Late Show: CIA Analyst Nada Bakos with David Letterman – April 29, 2013
By Lily Rothman
Over the last year, we’ve seen a lot — both on TV and at the movies — about the process by which the CIAlocated and killed Osama bin Laden. But much that has been presented was speculative or contrived, as was the case with the Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty.
Now, with the May 1 HBO premiere of the documentary Manhunt, audiences will have a chance to take a closer look at the true story of the analysts and case officers who made it happen. (Or, rather, as much of the true story as they’re allowed to share.)
by Nada Bakos
In a Washington Post column published yesterday, “What the Iraq war taught me about Syria,” Jackson Diehl takes on the criticism of hawks like himself who have been pilloried for supporting intervention in Syria even though the U.S. intervention in Iraq, which they supported, turned out so poorly. But, he writes, Syria is not Iraq, so President Obama and others are being too cautious if they assume the United States cannot help the rebels without stepping into a 10-year-long quagmire. “The problem here,” he writes, “is not that advocates of the Iraq invasion have failed to learn its lessons. It is that opponents of that war, starting with Obama, have learned the wrong ones.”
It would be a plausible argument if Diehl had not clearly missed many of the most basic lessons of the Iraq War. For example, he writes that “in the absence of U.S. intervention, Syria is looking like it could produce a much worse humanitarian disaster and a far more serious strategic reverse for the United States.” It is certainly true that Syria is a humanitarian disaster on a regional scale, and that the lack of a clear strategy by the United States for the past two years has limited our ability to shape the nature and trajectory of the conflict today. But the phrase “in the absence of U.S. intervention” suggests a degree of American agency that Iraq showed we simply don’t possess. Read More here http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/02/humility_now.
Ten years ago this week, the U.S. invaded Iraq, citing intelligence that turned out to be bogus. I had to work on some of it — and I also had to work on keeping the really, really terrible versions of it out of our analysis.
Specifically, I was a CIA analyst working in the Counterterrorism Center in the overburdened days after 9/11. As analysts, we spend most of our time identifying burgeoning issues based on communications intercepts, reports from CIA case officers, imagery from satellites, accounts from other governments, and piecing together a story.
What we don’t do routinely is tie one catastrophe to another. But that was exactly what I was asked to do in November 2002, shortly after Congress voted to authorize war with Iraq. That war was predicated on Saddam Hussein’s (ultimately nonexistent) stockpiles of deadly weapons, but lurking in the background was the assertion that he’d pass them on to al-Qaida. At the CIA’s Iraq Branch in the Counterterrorism Center, we didn’t think Saddam had any substantial ties to al-Qaida. But soon we found ourselves fielding questions from determined Bush administration officials about whether Saddam was tied to 9/11.
read the rest on Wired
The discourse of US public opinion on terrorism changed on a single day. The ‘war on terror’ was defined by a war– not only on an identifiable group–but a war on an ideology. The main challenge for the future of US national security is conceptual: we have yet to move beyond the thinking that was formulated pre 9/11 in a meaningful way.
What we are talking about here is risk. How willing are we, as Americans, to tolerate the possibility of another terrorist attack. No amount of money, weapons or intelligence will create a perfect solution to protect the United States from all risk. How much are we willing to pay out of the national treasury to reduce the odds of an attack? How much of our rights and liberties are we willing to sacrifice? A straight-line extrapolation of our pre-9/11 thinking is not viable…and worse, it doesn’t really work. What does a national security strategy look like that starts with a blank sheet of paper? That is really the question.
The US is certainly exercising great liberties with counterterrorism strategies, or so it seems, in countries where al Qaeda affiliates are based. It is unclear to the public, at least, what arrangements are being made with countries containing those groups. But it is more complex than that: some of these states are complicit, yes, but others don’t even control their territorial boundaries.
A drone is a tool—a developing technology that is here to stay. What are the alternatives? Deploying forces? Enabling law enforcement? Better intelligence to support forces? These are all still tactics–we need to incorporate tactics into a bigger strategy. Drones will eventually be replaced by yet another technology platform, instead of policing specific technology platforms; we need to establish an overarching foundation on how we conduct counter-terrorism operations.
One can argue that drones may be our best of a bad set of options until we figure out how to address the larger issue of why this ideology continues to galvanize support. Its simplistic in nature to just say, “they hate the US and western powers”, because they are also killing Muslims. Terrorism has been around for millennia and likely isn’t going away any time soon.
