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Drone Doubts at the CIA
A report on the post-Petraeus CIA and jihadist "refugees" in Turkey.
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There was considerable pushback at the Central Intelligence Agency following the resignation of David Petraeus. Former military officers are generally disliked at CIA, but Petraeus made all the right moves by arriving at Langley without a staff and with a professed willingness to learn. Then he went ahead and pulled together a team that favored military-style responses to international terrorism. Petraeus’s proposal to obtain new drones to expand CIA’s reach in Africa and elsewhere meant sharp cuts to the clandestine service and analysts: drones are cheap to buy but expensive to operate. CIA case officers argue that the Agency should revert to traditional spying, and that the unmanned-vehicle response to terrorist groups has run its course owing to difficulties in collecting actionable intelligence and a paucity of identifiable targets. Some blamed poor intelligence in Benghazi on the lack of case officers on the ground, most having been replaced by paramilitary contractors. The Agency’s temporary director, Michael Morell, a former analyst, is reported to be supportive of a gradual shift away from drones, and John Brennan, Obama’s nominee to be the next director, is also disinclined to expand the program. Brennan has privately criticized drone operations, stating that they do more harm than good given Pakistan’s instability and the much-reduced condition of al-Qaeda.

• • •

Western intelligence agencies operating in Turkey and Jordan are alarmed at the massive security problem presented by the flood of refugees from Syria. Nearly 400,000 refugees are in camps in Turkey and Jordan. The camps are ideal launching pads for terrorist groups: the Turkish intelligence service MIT has already identified instances in which members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) have used refugee camps as bases to stage lethal attacks on Turkish soldiers and policemen. The CIA has intelligence suggesting that a number of jihadis who entered Syria to fight Bashar al-Assad have since assumed the identities of dead Syrians to enter Jordan and Turkey, where they have established cadres. The U.S. is supplying the Turks and Jordanians with advanced biometric registration equipment to enable the camps to issue tamper-proof identification. But biometric identifiers have been of limited effectiveness in tracking alleged militants in Afghanistan, where nearly every adult male in areas controlled by the government has been photographed and registered.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: CIA, Drones 
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  1. Wes says:

    Drone strikes are a good instrument of counterterrorism strategy, but the Obama administration has unfortunately used drone stikes themselves as its primary counterterrorism strategy. This is bad, because dead men tell no tales, many terrorists have gone into populated areas to escape the threat of drone strikes, and drone strikes don’t cut off material support to the terrorists. For some reason, the Obama administration just recently declared the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization. If the network had been declared a terrorist organization earlier, then material support for the organization could have already decreased

  2. Wes says:

    Some in the Pentagon support commando raids into Pakistan to capture terrorist figures who have gone into areas that are too populated to make drone strikes viable without significal collateral damage.

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    More importantly, stop going to war with only oil-rich countries. If we want to get the economy going, we need to be willing to war with countries who have other types of resources.

    I’m happy we have drones now, so we don’t have to risk anymore American lives. Let’s use drones from now on and hurry up and take over as much as possible before the dollar crashes. I think we all know that’s what’s coming if we don’t act fast.

  4. The use of drones by the United States in heavily populated areas is unconscionable. I read an account at Paul Craig Roberts’ website of an innocent boy in Pakistan who was killed during a drone strike. I am glad that there are people within the CIA that question the wisdom of using drones.

  5. The mission of spying on foreigners and killing them is obviously a conflicted one.

    The Great British actor Anthony Quayle served behind German lines as part of a the SOE mission in the Balkans. I remember him painfully recounting how he was sent to spy and also carry out commando attacks. He worked with the locals to gain intelligence on German activities only to have all his informants and their families killed after his commando attacks. In the end, he confided, he and his comrades just stopped the attacks. They were just too counterproductive.

  6. ksat says:

    I was dismayed when Obama nominated Brennan for CIA chief as I’ve read that he has been the drone king, and that he and Obama were picking out the targets together. I couldn’t figure out how, on the one hand, he picked Hagel for SecDef while picking Brennan. Seemed to me that these picks cancelled each other out. However, Mr Giraldi, I am heartened by your assertion that Brennan now has had a change of heart on drones. Turns out you were wrong when you said that Obama would not nominate Hagel. Hope you’re right about Brennan.

  7. ksat says:

    Caspin: Enjoyed your satirical comment! At least I THINK it was satire.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    how will we defend against drone attacks aimed at american interests world wide? dyi folks are already firing paint ball guns at groud targets using inexpensive home built drones…. what’s next?
    sad to say……. what goes around…. comes around…

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