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Thread: Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism Released

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    Default Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism Released

    17 July - The Director of National Intelligence just released the National Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism.

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    Even for a public release, it is remarkable in how little it says, and in how much less it commits to. Hell, it even uses an entire page to clarify how non-committal the estimate really is. In a 7 page pdf file, the actual NIE is only two pages.
    These assessments, which are based on incomplete or at times fragmentary information are not a fact, proof, or knowledge.
    That is certainly something which we always struggle with in the intel world, but given the nature and scope of the issue, they could have done a helluva lot better than this pablum. In any case, the media is already siezing on and spinning parts of it.....

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    Default Spot on Jed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Even for a public release, it is remarkable in how little it says, and in how much less it commits to. Hell, it even uses an entire page to clarify how non-committal the estimate really is. In a 7 page pdf file, the actual NIE is only two pages.

    That is certainly something which we always struggle with in the intel world, but given the nature and scope of the issue, they could have done a helluva lot better than this pablum. In any case, the media is already siezing on and spinning parts of it.....
    You said a mouthful...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Even for a public release, it is remarkable in how little it says, and in how much less it commits to. Hell, it even uses an entire page to clarify how non-committal the estimate really is. In a 7 page pdf file, the actual NIE is only two pages.

    That is certainly something which we always struggle with in the intel world, but given the nature and scope of the issue, they could have done a helluva lot better than this pablum. In any case, the media is already siezing on and spinning parts of it.....
    The most interesting part was the contention that AQI might attempt to attack the American homeland. That, of course, is what Bush has been arguing. Many people, including me, find the idea unbelievable.

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    Default Gut Feeling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Even for a public release, it is remarkable in how little it says, and in how much less it commits to. Hell, it even uses an entire page to clarify how non-committal the estimate really is. In a 7 page pdf file, the actual NIE is only two pages.

    That is certainly something which we always struggle with in the intel world, but given the nature and scope of the issue, they could have done a helluva lot better than this pablum. In any case, the media is already siezing on and spinning parts of it.....
    Essentially it says there are still bad people out there who want to attack the US and they might actually do it.

    Steve, the snippet bit on AQI seems like an additive that was thrown in after the fact, to reinforce the idea of an AQI threat. This is purely supposition on my part after having particpated in writing these things.

    Finally I would say the obvious here. This is the sanitized version of the Key Judgements (or at least I hope it is) with no sourcing and no caveats taken by any agency. The net result is that it adds nothing to the "gut feeling" remarks of the DHS Director.

    Best

    Tom

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    Tom, I clearly understand its a sanitized version - that is what I meant by public release. However, my point is that this is so "sanitized" as to be meaningless. (unless the classified version is just as banal). Better analysis of the current situation vis-a-vis the terrorist threat is readily available to anyone with an internet connection. The public deserves better.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom
    .....The net result is that it adds nothing to the "gut feeling" remarks of the DHS Director.
    The "gut feeling" remarks were truly unplanned, and were followed by creation and distro of "talking points" on those remarks to DHS personnel as a knee-jerk CYA after the public reaction. None of which inspires any confidence in DHS. This administration has lost much of its credibility even among its previously strong supporters, and it continues to stubbornly eat away at its own standing by hewing to positions that lack substance and treating the public as booger-eating morons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    The public deserves better.
    Thank you.

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    Default Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan

    18 July NY Times - Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan by Mark Mazzetti and David Sanger.

    President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged Tuesday that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan.

    The intelligence report, the most formal assessment since the Sept. 11 attacks about the terrorist threat facing the United States, concludes that the United States is losing ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al Qaeda, and describes the terrorist organization as having significantly strengthened over the past two years.

    In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region...
    18 July Washington Post - Al-Qaeda's Gains Keep U.S. at Risk, Report Says by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus.

    Al-Qaeda has reestablished its central organization, training infrastructure and lines of global communication over the past two years, putting the United States in a "heightened threat environment" despite expanded worldwide counterterrorism efforts, according to a new intelligence estimate.

    Intelligence officials attributed the al-Qaeda gains primarily to its establishment of a safe haven in ungoverned areas of northwestern Pakistan. Its affiliation with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said, has helped it to "energize" extremists elsewhere and has aided Osama bin Laden's recruitment and funding.

