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12 April 2013


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Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

This raises a question on an earlier point you'd made re: Brennan and Clapper. AFAIK among the principals, Clapper is the only one with the institutional memory of 1993-94. Whom does Obama "trust" as far as judgment is concerned? Isn't this the sort of question with which Clapper would be more comfortable in making his assessment given his experience?

William R. Cumming

What are the greatest misses in US IC since WWII that have been revealed?
My list not in order of priority would be the following:
(1) Atomic Bomb detonation by Soviets in 1949;

(2) Korean War outbreak in June 1950;

(3) Sputnik;

(4) Cuban Revolutions Communist turn;

(5) Soviet Placement of Missiles in Cuba;

(6) Viet Nam;

(7) Hungarian invasion by Soviets in 1968;

(8) Soviet economic performance during Cold War;

(9) Soviet invasion of Afghanistan;

(10) Iraq invasion of Kuwait;

(11) Post intervention civil war [religious wars?] in Iraq;

(12) Hostility of Islamic fighters to largely Christian armies in Afghanistan and Pakistan!

Notice I don't put 9/11 attacks on the list!

Willing to discuss each of the above anytime anywhere. Note other than having the S-2 function for several years don't consider myself expert on IC now or then!



Clapper is a competent military intelligence officer. Brennan is not. Clapper was once J-2 at PACOM. pl


The U.S. press loves to generate fear and North Korea works them well for the benefit of both.

The essence of a thing feared is that once it is realized, the fear of its occurrence is gone and one is simply left with the consequences. One of consequences of an attack is revenge and retribution. It seems to me that regardless of the impression or irrationality the North Korean government may be trying to stimulate in the media, there is a rationality in their actions. They know that if they attack anyone, the fear of an attack will be gone and any motivation for compromise the fear of an attack might produce is lost forever. Their system seems to be at a dead end. They also know that outside of fear, no one cares a whit about them. The only way they can get help is by causing fear to stimulate aid from abroad and an appearance of success internally if aid is delivered. It is quite likely that their intent is NOT to attack, but to maximize the fear of an attack. Their game is supremely dangerous because one rouge artilleryman or some other minor miscalculation could send their plans completely awry.

Taking such risk does not now seem to be in China's interests. The question of today seems to me is whether China has had enough or soon will? If so, it may be that China would have clearance from the West simply to extinguish the current government, incorporate North Korea, and get on with the business of becoming the world’s dominent power though peaceful commerce.

That would gain China lots of points.


"Moderate confidence" is defined by the IC as follows: "Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence."


I don't know about all the items on your list, but the IC predicted the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Their warnings were ignored, however, and the administration chose to instead to believe Iraq was bluffing based mainly on the opinions of diplomats and regional Arab countries including Kuwait.



It was DIA, not the IC, that "called" the invasion of Kuwait. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks Andy and PL! I always thought Iraq in 1990 a total IC miss and April Glasdie (sic) was relying on unanimous INTEL!

Is there a good book or article or other discussion of the IC performance on Iraq INTEL in spring/summer 1990?

Personally believe that this century Iraq will again seize or coopt Kuwait and the royal family will fall and flee. Perhaps wrong. But this time no intervention by USA. My source is Saudi friends.


Respectfully, is the Intelligence Community politicized to serve the interests of the Administration?

This current crisis is looking similar to GWB machinations under the principle of, "different clowns, same circus."



I called the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait at DIA. I was DIO for the Middle East. DIA caused DoD to be at Defcon 1 when Iraq invaded. See Woodward's "The Commanders." pl

William R. Cumming

Never read the COMMANDERS but thanks PL for disclosure. I assume you mean not just massing of forces but intention to invade.

And since President George H.W.Bush was a former CIA Director does this mean he ignored the IC and like his son overroad the professional INTEL community?

Neil Richardson


I think there are real limits on what our expectations of the PRC ought to be at this time. Remember that they have a lot more at stake than the US. The American public have an increased sense of fear regarding the DPRK's missile technology (according to the most recent poll). However long before they attain the ability to accurately hit CONUS, the PRC would be within the DPRK's reach. In considering any attempt to destabilize or hopefully replace the current regime, the PRC leadership would have to assess the likely outcome if such covert action were to fail. And there are numerous downside effects such as fragmentation of the DPRK, humanitarian crisis, etc that have been discussed earlier. Regarding the DPRK, there are no good options. Only bad, worse or catastrophic. It's highly likely that Kerry would try to initiate a discussion on post-Kim regime possibilities with the PRC leadership. I'd be very surprised if they engage him. Once a whiff of it leaks out, the PRC would lose most of its positive leverage. Their range of action would become very limited.

There are huge costs that the PLA would have to bear if something goes wrong and the DPRK fragments.




Everyone in the world knows this but you. I informed the Director of DIA, Secdef and CJCS that the massing of forces that we had been observing south of Basra for a week was not a bluff. It was far too large to be a bluff and that if Kuwait did not back away from Iraq rhetorically the Iraqis would invade and overrun the country and that they had sufficient force on hand to capture the Ghawar oilfield in SA and the Saudi ports and airfields in the Eastern Province. We/I knew the Iraqis very well from the Iran/Iraq War. it was not difficult to know what they would do. They attacked two days later. I also briefed the Kuwait ambassador to DC on the same conclusion all through the previous week as the Iraqis moved into their assembly areas. The rest of the IC said we were wrong. you are unfair to Glaspie. She was just doing what she was told. That was a policy decision. it had nothing to do with intelligence. the IC does not run the government. Just as in the case of this DIA estimate, the policy people often reject the intelligence peoples' judgment because they prefer their own reality. pl


WRC, one account was written by George Allen in the "Defense Intelligence Journal" a copy of which can be read here:


And, obviously, our host here was personally involved.