(NYTimes) In the controversy over “Zero Dark Thirty’s” stance on torture, earlier questions have been pushed aside. But in Pacific Standard magazine, Nada Bakos, a former C.I.A. operative, investigates the accuracy of the Kathryn Bigelow film on other counts.
First, Ms. Bakos, a former targeting officer, just like Jessica Chastain’s character, Maya, in “Zero Dark Thirty,” notes that were it not for the assignment to write about it, she might not have seen the film. “People who work in intelligence don’t generally see movies about it,” she writes. “You can enjoy them only once you’ve been out of the game for a while, and then only if you don’t take it too seriously. I watch ‘Homeland.’ It’s fun, because it’s a fantasy.”
“Zero Dark Thirty,” on the other hand, is not fantasy, but, Ms. Bakos says, “it’s not accurate enough to resonate with my experiences.” She knew women like Maya, but objected to her portrayal as a lone gun, a Clint Eastwood-like cowboy.
“More often than not, effective intelligence — including the effort to find Osama bin Laden — is the result of sustained, collective efforts that spark moments of intuition among a pool of experts and processes, not individual hunches that compel monumental effort,” she writes. Yes, of course, it’s just a movie, but Ms. Bakos worries that the film gives the wrong perception of her field and her colleagues, including that they were unemotional or callous.
“Instead of treating the movie as a depiction of reality, I hope we treat it as a point of departure,” she writes. “We should be asking questions like, ‘What should our expectation be of our national security apparatus, especially in terms of how it conducts itself in a time of war?’ Or, ‘How might we re-imagine or rebuild our counterterrorism strategy so that it better balances individual rights and reasonable precautions moving forward?’”
“The reality of the profession,” she adds, “is long hours of menial work that don’t often fit into standard narratives. You make the best choices you can, about very serious matters, with imperfect information. You live with those choices for the rest of your life.”
(PSMag.com) When Pacific Standard called me to ask if I would write about Zero Dark Thirty, I still had not decided whether I wanted to see it. I was leaning toward no. People who work in intelligence don’t generally see movies about it. You can enjoy them only once you’ve been out of the game for a while, and then only if you don’t take it too seriously. I watch Homeland. It’s fun, because it’s a fantasy.
Zero Dark Thirty occupied an odd space. It’s not ridiculous enough to allow complete suspension of disbelief. I get that Hollywood needs to sell tickets, but it’s not accurate enough to resonate with my experiences as a CIA analyst and later, a targeting officer in the clandestine service.
The movie’s ‘Maya’ appears to be an amalgamation of women I knew and worked with, some of whom go back further in the story than I do. Gina Bennett, Jennifer Matthews, and Barbara Sude were part of the initial group working in the Counterterrorism Center as targeters and analysts before 9/11. After the attacks, I and other officers transferred from other departments. Many were just joining the agency, like Maya at the movie’s beginning.
I could relate to Maya as a mid-level officer, being asked to “backbench” at a briefing—you’re briefing the guy who has to brief the guy—while she knows it’s her analysis that brought everyone together in the room. Supervisors sell this as “top cover” for the lower-level officer, and there is some truth to that. It’s easier for established officers to take a hit over a bad decision than for a new officer, whose career could end on an early miscall. When I became a supervisor, I did the same thing, and dodged my share of clipboards.
But for all the similarities between my career and fictional Maya’s, the movie’s version of how counter-terrorism works didn’t resonate with me. And not just the parts involving torture that has become such a major point of contention around the film. The whole story the film tells, both in terms of the time scale and the type of human effort it depicts, is likely to create some important misconceptions for the public about how our national security system really works.
I get that this is a Hollywood movie. Hollywood will gravitate to a film that is digestible and, ultimately, profitable. And depicting the reality of national security is challenging: much of the information is secret, and a lot of it is just not dramatic. Reading hundreds of reports and crafting papers is just not that exciting. People applaud the team that’s on the court when the buzzer goes off.
But I was surprised at what I saw. We’ve got the go-it-alone gunslinger, Maya, whose past is murky and future is vague. She’s Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name,” re-imagined as a twenty-something woman. She gathers up a posse, heads out, and kills the bad guy. Then she leaves. Because she’s not actually Clint Eastwood, she cries a little. You expect to see someone chasing the C-130 shouting, “Shane, come back!”
