Monday, March 22, 2010

CIA Analysts In The Field Cause Danger

There's an interesting article in The Washington Post today (which you can read HERE) about how that suicide bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan on December 30 last year, which killed seven CIA officers, was fundamentally caused by a new trend at the CIA to assign formerly desk-bound analysts to dangerous field offices that were historically the domain of only seasoned CIA case officers. 

"Traditionally, the CIA's station chiefs, or top agency officer in a country, and its base chiefs, deployed in outlying offices, were veteran case officers, or seasoned spy handlers. But under a series of CIA directors starting in the mid-1990s, that began to change. Career intelligence analysts... were increasingly deployed to field positions." 

"The chief of that base in Khost, in remote eastern Afghanistan, 'was 45 years old and a divorced mother of three. She'd spent the vast majority of her career at a desk in Northern Virginia, where she studied al-Qaeda for more than a decade'... A seasoned operative would have punched holes in her plan to bring Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi - a Jordanian doctor who persuaded the CIA he could penetrate the top circles of al-Qaeda - to the agency's base in Khost, counters Charles Faddis, a career operative who retired in 2008.  As it turned out, Balawi had been dispatched by al-Qaeda in Pakistan. When he was picked up by an agency security team, he stepped into the car wearing a suicide vest of explosives. They failed to pat him down -- another inexplicable lapse... 'The most inexplicable error was to have met Balawi by committee,' writes Baer, whose exploits were dramatized in the George Clooney movie Syriana. 'Informants should always be met one-on-one. Always.' "

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