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02 February 2009

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Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Perhaps you could answer this in regards to HUMINT.

Why, in God's name, would an American decide to become an undercover agent and try to peneterate the neo-Salafi networks?

I mean, life in US is quite comfortable - even compared to France or Italy - why would a sane person endure years of deprivation (cannot score, cannot drink, cannot watch movies) in Godforesaken parts of the world?

J

Colonel,


To go 'off topic' for a bit, in today's news -- US-IRAQ: Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45640

When you have a few minutes, if you would comment regarding the 'Generals moves'. Thank you.

Patrick Lang

Babak

I should have known that I could not fool you.

J et al

1- The generals and Gates are supposed to argue with Obama. Its their job to do so. And then when he tells him what to do, they will say "yes, boss," and do it. When they did not argue with Bush you were unhappy.

2- Regular Army generals do not have politics. They have ambition asa substitute.

3- They know that he can have them retired any time that he wants to do so. All it would take is one call to Gates. pl

Jose

2nd question on HUMINT

Why can't we simply use Americans or want to be Americans of certain ethnic origins to penetrate the neo-Salafi networks?

Worked for the British, or are we afraid they will go native on us?

Simply trying to bride informants with money hasn't worked.

Duncan Kinder
The competence of US clandestine HUMINT remains the "long pole in the tent" with regard to the basic issues of the struggle with the takfifi jihadis. The distaste of the American people for such activities remains a powerful obstacle to full development of that particular form of intelligence collection.

The American distaste for HUMINT is part of a broader problem: its preference for capital over labor.

Using capital ( high tech ) is the preferred solution. When, perforce, labor must be uses, then it is best to have it outsourced.

Tora Bora exemplified this: as high tech bunker buster smart bombs were combined with outsourced Pakistani and Afghan ground troops. That Obama got away obscures the important point that it was - as you may recall - a great show.

In like manner, the financial bailout requires that we reward "complex financial instruments" rather than workers.

So, of course we prefer high tech to human intelligence. For while obtaining useful intelligence would be interesting; using high tech is vital.

In response to the question, "Why would a sane person endure years of deprivation (cannot score, cannot drink, cannot watch movies) in Godforesaken parts of the world?" all I can do is note that in the 19th century the players of the Great Game did just that. But then those British public schools were spartan.

Brett J

Good post on Nat'l Journal, Pat - substantive and literate. The (amount of words) -> (amount of substance) ratio in some of the other responses is ...disappointing.

Ormolov

OT:

Christopher Hill to be named new Ambassador to Iraq, replacing Ryan Crocker.

I cannot find any reference to it, but it is my recollection that when Hill was named the point man in Korea by Bush, he was widely considered an ideologue and obstructionist who would do all he could to marginalize the North Koreans and make deals no one would ever keep. Do I have the right guy? All the bios I read of him today are glowing. Does anyone have any thoughts on his nomination? My only other concern is that he is replacing a man who speaks Arabic...

And then, Duncan Kinder made the faux pas of the year (admittedly, it's only January) with:

"Tora Bora exemplified this: as high tech bunker buster smart bombs were combined with outsourced Pakistani and Afghan ground troops. That Obama got away obscures the important point that it was - as you may recall - a great show."

It truly was a sad day when Barack Obama, hiding out in the cave systems of Tora Bora, was able to evade the bombs and the ground troops, etc.

William R. Cumming

One of the major indications of the failure of the Intel reorg to accomplish much is that the Executive Branch is almost totally defenseless against intel efforts devoted to its planning, motivations, corruption etc. Foreign nationals with intel backgrounds actually serve on Congressional staffs. WOW! I guess the real conclusion is that our democracy is so soundly administered and staffed that counter-intel is not even a big issue. How much did the Walker family, Aldric Ames and the FBI villian Hansen cost us in both money and manpower and tragedy before being caught. I argue neither the Navy, CIA or FBI has yet to recover fully from those "MOLES." The current personnel security system is completely broken and only a corporate gimmick to allow large corporations to trade and sell "Cleared" staff without any real insight as to how and when and who foreign intel agents are conducting ops against. I am guessing that even now larger intel failures are to be expected down the road. Not hopeful here. Why do Admiral's seem to end up in Intel when they are usually safe at sea (relatively speaking) during their careers. Perhaps the extent of industrial espionage against the US is also of no importance but doubt that also. Good post PL but realize that large campaign contributions are usually not forthcoming from agents in place in foreign lands. Because big money is required to either be in Congress or an appointee in the Executive Branch no liklihood that even rudimentary knowledge of how the Intel system really works is likely. Just finished Ron Susskind's "The One Percent Doctrine" and really wonder how George Tennant had any reputation in his career for competence. With leadership like his no wonder the CIA was put out of business. Just as the really good lobbyists understand that if you win big with Congress you might go out of business (the S&Ls e.g.) the Executive Branch appointees that are go along get along types may end up ruining an agency they run.

Cieran

Duncan K:

Tora Bora exemplified this: as high tech bunker buster smart bombs were combined with outsourced Pakistani and Afghan ground troops. That Obama got away obscures the important point that it was - as you may recall - a great show.

I've heard some nasty lies about our new president, but that one has got to take the cake!

R Whitman

Both we and the USSR were quite sucessful during the cold war using HUMINT. It was merely a matter of suborning or bribing weak members of the other side. I would suppose that the same is happening now between us and the jihadis.

Robert Murray

Duncan,
"Obama got away..." ??
Of course I know what you meant but being the small, petty person that I am, I had to call you on this. ;)

Col. Lang,
I enjoyed the read, tahnk you.

