Pass the Parcel

by Michael Walsh

My New York Post column today finds the CIA holding the bag as Washington’s favorite parlor game — who edited the Benghazi talking points to blame Innocence of Muslims instead of, you know, actual Muslims — continues apace:

Ever since UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s ludicrous assertion that the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi (which now appears to have been a CIA station operating under flimsy diplomatic cover) was provoked by an amateur video that lampooned Islam, various elements of the IC have been scrambling to assign blame — and protect the White House.

At various points, the CIA, the FBI and the useless Office of the Director of National Intelligence have either shouldered the responsibility or had fingers pointed at them for editing out references to al Qaeda’s role in the deadly assault from the unclassified talking points provided to Rice and others in the aftermath of the disaster.

Most recently, the hot potato has landed back where it began — at CIA, which remains in organizational turmoil after the sudden resignation of its director, David Petraeus. 

According to a detailed report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, all references to terrorism were edited out by dozens of busy beavers in Langley:

“A detailed examination of how US assessments were turned into the talking points reveals a highly cautious, bureaucratic process that had the effect of watering down the US’s own intelligence. The same process was slow to change conclusions when evidence shifted, in particular about links to al Qaeda and whether the attack grew out of a protest.”

“A highly cautious bureaucratic process.” That’s just what we need from what’s supposed to be the crown jewel of the intelligence community, whose 17 various agencies cost taxpayers at least $80 billion per annum (and probably much more), and yet react like stunned mullets whenever the status quo (Iran, Germany, the U.S.S.R.) suddenly shifts. And yet the highly politicized CIA manages consistently either to get it wrong, or not get it right. 

But even in the IC, nature abhors a vacuum:

While the Agency remains very good at collecting intelligence and providing payback against our foreign enemies, its in-house analysts are often too busy playing footsie with the Washington political and journalistic establishment to soberly and apolitically deliver the news.

So it’s no accident that another member of the IC, the Defense Intelligence Agency — which reports to the Pentagon — is beefing up its core of overseas “collection” agents as part of its new Defense Clandestine Service (announced back in April, but informally in existence for more than a decade). Essentially, the Pentagon now has a way to go around CIA if and when it feels the need for threat assessment unfiltered by a dysfunctional Langley bureaucracy.

The Pentagon and the Agency have long had a fraught relationship, and each has reacted by becoming more like the other: the CIA by becoming more militarized and the Pentagon by becoming more analytical. Meanwhile, except for the families of those killed, Benghazi is fast becoming a fading memory. Look! Over there! It’s the fiscal cliff  . . .

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