In reality, cowboys don’t work as targeters. (But they do ride with a large posse that helps with more than the gunfights. This 10-year hunt involved hundreds of people with several people at the core.) More often than not, effective intelligence—including the effort to find Osama bin Laden—is the result of sustained, collective efforts that spark moments of intuition among a pool of experts and processes, not individual hunches that compel monumental effort.
Saying otherwise misrepresents not only how the hunt for bin Laden worked, but how the whole system works.
After 9/11, the actual process involved reconciling vast bodies of information. You’re talking about thousands upon thousands of megabytes to collate, analyze, parse, analyze again, and define gaps.
“It’s not connecting dots, it’s more like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Cindy Storer, an ex-CIA analyst, one of the group that goes back before 9/11. I talked to her by phone when the movie came out.
“Pieces fall from the sky and add to the pile the analyst already has,” she said. “There is no picture, no edge pieces. And not all of the pieces fit in the puzzle.”
So even if Maya existed, and was committed and had the right instincts, one person is just not able to assimilate enough of the information to crack the case.
The movie deals with this by showing Maya chasing a digestible amount of data, just one lead: a suspicious courier, whose nom de guerre she must match to his real name. Two data points. She cracks the case that way, and off go the helicopters.
The actual hunt for bin Laden turned on thousands of data points. According to a press article, a CIA analyst referred to publicly as “Rebecca” wrote a paper called Inroads, describing four pillars to finding bin Laden: his courier network; his family members; communications; and bin Laden’s outreach to media. “Couriers were tangential to all of the other information we were following, we had been focusing on the courier network for a long time, it was not new,” said the former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, Marty Martin.
That sounds like bickering on a technical point. But the movie’s version isn’t just a difference in scale, or some paring back from thousands of plot points for the sake of streamlining a script. Focusing on one lead, and one analyst, has the effect of turning the hunt for bin Laden, and our understanding of national security, into a Sherlock Holmes story.
The stark misconception that really stood out was the lack of humanity in the portrayal of one character, who appears based on the late Jennifer Matthews, a CIA officer killed in a suicide bombing in Khost, Afghanistan. The irreverence of the character and almost flippant attitude toward analysis was anathema to who Jennifer was. Jennifer was smart, intense, observant and persistent.
And yes there were men involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The movie also alludes to arguments over priorities for CTC—that there were, over time, things more important than finding bin Laden—but presents them as distractions for Maya. Bureaucratic roadblocks, not reasoned prioritizing of threats. Those who joined the ranks of the CIA, the intelligence community, and the military were intensely passionate about helping making sure that our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends, and our neighbors would not be the victims of an attack on U.S. soil again. “Besides the hunt, there were threats, and leads on other individuals,” Martin said. The movie is about one thing, the hunt for bin Laden. In reality, there was more going on.
In the film, none of the agency characters were empathetic or exhibited much human emotion at all. They were emotionally callous, cold, unwavering at the sight of brutal beatings and nonplussed by intense situations. Or they quickly became like that.
The group of intelligence officers I worked with was not a homogenous whole. We were diverse in heritage, schooling, religious and political beliefs, a typical cross-section of the American public. We were not emotionally callous. Once, in the course of my duties, I had to watch the tape of a beheading. The inhumanity of man always leaves a mark on those forced to witness it.
The torture scenes depicted in the movie were horrific and very difficult to watch.
Instead of treating the movie as a depiction of reality, I hope we treat it as a point of departure. We should be asking questions like, “What should our expectation be of our national security apparatus, especially in terms of how it conducts itself in a time of war?” Or, “How might we re-imagine or rebuild our counter-terrorism strategy so that it better balances individual rights and reasonable precautions moving forward?”
The filmmakers say, instead, they had more modest goals. They just wanted to depict the effort to locate bin Laden, and portray some of the professionals who did it.
The reality of the profession is long hours of menial work that don’t often fit into standard narratives. You make the best choices you can, about very serious matters, with imperfect information. You live with those choices for the rest of your life.
(CNN) – In the midst of the struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s government stands Jabhat al-Nusra, recently designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.
A new report by the Quilliam Foundation in London says the organization is the most effective arm of the Syrian insurgency and now fields about 5,000 fighters against the Assad regime.
