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Failures of Intelligence
Petraeus’s judgment and Clapper’s obtuseness testify to America’s problems.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director David Petraeus appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence January 31, 2012

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Mark Steyn

Let us turn from the post-Thanksgiving scenes of inflamed mobs clubbing each other to the ground for a discounted television set to the comparatively placid boulevards of the Middle East. In Cairo, no sooner had Hillary Clinton’s plane cleared Egyptian air space than Mohamed Morsi issued one-man constitutional amendments declaring himself and his Muslim Brotherhood buddies free from judicial oversight and announced that his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, would be retried for all the stuff he was acquitted of in the previous trial. Morsi now wields total control over parliament, the judiciary, and the military to a degree Mubarak in his jail cell can only marvel at. Old CIA wisdom: He may be an SOB but he’s our SOB. New post–Arab Spring CIA wisdom: He may be an SOB but at least he’s not our SOB.

But don’t worry. As America’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, assured the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Mubarak’s fall, the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization. The name’s just for show, same as the Episcopal Church.

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Which brings us to Intelligence Director Clapper’s fellow intelligence director, General Petraeus. Don’t ask me why there’s a director of national intelligence and a director of central intelligence. Something to do with 9/11, after which the government decided it could use more intelligence. Instead it wound up with more directors of intelligence, which is the way it usually goes in Washington. Anyway, I blow hot and cold on the Petraeus sex scandal. Initially, it seemed the best shot at getting a largely uninterested public to take notice of the national humiliation and subsequent cover-up over the deaths of American diplomats and the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi. On the other hand, everyone involved in this sorry excuse for a sex scandal seems to have been too busy e-mailing each other to have had any sex. The FBI was initially reported to have printed out 20,000–30,000 pages of e-mails and other communications between General Allen, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Jill Kelley of Tampa, one-half of a pair of identical twins dressed like understudies for the CentCom mess-hall production of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Thirty thousand pages! The complete works of Shakespeare come to about three and a half thousand pages, but American officials can’t even have a sex scandal without getting bogged down in the paperwork.

For the cost of running those FBI documents off the photocopier, you could fly some broad to the Bahamas and have a real sex scandal. Instead, we’ll “investigate” it for a year or three, as we’re doing with Benghazi itself. At her press conference the other day, soon-to-be Secretary of State Susan Rice explained that she would be misspeaking if she were to explain why she misspoke about Benghazi until something called the “Accountability Review Board” has finished “conducting investigations” into “all aspects” of the investigations being conducted, which should be completed by roughly midway through Joe Biden’s second term.

Pending that “definitive accounting,” one or two aspects stand out. Paula Broadwell had access to General Petraeus because she was supposedly writing his biography. As it turns out, she can’t write, so her publisher was obliged to hire a ghostwriter from the Washington Post. Some years ago, at a low point in my career, I was asked to ghostwrite a book for a supermodel. That’s usually the type of “writer” who requires a ghost: models, singers, athletes, celebrities. When a first-time biographer requires a ghostwriter, that person is not a biographer but something else. Yet she had classified documents at her home — and yes, as the president suggested, they’re probably not that classified, not the real top-secret stuff. But in a speech at the University of Denver Mrs. Broadwell appeared to reveal accidentally that she is privy to operational knowledge of illegal CIA interrogation chambers in Benghazi.

Now let us move from General Petraeus’s mistress to General Allen’s non-mistress, Tampa socialite and identical twin Jill Kelley. Mrs. Kelley had clearance for all parts of the MacDill Air Base and was given some kind of commemorative certificate as “honorary ambassador” to CentCom, on the basis of which, in a recent 9-1-1 call, she claimed the right to “diplomatic protection.” Yeah, that’s what Chris Stevens thought in Benghazi. As appears to be well known, the Kelleys have financial problems and their luxury home faces foreclosure. For a while they ran a charity, the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation, which makes terminal cancer patients’ final wishes come true. In 2007, they took in $157,284 in donations, and ran up expenses of $81,927 on dining, entertainment, and travel. So, if you’ve got cancer and your dying wish is for Jill Kelley to party, this is the charity for you.

In other words, neither of these women pass the smell test. Which is a problem insofar as Petraeus, as CIA director, is supposed to be head of the national smell test, and General Allen, as Petraeus’s successor in Kabul, is supposed to be head of the smell test in Afghanistan. In the Gaza “peace agreement” signed last week, they flew in Hillary Clinton to give the impression that she had something to do with it, whereas in reality she was entirely peripheral to the deal. But Jill Kelley is apparently essential to anything that matters in CentCom: When Pastor Terry Jones was threatening to burn a Koran, General Allen asked Mrs. Kelley to mediate. When radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge was threatening to “deep-fat fry” a Koran, General Allen recommended the mayor of Tampa ask Mrs. Kelley to intervene. The U.S. government is responsible for 43 percent of the planet’s military spending, and apparently all that gets you is that, when the feces hits the fan, the four-star brass start e-mailing Jill Kelley of Tampa. If only she’d been hosting a champagne reception at the Sigonella air base in southern Italy, maybe we could have parachuted her into Benghazi to defuse the situation. Jill is the woman Hillary can only dream of being — at the confluence of all the great geostrategic currents of the age. Why didn’t we fly Jill Kelley to broker the Gaza deal? Instead of a patsy peddling risible talking points like Susan Rice, why can’t we have Jill Kelley as secretary of state?

As far as I can tell, our enemies in Afghanistan don’t go in for Soviet-style honey traps. Which is just as well, considering the ease with which, say, a pretend biographer can wind up sitting next to the U.S. commander on his personal Gulfstream. In different ways, Director Petraeus’s judgment and Director Clapper’s obtuseness testify to the problems of America’s vast, sprawling, over-bureaucratized intelligence community. If Director Petraeus can’t see the obvious under his nose in his interventions in the Kelley twins’ various difficulties, why would you expect Director Clapper to have any greater grasp of what’s happening in Cairo or Damascus?

Having consolidated his grip in Egypt, Morsi is now looking beyond. His “peace deal” legitimizes the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliate in Gaza, and increases the likelihood of the Brothers advancing to power in Syria and elsewhere. As on that night in Benghazi when the most lavishly funded military/intelligence operation on the planet watched for eight hours as a mob devoured America’s emissaries, America in a broader sense is a spectator in its own fate. As for Afghanistan, it seems a fitting comment on America’s longest unwon war that the last two U.S. commanders exit in a Benny Hill finale, trousers round their ankles, pursued to speeded-up chase music by bunny-boiling mistresses, stalker socialites, identical twins, and Bubba the Love Sponge.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn



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