Robert Murray

And that would be "thank" - apparently I had some finger issues as well.

curious

The problem with intel at the upper leadership is this:

It ain't flashy!

think about it. Intel to people at the senate, congress, WH are long series of dry reports, boring presentation, boring Q&A, maybe occasional glimpse at gee whiz gadgets.


Compare this to think-tank information feed. "campaign money", glitzy guests, cocktail parties, the information is supplied by chatty hot interns or influential this and that person ...

I don't know about you. But you wanna bet which information stick inside the heads of people in charge? Specially idiot twits like Bush or senators?


Byron Raum

I would suggest that there is an additional reason other than just the simple desire to spend capital rather than labor. That being that the US has been willing to outsource its Arab HUMINT operations to Israel. The Israelis are in the midst of it, have a lot more people who speak Arabic, so they are going to be better at it. Since they are our staunch allies, we can rely on them to help us out here and so don't really need to get our hands dirty.

Ael

Off topic, but a bridge on the supply road to Afghanistan got blown up.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7866354.stm

Duncan Kinder

Re:

Tora Bora exemplified this: as high tech bunker buster smart bombs were combined with outsourced Pakistani and Afghan ground troops. That Obama got away obscures the important point that it was - as you may recall - a great show.

Of course I meant "Osama."

Interesting Freudian slip though...

Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA

I am still of the opinion that the previous administration did not want OSama captured or killed. What better bogeyman could there be to scare the American electorate with than a weird lookin' suck like OSama.

J

Colonel,

Byron Raum brought up an interesting thesis -- That being that the US has been willing to outsource its Arab HUMINT operations to Israel. The Israelis are in the midst of it, have a lot more people who speak Arabic, so they are going to be better at it. --

So the Israelis are going to be 'better at it'? Israel 'imparts to the U.S.' what it 'wants the U.S. to have', not necessarily the 'real' intel.

Colonel, please comment on this one. Thank you.

Patrick Lang

J, Byron Raum et al

I have tried to explain before that Israeli intelligence does not do well with HUMINT in the Arab countries that they can not travel to. They are actually living on an island in a sea of hostile people. To conduct sound clan HUMINT ops on a large scale you have to have a cover base in the target area. Traveling in and out is a poor substitute. Why? Because you have to have more or less continuous access to your sources. Forget about the movies!

Also, you are really wrong in thinking that the Israelis have any sort of special knowledge or understanding of the Arabs, Iranians, etc. they live lives separated from those peoples and the knowledge that arrives with immigrants dies out quickly as the newcomers rapidly assimilate into Israeli culture.

Once again. Very few Israelis spesk decent Arabic!!! They dislike the Arabs and do not want to learn their language. On top of everything else, the accent of a Hebrew speaker speaking Arabic is comic. They don't think so but it is. pl

J

Colonel,

Thank you for clearing the air. Byron Raum needs to understand that Arabs can spot differences in each other's nationalities just by looking at the individuals and how they dress and carry themselves. I remember in conversations, where individuals would be spotted out and labeled with their specific area of origin, i.e. (this individual is from Kuwait, those individuals are from Jordan, those individuals over there are from Egypt, etc..) It is sad that the 'western world' tends to berate the Arabs, when most westerners seem to forget who originated some of the higher math skills, and the art of hospitality, etc.

Arabic spoken with a 'Tel Aviv accent' just doesn't work, like the Colonel said. And an Israeli individual full of hate sticks out in the crowd like a sore thumb.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Your wrote: "Very few Israelis spesk decent Arabic".

Yes and they tell you with a straight face that all the dirty words in Hebrew (as spoken in Israel) come from Arabic since Hebrew (the original language) was such a purely religious language that it had no dirty words.

Byron Raum

I must apologize for the diversion - I am quite well aware of the situation in reality as it stands between Arabs and Israelis. What I'd like to suggest, though, is a discussion of the perception in the US - that we can rely on another country for our HUMINT work. If we outsource our HUMINT, then we will absorb the attitudes and perspectives of that other country. Is the average American's view of the Arabs all that different from the average Israeli's view? Not really, no. Again, please keep in mind that I'm talking about perceptions, not reality.

Because of the perception, I cannot help but wonder whether a significant part of the reason we don't have the HUMINT that we desperately need is because we have been "forbidden" to acquire it. This is different from the "cajoled" theory, in that gadgets are much flashier than plain old human spying.

Most likely, though, both aspects play a part.

confusedponderer

Maybe the salient point is that the Israelis and their surrogates present their 'intelligence insights' to the interested western audiences not only through hot interns on cocktail parties (yay!), but that, when they do it themselves, they do it with a cockiness and gravitas and certainty that the domestic intelligence 'products' lack.

From what I read, until Nasser caught Israeli intelligence with their pants down, they had an enviable reputation. That was a long time ago. The reputation lives on.

The Israelis are very good at marketing their product, and marketing, an old salesman once remarked to me, is 50+% telling the customer what he wants to hear. The Israelis aren't the only people engaging in projection and wishful thinking.

FredS

Confusedponderer,

The myth of invincibility of the Israeli army died on the Tabouleh line, the myth of their superior intelligence services should have died their too.
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2008/12/a-tabouleh-line.html

Babak,

A single dirty word can often speak volumes, as did General Cambronne at Waterloo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambronne

confusedponderer

FredS,
I wanted to say that the myth of Israel's superior intelligence services died in 1973 when Egypt executed the Suez crossing and strategically surprised Israel.

As for the army, yes, it probably was shown in 2006 if not much earlier that there are limits to what it can do.

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