Wire: STRATFOR Sees US Intel Move to Pre-9/11 Mindset
Off the Wire:
Report says Obama's decisions have a "chilling effect" on the intel community: experienced operatives curtail or quit.
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2009 -- Writing at STRATFOR, a private intelligence company delivering in-depth analysis, assessments and forecasts on global geopolitical, economic, security and public policy issues, Fred Burton and Scott Stewart said yesterday that the U.S. intelligence community may be moving to a pre-9/11 mindset.
They citied the Obama administration’s decision to release four classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration that authorized "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the president's shifting position on the prosecution of those involved in approving the techniques as the main causes.
Burton and Stewart said their contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible “chilling effect” on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues.
Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.Burton and Stewart conclude that it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques.
The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise -- an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources -- again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.Source: A Chilling Effect on U.S. Counterterrorism
When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.
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