Central Intelligence Agency

The Reinvention of Robert Gates
November 09, 2009

One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.

Slideshow: You're On The CIA Payroll Too?
October 31, 2009

This week, the New York Times reported that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has been receiving payments from the CIA since 2001. It's an awkward situation, since most observers think Karzai is heavily involved in Southern Afghanistan's drug trade. However, it is not without precedent. Click through this TNR slideshow to see other questionable people who turned out to be on the CIA payroll over the years.

Karzai's Brother, CIA Stooge?
October 28, 2009

Hmm, maybe this is why John Kerry didn't want to badmouth him: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. You have to wonder what other unsavory things the CIA is up to in Afghanistan. Which may also be a reason why Barack Obama isn't too keen on digging deep into Bush-era agency practices. P.S.

TNR Debate: Too Much Transparency? (Part III)
October 13, 2009

Lawrence Lessig argues convincingly that there are dangers in systematically favoring transparency over privacy: A thoughtful democracy should strike a balance between both values, which sometimes compete and sometimes reinforce each other. I found less cause for optimism, however, in Lessig’s proposals for combating the dangers he associates with naked transparency. Lessig suggests that the solution to the problem of wrongly assuming that all politicians are corrupted by campaign contributions is to pass a generous public funding bill.

When--and from Whom--Did We Learn About Zazi?
October 06, 2009

The AP reports that it wasn't until late August (just a few weeks before his arrest) and that it wasn't from any domestic law-enforcement agency but from the CIA: The CIA learned about Zazi through one of its sources and alerted domestic agencies, including the FBI, intelligence officials said. U.S. intelligence organizations first became aware of Zazi in late August, a senior administration official said.

Intelligence--Who Needs It?
October 05, 2009

Last year, U.S. intelligence analysts prepared a report on how climate change could pose a threat to global security, especially as "floods and droughts [trigger] mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world." So, in response, the CIA set up a small unit called the Center on Climate Change to study more carefully the potential national-security implications of a warming planet. Seems innocuous enough. Whatever you may think of cap-and-trade, this stuff is at least worth studying, right? Apparently not.

The Plot Thins
September 29, 2009

Among those who know me well, few can remember when I covered any subjects other than Al Qaeda and the global jihad. I wrote about Osama Bin Laden when he was "Usama bin Ladin." And so since September 14, all anybody's been asking me are questions about a young Afghan immigrant named Najibullah Zazi and his alleged involvement in the first Al Qaeda cell uncovered in America since the 9/11 attacks. Here are my answers to the four most common questions I've been getting.  1. Is this just another of the government's over-hyped terror plots?  U.S.

Riedel: Counterterrorism Won't Work
September 28, 2009

Former CIA man Bruce Riedel, who chaired Obama's (first) Afghanistan strategy review earlier this year, writing with co-author Michael O'Hanlon, warns against what you might call the Biden strategy: The fundamental reason that a counterterrorism-focused strategy fails is that it cannot generate good intelligence. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban know not to use their cellphones and satellite phones today, so our spy satellites are of little use in finding extremists.

Time For The President To Press "The Reset Button" Between His Administration And The C.I.A.
September 18, 2009

  The FT yesterday used President Obama's own metaphor from Washington's relations with Moscow.  He has, that is, resolved to press "the reset button" with Vladimir Putin's Russia  But, of course, he can do so only from our side.  Putin has sent him a big mazal tov but no reciprocal gift.     Quite to the contrary.  As the Financial Times points out, Russia has embarked on an aggressive foreign policy in Latin America, partnering with Hugo Chavez, the wild man of the region.   Russia is also now doing military exercises with Belarus.

September 16, 2009

With the Iraq war spinning out of control in mid-2005, retired Marine General James L. Jones spoke with his old friend Peter Pace, the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jones, who is now Barack Obama's national security advisor, had been sounded out for the Joint Chiefs job but demurred. One reason: He felt that civilian leaders in Washington were warping the military planning process. "Military advice is being influenced on a political level," Jones warned Pace, according to Bob Woodward's book State of Denial. Jones's warning squared with other reports at the time that U.S.