    The estimate concluded that "the U.S. Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years." Al-Qaeda, it said, "is and will remain" the most serious element of that threat...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Tom, I clearly understand its a sanitized version - that is what I meant by public release. However, my point is that this is so "sanitized" as to be meaningless. (unless the classified version is just as banal). Better analysis of the current situation vis-a-vis the terrorist threat is readily available to anyone with an internet connection. The public deserves better.

    The "gut feeling" remarks were truly unplanned, and were followed by creation and distro of "talking points" on those remarks to DHS personnel as a knee-jerk CYA after the public reaction. None of which inspires any confidence in DHS. This administration has lost much of its credibility even among its previously strong supporters, and it continues to stubbornly eat away at its own standing by hewing to positions that lack substance and treating the public as booger-eating morons.
    Jedburgh,

    No disagreement whatsoever. I was getting at what you put in parentheses--that hopefuly the classified version is better because this version is bird cage material.

    On gut feelings, Pepto-Bismal would have been a better fix. The public does indeed deserve better.

    Best

    Tom

    PS Cartoonist Jim Morin said it best
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 07-18-2007 at 04:58 PM. Reason: add link

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    I'll tell you what really bothers me about all of this.

    The leadership speaketh with forked tongue.

    One day, it's "AQ is on the defensive." The next day, it's "AQ is ready to strike at Des Moines Iowa with a dirty bomb made of depleted plutonium."

    It muddles the water, and more importantly, it damages the publics trust of the leadership, and there for, the government as a whole.

    Not only does the public deserve better, it should demand better. The doublespeak coming out of these various offices is confusing, ill timed, and damaging to the credibility of these people making the statements.
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    The most interesting part was the contention that AQI might attempt to attack the American homeland. That, of course, is what Bush has been arguing. Many people, including me, find the idea unbelievable.
    Why do you say that? (if the answer's too complex, please direct or point out to me something I can read)

    I don't know if this question goes along with the thread: Is Al Q one entity? (I know there's different factions, but do they all share the same goal?) Is AQI just part of Al Q ?
    Last edited by skiguy; 07-18-2007 at 07:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skiguy View Post
    Why do you say that? (if the answer's too complex, please direct or point out to me something I can read)

    I don't know if this question goes along with the thread: Is Al Q one entity? (I know there's different factions, but do they all share the same goal?) Is AQI just part of Al Q ?
    I'll point you to two other threads in this forum:

    The first links to an outstanding two-part RAND study, Beyond Al-Qa'ida

    The second has a variety of links and some discussion on the subject of Al-Qa'ida Chief Urges Iraqis to Export Jihad

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    Are we making an erroneous assumption of homogeneity for AQ?

    Al Qaeda is "The Base", and is following what appears to be a viral model, feeding "cells" that are moving roughly in their direction.

    It is entirely possible for the senior leadership of AQ to be between a rock and a hard place, and simultaneously have a couple of cells and several copy-cats using the AQ labeling planning direct action within the borders of the U.S.

    One of our strategic problems is that this does not fit neatly in a sound bite.

    AQI could conceivably exfiltrate a team out of Iraq through Syria, then across the Mediterreanian to a less suspicious country, then on to the U.S. I would, however, be concerned about reasonably low-tech attacks (fertilizer explosives or box-cutter hijackings) or attacks involving small amounts of high end materials (a kilo or two of plastique and a couple of detonators to initiate LNG, for example), rather than with the Hollywood, movie plot scenarios that get the most air-time in the media. Still, I'm more concerned about home grown or Eurpoean grown terrorist "fellow travellers" using the AQI brand name.

    What concerns me most is that, like with any small war, the underlying issues need to be addressed, if only to remove public support for the terrorists. It is not clear to me that we have a rational, coherent strategy for doing this.

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    17 Jul 07 Press Briefing by White House Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend

    MS. TOWNSEND: Good morning, everybody. Earlier today, the Director of National Intelligence briefed the President and senior staff on the new National Intelligence Estimate on the terrorist threat to the homeland. The DNI has delivered the NIE to Congress and has released the unclassified key judgments, which you should now have. The Office of the DNI has already briefed the media this morning on the report and the key judgments and so I will not go into much of that detail.

    What I would like you to know is how we are responding to the threat noted in the report.....

    Q: Fran, when the report speaks of al Qaeda, the judgment that al Qaeda will intensify its efforts to put operatives here, is that implicitly saying that there are ongoing efforts to put operatives here? What can you say about that?

