Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The N.I.E. and me

This whole NIE process has been an amazing thing to watch for me. The same people who yelled that all intel was garbage (.i.e. WMD in Iraq) are now talking about the NYT cherry picking of a NIE as the inspired word of G-d.

Intel is what it is. It is an imperfect, dark science that is always fun to look at with 20/20 hindsight. From Pearl Harbor to WMD, both people who have never been in the arena or wish they had more power when they were fill themselves with self-important self-puffery as if they had some magic skill to pull the one diamond from the pebbles in the stream that everyone else missed. The volume of data out there will make your brain explode. Picking what to keep and throw away is a job no one does well. Hell, I was on the deck in Southwest Asia before, at, and after 911. We had intel that had everyone fully believing that at any moment you would find out that terrorists had attacked C5F compound in Bahrain, Camp Doha, or Ali Al-Salem. Everyone was queuing up for their CBR gear because intel told us that people had infiltrated from Iraq with WMD mortar shells or such to use against us. We almost had a "fall of Saigon" moment when the question of sending dependents out of Bahrain was in the air. No one was telling a lie, no one had a crystal ball, it was just the little pebbles in the stream that looked like a diamond in the rough.

Most people in the military know the drill when it comes to intel. You will never find someone from the "2" shop who will say "NSTR." Ask them a question and you will get three equally plausible and correct answers that are in conflict with each other. Give him a 5 minute slot to brief, and he will speak for 20 and not tell you anything you didn't already know.

Look at the NIE just released. What do you see?
The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.
The sky is blue, the grass is green. Intel weenies always hedge their bets and give you enough rope to hang yourself on, an enough wiggle room to cover their backsides if everything falls apart. Often times, especially at this level, the chop chain is so long that you are left with the heft of Wonder Bread when you need 12-grain.

Looking at this NIE, another thing comes to mind: someone committed a felony to leak this bucket of FOD to the NTY. Was it worth it? I won't ping on the NYT, it is just their nature.

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