Friday, June 09, 2006


On Zarqawi, And Intelligence Failures

That's right, I said intelligence failures.

Raids of this sort can be spectacularly successful, as this one was -- provided that our armed forces know, in advance, exactly where to go and what to expect when they get there. The better the intelligence, the better the chances of achieving the objective cleanly and simply.

But someone has to provide that intelligence. If our troops know where the enemy is going to be on a particular day, it's because somebody found out about it, in spite of the enemy's strenuous efforts to keep it secret. Sometimes this happens because the enemy is careless -- letting details slip on a telephone conversation that we can monitor, for example. (Of course, that's extremely unlikely now; thanks to anonymous NSA leakers and the New York Times, al-Qaeda knows a lot about our ability to listen to cell-phone conversations.)

But in general, to get the information we need to hit the enemy hard, somebody has to put his or her neck on the line. This might be an American citizen under deep cover, pretending to be someone the enemy can trust; more likely, it's a local who is working for us, trusting us to behave honorably and make good use of the information they've risked their lives to get for us.

That trust is apparently misplaced, in this case, for the New York Times has done it again (with the help of some insidiously anonymous leakers), in an article called "How Surveillance and Betrayal Led To A Hunt's End".

I'll refrain from fisking the article in question, because NRO has already done a first-rate job:
Reading the account of events leading to the raid that killed Zarqawi in this morning's NYTimes provides a good object lesson in why our intelligence is so sparse.

Thanks yet again to people inside our intelligence community who don't know how to keep their mouths shut, one (or perhaps more) of the few valuable sources we have inside the jihadist network in Iraq is today no longer a valuable source — either (a) because enough information is now public that the bad guys can pretty easily figure out who among them is an informant and kill him (typically, in a grisly fashion to discourage others), or (b) because we have to extract the informant to avoid that fate.
Read the whole thing.

Andy McCarthy, the NRO columnist in question, ends the piece by asking: "If you were thinking about betraying al Qaeda and becoming a U.S. informant, would you do it after hearing about or reading this?" Unfortunately, it's a valid question, and an important one.

(It also reminds me of a question I've asked before -- just what does an American have to do these days to be accused of treason? Inventing atrocities and accusing the entire American military of committing them, regularly, during wartime, isn't enough; John Kerry did that in 1973, and Jack Murtha has done something like that more recently. Publishing articles that directly endanger American troops during wartime -- well, that's not enough either; the New York Times practically has a regular Sunday section for that. Openly threatening the life of the President of the United States during wartime, and calling publicly for his assassination -- nope, that's not enough either. So I wonder: what does it take?)

I would like to leave open the possibility that this whole thing is all just disinformation, spread deliberately to cause even more dissention (and mutual assassination) within al-Qaeda's ranks. Maybe we didn't have an inside source after all; maybe we just want Zarqawi's buddies to tear each other to pieces, looking for the informant who was never there. I doubt it, given the propensity for the American intelligence community to leak like a toy balloon for partisan political purposes... and the tendency of the New York Times to publish anything, anything at all, with no regard whatsoever for the safety of our troops or our allies. But hey, anything's possible.

I do not leave that possibility open in order to give The New York Times the benefit of the doubt. As far as I'm concerned, they lost that right a long time ago.


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