Situation Report

Good intel: get out of buildings, onto the streets

The trouble with the Asia pivot; Cyber vulnerabilities at DOE; Allen’s hope for a quick investigation, and more.

As dozens more people have died in the escalating violence between Israel and Gaza, a personal appeal for a cease-fire from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon late yesterday: "This must stop," he said. Moon is traveling to the region today.

Meanwhile: "Utterly ridiculous and extremely regrettable" is the way Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima described an incident yesterday in which a Marine officer was found in a room that was not his own, apparently after drinking too heavily and trespassing on the Japanese island of Okinawa. The Japanese are still seething over an incident last month in which two American sailors allegedly raped an Okinawan girl. That incident resulted in a curfew for American personnel that the Marine officer, Lt. Tomas Chanquet, appeared to have broken when he was discovered sleeping in a building on Okinawa.

It’s certainly not the first time American service members have gotten into trouble there, but it’s this kind of low-level wrongdoing that keeps defense officials up at night as the Pentagon takes the plunge into Asia. The current debate now is to what extent the U.S. will create large bases on which to operate in the region as it builds its presence to counter China (not likely) or if it will instead build stronger relationships with allies, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s trip last week was meant to do, and use those relationships to leverage its effect in the region while limiting the impact American service members have on local communities (way more likely – and cheaper).

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where the lull after the storm leaves us nervous and fidgety. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

In the post-Petraeus era, former agency folks say get out of the building and onto the street. There is a popular narrative coming out of last week among former intelligence officers when it comes to how the CIA should do its job after Petraeus. Drone operations and counter-terrorism activity in general has impeded the agency’s ability to focus on collection, and the insatiable demand for targeting information, which requires less shoe leather and more computer screen time, means other important information may be overlooked at the peril of national security. Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but the notion is that the kind of CT operations the Obama administration focuses on has drowned out important voices in the intelligence community. Indeed, many have said for a long time that the agency should return to its roots in collecting and analyzing intelligence and move away from paramilitary operations that some believe are more of the Pentagon’s domain anyway.

"Let the military do their work and focus on intel-gathering," said a former analyst who wrote "The Human Factor," under the pseudonym Ishmael Jones. "It’s what we need to do."

Jones said he benefited from spending most of his career outside of Washington and outside of buildings and headquarters, where the real work of intelligence collection and analysis is done.

"We need to get more guys out of the embassies, get ‘em out on the streets and then they can spy," he said. "It’s not military work, it’s briefcase work," he said.

Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, offers a perfect example of the kind of lean, fast, and flexible intelligence agency the U.S. needs to perform effective human-source intelligence work, Jones said.

Although much has been said about the culture shock Petraeus experienced when he left the military and arrived at the CIA, Jones and others believe he was trying to move the agency in the right direction and wanted to conduct a "rewriting of intelligence collection."

Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin told Situation Report that in collecting intelligence the U.S. must think like players of three-dimensional chess, not checkers.

"I don’t see it as a situation where the agency has to move away from its operational posture. I see it as a situation where the president is going to continue to want those things from the CIA, but the CIA is going to have to deliver on classic collection and analysis," he said this weekend.

Will Petraeus’ successor at CIA be a strong leader? Another former senior intelligence officer tells Situation Report that whoever replaces Petraeus, be it deputy director Mike Morell or perhaps White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan or somebody else, the agency needs a true leader who will get CIA back to basics — not a "bureaucratically weak" director who blows with the political winds.

"I wish the intelligence community and CIA would get back into the intelligence business, instead of all this paramilitary stuff," the officer says. "We do need clandestine operations, we do need somebody to do military and paramilitary operations, but not to the exclusion of intelligence."

The officer describes the fear within the agency that the next leader may be like some in the national security apparatus today who give short shrift to intelligence but use it for access to the White House.

"Instead of using their skills to challenge common wisdom, to put the policy people off balance, they used their credibility in intelligence to validate what people in policy already wanted to do."

Petraeus’ transition from military to civilian life was awkward, and he experienced cultural and personality clashes at the agency, the former officer, who did not work under Petraeus, says. He arrived there wanting to understand the issues, but the culture change he confronted and the recognition that he was no longer a four-star commander contributed to his inability to have as much of an impact as he might have thought he’d have. "I think all that went away when he realized that he couldn’t lead but he had to follow."

It’s unclear who will lead CIA, although McLaughlin says Acting Director Mike Morell would be an excellent choice: "At the end of the day, the guy walking into the Sit Room or the guy sitting down with the president has to take a dispassionate view…. The current acting director is that kind of a person."

McLaughlin’s piece on "Spying 2.0" in Global Brief:

Meanwhile, the investigation into Allen’s e-mail traffic may be quick. Unlike typical Department of Defense inspector general investigations, which are notorious for taking months to complete, the Allen investigation may take far less time. The White House’s statements of support may reflect the expectation that Allen will be exonerated and then re-nominated for the job in Europe. If the investigation is indeed limited to reading the 20,000-30,000 pages of e-mails — which many believe amount to only a few hundred actual e-mail exchanges because of copies and replies and forwards — then officials say it shouldn’t take much time to complete the investigation. But if the e-mail chains lead investigators to additional information that requires scrutiny, it will jeopardize Allen’s chances for promotion and re-nomination to be Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Allen supporters say that would be too bad. "I’m all for going after the brass, but this could turn out to be a real miscarriage," a former defense official told Situation Report.

Read "Hell Week," FP National Security’s piece on what insiders say about the Petraeus and Allen scandal here:

The good news? Cyber-security threats are down at DOE. The bad: there are still a lot of them, reports Killer Apps’ John Reed: Although better cyber-security practices have reduced the number of reported vulnerabilities, "22 of those 38 vulnerabilities are brand-new while the remaining 16 went unresolved even after the inspector general noted them in 2011, according to a report released this month. This comes as the department has suffered ‘nearly 3,000 cyber-related incidents’ over the last four years, according to the report."



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