As I said to WRC, all administrations try to bend the analysis of the IC to reflect a reality that they prefer. since politicians and generals are usually massive egotists, this behavior is common. my resistance to this kind of pressure made me unpopular. pl

Charles I

What's not to like for China? No serious analyst seems to believe in a NK intention to start a full scale war, who knows what the Chinese know of that that we don't. Their Main Enemy is in a continuous tizzy. Who could ever get enough of that? But I think their taste for incorporating a failed state of starving cultists would be similar to that of any Arab state and the Palestinians.

We've had deaths by artillery barrage, warships sunk without a war, I think one rogue artilleryman ain't gonna cut it in Washington just yet.

I think the status quo, much as China and not just the U.S wish it were not in a nuclear context, is China's best and preferred option, there's not much they could self -interestedly do except hope it doesn't blow their way if it comes to it.

Which is what I see Neil Richardson's reply, now read, seems to align with.

Neil Richardson


I should've also added that their deliberation would also include the likely responses of the US and ROK as well. I've mentioned numerous times that the PRC has real security concerns regarding a unified Korea closely allied to the US. Of course the US would have to let the PRC leadership know what we intend to do. In order to do that two requirements would have to be met. 1) The PRC would have to be confident that such discussions would be kept in strictest confidence. 2) They would have to believe that the US would abide by our agreements. The PRC leadership has been obsessed by the fall of the Soviet Union (for domestic reasons as they face the question of political liberalization). They know very well that future US political leadership might change its mind (e.g., NATO expansion).



In fact Allen was insignificant in this process. he was ignored at the time. pl


Doesn't Brennan always have this look - apprehensive and concealing? Doesn't the record confirm that this is what the man truly is? What's most troubling in this case, is that the exaggerated claim not only is intended to shape public opinion, but it also seems to form part of the administration's fearful self-delusion. Why the latter? Many of these people seem incapable of justifying their professional commitment and simply functioning in the positions they hold without getting themselves into an hysterical lather about grave and imminent threats to the Republic. Emotional adolescence, again

Clifford Kiracofe

"the policy people often reject the intelligence peoples' judgment because they prefer their own reality."

Yes, this is a fundamental problem: the disconnect between intelligence analysis and the policy desired by the politicians inside the Beltway and by the transnational elites.

William R. Cumming

Thanks again Andy and PL! And to be absolutely clear PL the DIA analysis was the only IC analysis predicting the Iraqies not bluffing?



As Andy says, Charlie Allen also said that but nobody paid any attention to him. Basilisk reminds me that CA had a bad habit of predicting a Soviet invasion on an irregular but fairly frequent basis. DIA had a good director, Ed Soyster. He listened to me/us and acted. pl

William R. Cumming

Andy! Thanks for the link and reading the article PL is correct that the Warning Staff even though late in the day ignored. So the IC with the exception of DIA did blow it.

And PL noting your comment:

"Everyone in the world knows this but you!"

I assume you mean that the politicos will override the IC whenever and whereever they wish to do so. So if no possibility of reform and if people with integrity cannot realistically understand that they will be listened to then why spend $80B a year on the IC?

AS you know I was a second generation civil servant now retired over 13 years but I did deal with a somewhat different bureaucracy for 7 years with time out for active duty. Specifically tax administration within the Treasury Department and IRS. In making a call on a legal issue that system based largely over file jurisdiction so that unless you officially had the file could not opine the following was the procedure [and it impressed me for its integrity]!
Irrespective of who had the file previously each Treasury or IRS attorney had to file his/her own legal memorandum and it did not have to refute other opinions or support them but was in fact viewed as a de novo review by each lawyer. That file and its integrity meant that even the lowest of the low had a SHOT AT POLICY--specically legal policy. During my time in the Treasury and IRS I often had far more senior counsel and even political appointees call me to tell me they had the file and had some questions about my [often lengthy] memorandum. Some of these cases were in fact at least at the time quite controversial. Like the Nixon Campaign trying to split gifts to his cammpaign to stay below the then $3000 gift tax exclusion. The career staff and the political appointees eventually denied the exclusion. Although the tax implications were not great it seemed a correct decision to me. Another was where a very prominent Senator died of a heart attack. The IRS agent working the estate discovered a very large out of state bank account in the name of the deceased politico and included it in the estate. I supported this decision with my memorandum but eventually overturned at Main Treasury. Yet I did receive a call with questions on my memorandum.

PL you have raised a very basic question about the IC and its processes and why does it strike me that the politicos allowed US interests to be squandered so readily in Iraq?

Who was paid off and why? While there have been only hints I suspect that the Saudis were somehow involved and the list of US leadership on their payroll must be enormous. Perhaps they own the IC?


How about this as a label for the intelligence community over the past decade:



Why don't some of these politicians get prosecuted or at least censured for releasting classified information. Remember that Congressman Issa's committee released classified informaition related to Benghazi..Jason Chaffez (R-UT) interrupted testimony to point out that a photo contained secret information- nobody would have known had he not blurted it out.

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