When US Intelligence Fails

Bharat Dogra

The role of US intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, has faced much criticism for its frequently very high adverse impacts on people and democratic governments of several countries. This is well-known. Here is a less frequently asked question-- Has the role of US intelligence agencies at least been good for their own country? This is after all the stated purpose of spending billions of dollars and enormous effort on these agencies.

This question has arisen more recently in the context of the serious and widely acknowledged US intelligence failure in Afghanistan, but in fact this question should have been pursued in many other contexts. What is more, this should be broken down into two sub-questions. Firstly, is this failure to be seen only in terms of inefficiency? Or is this failure to be understood even more in terms of the intelligence agents not really being allowed to do their jobs properly by higher authorities? An example will make this distinction clearer.

In the course of the extensive investigations into the 9/11 attacks it has become clear that in the events leading up to this horrible tragedy, time and again there were glaring failures of intelligence. Important leads were not followed up, significant pieces of information were ignored, known suspects were not investigated properly . But was lack of efficiency the real cause of most of these lapses? Several FBI agents complained subsequently that they were not allowed to properly investigate several suspicious aspects of persons or agencies subsequently revealed to be well-linked to Al-Queda. In fact one FBI agent even took the highly unusual step of holding a press-conference to expose this and related aspects, saying in a tearful speech that these were the reasons why 9/11 could not be stopped.

So even when there has been clear intelligence failure, it needs to be questioned whether this is much more than a case of sheer inefficiency. Higher authorities are often more to blame, because of the overall unjust and unfair decisions they take and then ask intelligence agents to fit in their work with this agenda. In Chile the democratic government of Allende was good for this country, but working in the narrow interests of US corporations, instructions for toppling this government and killing Alende were given, and US intelligence agents had to work for this highly unjust aim. Similarly in Congo they had to work for the killing of the most popular leader Lumumba from whom people rightly had the highest hopes. In such cases the intelligence agencies mainly the CIA did not work to just harm the interests of foreign democratic governments but also harmed the national interests of the USA as the reputation of the USA foreign policy was ruined very badly by such highly unjust and cruel interventions.

In Bangladesh the planned assassination of the most popular leader Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rehman was in the air months before the actual event. The USA Ambassador in Dacca was a noble person who was troubled greatly by this news and issued strict instructions to the embassy and intelligence staff to avoid having to do anything with such a conspiracy. But the local CIA head nevertheless went ahead with his collusion with the key conspirators who killed Mujib due to the direct support he received from Kissinger , or persons close to him in Washington. This again was a clear case of US intellgence agents bringing very bad name to their country, but the bigger responsibility of the wrong agenda was set by a vengeful Kissinger.

The Kennedy murder case was another case of intelligence failure at high levels, and the various suppressions involved in this case indicated higher involvement.

However if intelligence agencies cannot protect their country from some of the biggest dangers, and even after big attacks and assassinations cannot provide a credible explanation of what actually happened, then serious questions are bound to be raised about them. In particular it needs to be answered very honestly whether the real national interests of the USA are being identified properly and whether the intelligence agencies are being utilised efficiently and properly to serve the genuine national interests of the USA.

At the time of the 9/11 attack it was asked time and gain why there had been glaring failures of intelligence? Now in the wake of the very rapid takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan this question is being raised again. The question of why despite all the massive training and investment the USA intelligence agencies are unable to serve properly identified genuine national interests should be faced very honestly in the USA. ooo

[The writer is a journalist and author. His recent books include Planet in Peril and Protecting Earth For Children.]

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Vol. 54, No. 10, Sep 5 - 11, 2021