Practically speaking, the terrorist designation means little that is new for the immediate struggle in Syria. Shortly after al-Nusra claimed credit for one of its early suicide bombings in January 2012, the Obama administration made known al-Nusra’s connection to al Qaeda in Iraq, a group with which I was intimately familiar in my capacity as an analyst and targeting officer at the Central Intelligence Agency.
The administration’s position was reinforced when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper one month later testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “…we believe al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.”
Al-Nusra is filling a power vacuum through charitable efforts to galvanize local support and generating influence among Syrians. In light of al-Nusra’s influence in Syria, the real question is not so much about the scope and scale of al-Nusra currently, but rather how should the United States respond to its rise, particularly after al-Assad’s eventual exit? ……continued on CNN.com
There is a spate of recent articles lamenting over the lack of influence the US appears to have in the realm of Foreign Policy and the US is facing the reality that military action does not lead to preeminent power over another country. The authors of the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends observed that, “A growing number of diverse and dissimilar state, subnational and nonstate actors will play important governance roles in an increasingly multipolar world.” The governance gaps and the role that nonstate actors might play in the face of local, regional, or national power vacuums gives US foreign policy an opportunity to influence and strengthen our position in regions the US finds challenging: sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East and North Africa.
Whether it is al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Africa, there are countless organizations looking to take advantage of weak central, regional, or local governments…or weaken them in ways that allow the violent non-state actors some degree of local control. Al-Qaida in Iraq took advantage of the power vacuum after the dissolution of the Iraqi Army following the US invasion in 2003. As a nonstate actor al-Qaida recognized they could influence a simmering tension between Sunnis and Shiites after the fall of Saddam. In short, Iraq became a failed state by virtue of US policy; as longtime Middle East watcher Anthony Cordesman said during an interview with PBS, de-Baathification “…created an almost hopeless problem, because it removed the secular core from the government of Iraq, and it crippled it economically.”
This quest for power is not limited to ideologically-driven organizations: the ongoing struggle for power between drug cartels and the government of Mexico and recent violence in the favelas of Brazil are emblematic of the same problem.
By supporting the right NGOs, and businesses the US can develop influence in areas otherwise unreachable by central government influence. Take, for example, the systematic method of building a counter-insurgency strategy around political, economic, and social programs using the military. Based on the rising influence of nonstate actors, a possible approach to counter insurgency would utilize nonstate actors who can identify the governance gaps and insurgent groups could exploit. This type of soft power currently resonates in the work of Joseph Nye and Robert DuBois who both advocate for smart power-the ability to combine the hard power of coercion or payment with the soft power of attraction into a successful strategy.
The question for policy-making bodies such as the Department of State and the National Security Council should be “How might we engage (to support or parry) these nascent and rising nonstate actors as they become more influential so that we can pursue our foreign policy objectives regardless of who controls a country?” For example, Muhammad Yunus identified the basic rights of society–food, shelter, health, education–and recognized governments are unable to reach everyone so why not empower the individual to help themselves? Yunus developed Grameen Bank to provide a financial service in the form of microcredit to the 2/3 of the worlds population that doesn’t have access to financial services.
In order for US Foreign Policy to assist nonstate actors, a significant shift is required from being a seed generator with US-imposed ideals to that of a convener that cultivates partnerships which align with local cultures to provide tangible support at a micro level. The nonstate actors are largely influential because they are part of the informal networks that humans have always fallen back on. We expect locals to replace – usually wholesale – whatever existing networks and power structures that exist with a secular democracy. Saddam’s Baath party was not only a political party, but also an extended network through which resources flowed. It’s about understanding how a jeffersonian democracy can work within and maybe help shape an existing complex dynamic network in ways that suit our national interests. Nonstate actors and their networks succeed in targeting weak regimes because they can offer solutions people care about in these places.
Carnegie Endowment’s study on ‘Revitalizing Democracy Assistance’ pointed out one of USAID’s biggest failings is that as an organization it ‘habitually seeks to exert substantial control over defining what the projects will do and how they will do it.’ The US as a coordinating body is to likely to have greater influence by increasing local ownership.
