John Maguire doesn’t say it, but another reason why the CIA was completely wrongfooted by the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was because the Obama Administration has completely deemphasized the jihad threat, and pretended that al Qaeda was the only jihad group. An obscure offshoot of al Qaeda in a country Obama was anxious to forget was not likely to be the object of serious analysis.
“CIA OFFICER: We Had No Idea Militants Would Seize Iraqi Cities,” by Ken Dilanian, Associated Press, June 25, 2014 (thanks to Kenneth):
WASHINGTON (AP) — When John Maguire was a CIA officer in Beirut in the late 1980s during that country’s bloody civil war, he spent weeks living in safe houses far from the U.S. Embassy, dodging militants who wanted to kidnap and kill Americans.
“We moved all over the city, and we would not sleep in the same place two nights in a row,” Maguire said.
In Iraq in 2014, by contrast, CIA officers have been largely hunkered down in their heavily fortified Baghdad compound since U.S. troops left the country in 2011, current and former officials say, allowing a once-rich network of intelligence sources to wither. Maguire and other current and former U.S. officials say the intelligence pullback is a big reason the U.S. was caught flat footed by the recent offensive by a Sunni-backed al-Qaida-inspired group that has seized a large swath of Iraq.
Iraq is emblematic, they say, of how a security-conscious CIA is finding it difficult to spy aggressively in dangerous environments without military protection. Intelligence blind spots have left the U.S. behind the curve on fast-moving world events, they say, whether it’s disintegration in Iraq, Russia’s move into Crimea or the collapse of several governments during the Arab Spring.
“This is a glaring example of the erosion of our street craft and our tradecraft and our capability to operate in a hard place,” said Maguire, who helped run CIA operations in Iraq in 2004. “The U.S. taxpayer is not getting their money’s worth.”
The CIA declined immediate comment, but allies in Congress and some former agency officials strenuously dispute the criticism, saying that the intelligence community provided plenty of warning to the Obama administration that the insurgent Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, known as ISIL, could move on Iraqi cities.
“This was not an intelligence failure — this was a policy failure,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee.
However, while U.S. intelligence officials predicted that ISIL would attempt to seize territory in Iraq this year, they did not appear to anticipate ISIL’s offensive on June 10 to seize Mosul, which created a momentum that led to other successes. Officials also expressed surprise at how quickly the Iraqi army collapsed. And military leaders contemplating quick airstrikes said there was not enough intelligence to know what to hit.
A senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters this week acknowledged that “a lot of the (intelligence) collection that we were receiving diminished significantly following the U.S. withdrawal in Iraq in 2011, when we lost some of the ‘boots on the ground’ view of what was going on.” Under rules for such briefings, the official spoke on condition that her name not be used.
In the same briefing, the official disclosed that U.S. intelligence did not know who controlled Iraq’s largest oil refinery. And she suggested that one of the biggest sources of intelligence for American analysts is Facebook and Twitter postings….