    MS. TOWNSEND: There is no -- we assume, because we have to, that they're trying to place operatives here. It's their way of being able -- it's one of their critical enablers. You know, you heard me talk about, what do they need to operate and survive. You need people to launch attacks. And so we assume that they are doing that or they're attempting to do that....

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    25 Jul 07 testimony before the HASC Joint Full Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Implications of the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Al-Qaeda:

    James Clapper, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence

    Edward Gistaro, National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats and Michael Leiter, Deputy Director of NCTC

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    25 Jul 07 testimony before the HASC Joint Full Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Implications of the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Al-Qaeda:

    James Clapper, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence

    Edward Gistaro, National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats and Michael Leiter, Deputy Director of NCTC
    NIE states "We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11."

    Clapper states, "Our greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts since 9/11 have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack the U.S. again and have led terrorist groups to view the homeland as a harder target to strike than it was on 9/11."

    I am impressed that verbatim everyone is saying the same thing...so much for independent analysis of the threat. Also, Clapper does a great job of plugging DoD and all it has done to prepare itself for the "next big one" which only time will tell if we're truly ready or not. I won't start to go down the Hurricane Katrina road, but will leave it out there as a possible indication that we're a little too heavy on topside of response management and too light at the actual response where the real lifting gets done...many things contribute to this which is a discussion all its own.

    My fear is that people assume no attack on the homeland equates to marginilization of Al Qaeda and its ideology. However, this doesn't apply to Iraq where Al Qaeda is marketed as the "boogeyman" thus justifying military action and resource expenditure. In my opinion, this is a lot of verbal flatulatence trying to "remind" Americans that the enemy is still out there but not to fear he is in Iraq and not coming to our doorstep. Real change in policy will occur when the next 9-11 style attack does occur and the public once again demands something be done.

    Lastly, I did like Clapper's defense of Musharraf and explanations of how the tribal areas are used as a base by AQ and Taliban, this is knowledge that has been around since the Soviet-Afghan War...so much for remembering and heeding history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pragmatic Thinker View Post
    NIE states "We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11."

    Clapper states, "Our greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts since 9/11 have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack the U.S. again and have led terrorist groups to view the homeland as a harder target to strike than it was on 9/11."

    I am impressed that verbatim everyone is saying the same thing...so much for independent analysis of the threat. Also, Clapper does a great job of plugging DoD and all it has done to prepare itself for the "next big one" which only time will tell if we're truly ready or not. I won't start to go down the Hurricane Katrina road, but will leave it out there as a possible indication that we're a little too heavy on topside of response management and too light at the actual response where the real lifting gets done...many things contribute to this which is a discussion all its own.

    My fear is that people assume no attack on the homeland equates to marginilization of Al Qaeda and its ideology. However, this doesn't apply to Iraq where Al Qaeda is marketed as the "boogeyman" thus justifying military action and resource expenditure. In my opinion, this is a lot of verbal flatulatence trying to "remind" Americans that the enemy is still out there but not to fear he is in Iraq and not coming to our doorstep. Real change in policy will occur when the next 9-11 style attack does occur and the public once again demands something be done.

    Lastly, I did like Clapper's defense of Musharraf and explanations of how the tribal areas are used as a base by AQ and Taliban, this is knowledge that has been around since the Soviet-Afghan War...so much for remembering and heeding history.
    I will say up front that I am a Clapper fan as we go back to Desert Shield when I had an analyst team brief him as the USAF ACSI (the AF G2 is a 2 star) on our initial efforts to template Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Three + years later he was Director of DIA as I was down range in Zaire and then Rwanda. He would actually send messages to us in the field that showed he was reading what we were doing and what we reported. He had me come in for an office call in the fall of 94 while I was in town with the Rwandan VP/DefMin MG Kagame. We talked with no horse holders present for some time. Later (much) he was kind enough to review my memoirs for Mil Review.

    Clapper got cross wise as the Director odf the NatGeospatial agency because when asked by Congress, he told them NGA should and could work effectively for the new DNI. He was relieved of that job, probably at the behest of Cambone. And now thanks to Mike McConnel as the new DNI, Hayden as the DCI, and Gates as SecDef, Clapper has Cambone's job.

    While I think the NIE summary as released is fluff, it is hopeful in some ways because it does not follow a political line. I think what you saw in Clapper's piece backs that up.