US imposed solutions, such as those applied in Iraq, are destined to fail and possible leave the US with less influence than before. Rather the US support to nonstate actors must be regionally and culturally aligned with US Foreign Policy and their abilities. The US also must understand why they are influential to avoid pitfalls of supporting a group that will later turn out to oppose to a US strategy in the long-run or become an adversary. For example, arming the Syrian rebels to take down President Assad’s regime would prevent a US military engagement, but at the same time the US runs the risk of inadvertently supplying arms to al-Qaida as the newly designated terrorist organization Jabbhat al-Nusra expands it’s influence among the rebels.
The big challenge for the US government is can we act less like a hegemon imposing solutions and picking winners, to thinking of ourselves as part of a complex network that can ultimately provide for better futures than the alternatives? Ultimately, this is a better part of global governance work, and both more sustainable and ultimately effective than kinetic-dominated strategies. Successfully navigating the the rise of nonstate actors requires a significant shift in our collective thinking and what success looks like there, and investing in soft power over the long term.
(Foreign Policy) The firestorm surrounding the story that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told on Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi has drawn wildly different reactions around Washington. Bad data? Innocent mistake? Political deception? From the president’s staunch defense of Rice to John McCain’s repeated attacks, different people see different things. But, as a former CIA analyst, I’ve taken a separate lesson from the episode: The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), created to facilitate interagency analysis and operations, has become a serious bureaucratic obstacle.
For a long time, the CIA ruled the intelligence cycle of collection, aggregation, analysis, and dissemination. But in 2004, the 9/11 Commission recommended the United States unify the intelligence community. Thus, the DNI was born. Today, according to its website, the DNI “serves as the head of the Intelligence Community, overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and acting as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security.” But, however noble and sensible the intent, the DNI has done very little to remedy the coordination issues — and Benghazi is a perfect example.
On September 16, Rice went on Meet the Press and stated, “Our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the [Innocence of Muslims] video.” Rice has since publicly stated that there was an error in the intelligence she was given — there was not a protest at the facility in Benghazi. But the initial set of talking points from the CIA is said to have indicated that the attackers had links to al Qaeda. So why did she not mention that? A U.S. intelligence official has said, “The information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources, and could not be corroborated at the unclassified level; the links were tenuous and therefore it made sense to be cautious before naming perpetrators.” So was Rice just being prudent? It’s possible, though her performance was clumsy at best.
I have no access to classified information from the CIA or DNI on Benghazi, but here’s what might have happened. On the eve of the attack, the analysts at the CIA are reading reports from regional embassies, watching news reports, and poring over cables from assets as the ridiculous anti-Islam YouTube video sparks protests across the region. As the attack in Benghazi ensues, they scramble to assess the situation and draft products for the various consumers — the most sensitive pieces go to select people at the White House, Pentagon, Office of the DNI, and National Security Council. If time allows, an alternative product is scrubbed of the most sensitive information for release across various parts of the U.S. government. In other words, the CIA may (or may not) have disseminated two different sets of talking points: one highly classified to protect sources and methods, and a second for broader dissemination.
Although the CIA’s role has changed in recent years, informing and warning the senior ranks of the U.S. government on tactical issues is supposed to be its purview, because over the course of decades, the agency has established processes to create, coordinate, and disseminate the right intelligence to the right audience. This is not to say that the CIA has always been correct in its assessments — the very nature of analysis, particularly on breaking events, all but guarantees some degree of error — but it has an established way of producing analytic products.
Alas, one of the responsibilities of the DNI is to “ensure the most accurate analysis of intelligence is derived from all sources to support national security needs” (my emphasis), and the intelligence community, for better or worse, is not a public affairs dynamo: it is made up of 16 agencies. It’s likely that the DNI passed the document to other intel agencies, which all added views from their own analysts, and created another set of talking points to be disseminated. These talking points could easily have emphasized the role of the video in Benghazi — not all analysts from differing agencies have access to the same information. In the case of the DNI, collective intelligence analysis can be just as flawed as independent analysis: a consensus view can reveal differences of opinion within the intelligence community, but it also can result in the loss of nuance or, worse, become a convenient excuse for adopting a safe position.
So a policymaker could end up receiving many different sets of talking points, not all of which necessarily say the same thing. See how confusing this could be to someone in Rice’s position? An amalgamation of analysis might be more tempered or more diluted than the analyses that contributed to it.
