptable. Each redefinition prejudiced conclusions in favor of CIA’s dogma. Only in 1977, when an independent commission was given access to all data available to CIA, did this intellectual house of cards fall. Similarly, CIA dogma held that the Soviet Union was not spending a greater proportion of its GDP on military matters than was the US – in those days, some 5 to 6%. To support this prejudice,  CIA built an elaborate econometric model, complete with its own valuation of the ruble. It turned out of course that the soviets had been spending on the order of 40% of GDP on their military. A glance at the Statistical Abstract of the United States for the 1980s, compiled with CIA data, shows even more egregious prejudice. According to CIA, you see, the per capita GDP of East Germany and West Germany were roughly equal. This was news to all but the CIA analysts who made up the econometric models. There is no reason then to be surprised at CIA analysts’ judgment that Iraq was virtually uninvolved with terrorism and full of Weapons of Mass Destruction. To reach the first part of that judgment, they only had to term “inconclusive” the existence of the training camp for foreign terrorists at Salman Pak, the financing of terrorism in Israel (which CIA does not admit is really terrorism ), the reported meeting of 9/11 captain Mohammed Atta with Iraqi case officer al Ani (al Ani’s denial of the meeting beats Czech intelligence’s affirmation of it, you see), the overlap of personnel between the first and second attack on the World Trade Center, Yousef’s possession of identity documents doctored by Iraqi intelligence, and much more. To affirm Iraq’s possession of WMDs, CIA analysts only had to go with the flow of legalistic argument: The UN had required Iraq to submit to inspections. Iraq had not done so. It had to be hiding WMDs. Easy. Besides, focusing on WMDs averted America’s attention from the role that Arab regimes play in terrorism. CIA wanted to make sure of that.

Strategy and Policy

The faults of US intelligence in anti-terrorism come as much from the outside as from the inside. In 1993 the Clinton administration decided that individuals, not regimes, were responsible for terrorism. and demanded that U.S. intelligence comb through thousands of persons about whom we know nothing, while discounting the fact that terrorist activities breed in authoritarian regimes as expressions of those regimes. The Bush team has not reversed that judgment. And so, as wealthy Saudis spread the Wahabi movement through oil billions and Syrian dictators and Palestinian warlords rail on TV with impunity against America and all its works, U.S. intelligence interrogators are “going after” the small fry. No problem can be dealt well if it is defined badly. No intelligence can save unintelligent policy or make up for lack of a strategy for victory.