    I agree that the real test is yet to come. Hopefully we (the US) will have our stuff in one rucksack. You and I both know that hope is not a technique.

    best

    Tom

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    Tom,

    I have never met Clapper, but have heard similar remarks regarding him while at the helm of NGA. My frustration and subsequent sarcasm in my writing has to do with what I believe is a real lack of knowledge regarding the playing field we find ourselves fighting the Global War on Terrorism. Especially, when we start to talk about the Afghanistan-Pakistan side of the world. I am often amazed that people act like this is our first jaunt into that region militarily, plus I can't seem to wrap my arms around our support for Musharraf. I am not convinced that Pakistan does everything it can for us in our fight against Al Qaeda, however, we continue to dump aid ($$) into his military and economy without any kind of expectation of a return on our investment.

    I will point out two items from Clapper's testimony that I am finding misleading in their logic.

    1) "The NIE highlights one such way in which the enemy has adapted: in response to its loss of Afghanistan: it has reconstituted some of its command and support network in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border."

    Is this really an enemy adaptation? They have always traveled in and out of Waziristan. The Durand Line isn't recognized by the Pashtun nor their foreign guests who continually travel in and out of Afghanistan attacking US and coalition forces, so how does this equate to adaptation by the enemy when this capability has always been there? They exploit our unwillingness to pursue them into Pakistan is a more accurate statement then giving them (Al Qaeda) credit for discovering some sort of technique or tactic. Maybe word smithing but I find the language a little too one sided.

    2) "At the same time, there are signs of a reaction against the extremists. On April 17, 2007, a convention attended by over 2,000 Pakistani religious figures in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's ethnically Pashtun North-West Frontier Province (which includes the FATA), proclaimed that suicide bombings were against Islam and condemned the forcible implementation and enforcement of Shari’a (Islamic Law). Also, internal disputes in Pakistan's tribal agency of South Waziristan recently erupted into conflict between Taliban-allied local tribes and al Qaeda-allied Central Asian groups, mostly Uzbeks. Uzbek forces offended local Pashtun groups by their criminal activity and insensitivity to local tribal customs, resulting in open warfare between locals and Central Asian fighters."

    I think he takes a huge leap here implying that a limited reaction by some locals against a particular group equates to a consensus among the people of North Waziristan that there is an exploitable fissure between the Pashtu and the Taliban/AQ and their foreign guests. He couldn't be any further from the truth and this sounds a little like "cherry picking" reporting to paint the picture you want and not the picture that is actually there. There has been some limited (and I want to underscore limited) success by the Pakistani security forces in punishing tribes that allow foreigners among their midsts, but this hasn't taken hold long term and in the end most tribals see the Peshawar based Punjab military and political leaders as U.S. puppets. I would recommend the writers of this testimony spend some time along the border region talking to locals and getting the "ground truth" and not relying on single source reporting from questionable sources to support your arguments.

    Again, not taking anything away from the man personally but I didn't read anything in his testimony about the enemy that was too promising. We can beat these guys and we can win this fight, but real issues need to be addressed and the first one is defining who really is our enemy? If Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are the leaders of the enemy organization we wish to defeat then why do we allow them sanctuary in Pakistan? Why do we ally ourselves with Musharraf after he publically states, 1) he believes Al Qaeda's top leaders are in his country but he claims he is supposedly powerless to do anything about it, and 2) he would rather see anyone else BUT the United States be the ones that capture/kill Usama Bin Laden within Pakistan should he be found.... Also, we say the enemy has "adapted" to using Waziristan as a sanctuary, but it only remains a sanctuary if we don't go after them...


    I am no genius (militarily or otherwise) but there lacks basic logic in our policies and actions that I find too easily dismissed by the people who are supposedly "great leaders" and "no nonsense types"....

    PT

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    PT

    No disagreement in your asking the hard questions, especially on the Pakistanis.

    When I used the term "hopeful" it was as I stated; Clapper, and the greater intel community has improved in providing a more coherent picture.

    Where they still fall short is where intel crosses into policy. It is longstanding intel dogma that intel does not recommend policy or even measure it. That is a cop out; intel does play in policy and everyone with a brain knows it. For that matter we proclaim that fact in our military doctrine when we state intel drives maneuver.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pragmatic Thinker
    ...Anyway, this is turning into a discussion about South Asian politics and not about the Intelligence Estimate released earlier this month and the testimony from Gen. Clapper, so I will disengage from it.
    I have cut the posts which are solely focused on the Pakistan discussion and moved them into their own thread in the South Asia forum.

    Carry on.

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