As a former CIA analyst and news consumer, I think we are looking at three distinct problems:
First, interagency coordination on breaking events is very difficult, if not impossible. The DNI, with its acquisition of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), has a remarkable ability to coerce intra-agency collaboration on cross-cutting strategic issues. The NIC serves as a bridge between the intelligence and policy communities, employing senior subject matter experts from academia, government, and the private sector. Rightly so, the National Intelligence Estimates are the definitive position of the intelligence community. The extensive, careful interagency coordination that goes into producing an NIE takes months and cannot be replicated at a tactical level in a fast-moving situation like Benghazi.
Second, intelligence analysis of specific events rarely lends itself to a good sound bite suitable for the 24-hour news cycle. If, for instance, Amb. Rice had repeated the caveat, “The information is still being refined, we don’t know exactly who the perpetrators are or why they attacked, but here is what we have so far” over and over, it probably would have been accurate. But it also would have been wildly unsatisfactory (or frustrating) to both political leaders and the American public. There are always varying degrees of certainty when it comes to intelligence analysis as new information arrives and is weighed against historical information.
Third, the CIA’s cultural inclination to stay out of the media fray is part of its genetic code and it cannot — will not — be the public interface. The CIA’s primary mission is to collect, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the president and senior U.S. policymakers in making national security decisions. Unlike the Israel Defense Forces, which has both a Twitter and a Pinterest account — although the NIC just started a Twitter account (@ODNI_NIC), which is a promising step in the right direction — the CIA is likely to remain frustratingly silent about its work, both good and bad. Intelligence will always be filtered through policymakers. I experienced this firsthand in the run-up to the Iraq war, watching various policymakers on Meet the Press answer questions based on a piece I had written earlier in the week. I cheered every time Tim Russert asked a pointed question, forcing them to be more specific and accurate — because the CIA will not go on record to correct a statement by a policymaker on a talk show.
In light of this, what should the DNI’s role be in the intelligence community, if not disseminating a coordinated intelligence product? The CEO of a company is typically the one planning strategy, interfacing with board members, stockholders, and consumers. A CEO doesn’t typically write the chief financial officer’s year-end summary or the marketing director’s strategy — instead, he views both products from 25,000 feet to ensure the company is on steady footing. The DNI should have a similar role: rather than replicating work, it should focus on reviewing the source material from the various agencies and collaborating to ensure all of the information has been reviewed. In the case of the Benghazi talking points, the intelligence community all had a role in editing the talking points once passed from the CIA. Other points of view make sense, but in the immediate aftermath of something like Benghazi, the arrival of new (and possibly conflicting information) is likely to confuse, not improve, the product. It is best to leave the dissemination, in the immediate aftermath, in the hands of the agency that owns the source of the information and is in the business of disseminating intel products — in this case the CIA.
The political churn around Benghazi masks the real issue: how best to strike a balance between informing U.S. policymakers in a timely manner and continuing to foster coordination (if not cooperation) between the members of the intelligence community. The DNI has a purpose, but it does not serve taxpayers to have another bureaucracy replicating work being done by those it oversees. Instead, it would be worthwhile — especially for those hard-working, well-qualified DNI employees — to reassess the office’s mission.
Following combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has experienced firsthand the challenge of rebuilding a nation’s economic and societal pillars of security. Without an international effort to stem sexualized violence as a weapon used by some during a conflict, the reconstruction phase is likely to be both more costly and time-consuming; effectively impeding the healing of the societal wounds and rifts that are essential to longer-term stability.
During a talk that I recently had with Gina Bennett, a CIA analyst and author of National Security Mom: Why ‘Going Soft’ Will Make America Strong, noted that “Sexualized violence against women instills constant fear, and manipulates decisions women will make for the family in the context of society. Their sense of security is defined by never wanting to experience such violence again.” Through fear, women remove themselves from becoming an integral part of their nation’s security.
Here is my interview with Women Under Siege…
Nada Bakos isn’t allowed to share most of what she learned in the CIA. But after nearly 10 years of working with classified intelligence, she can point squarely to one unfortunate lesson: Rape is used globally as a tool of war, and the United States tends to ignore it.
During her tenure at the agency, Bakos worked first as an analyst, then as an operative, focusing on “illicit networks” and counterterrorism. Though her role centered on Iraq, she was also privy to intel from Afghanistan. She says that the data she assessed gave her direct insight into what was happening abroad, and her reports to higher-ups helped shape foreign policy. Moreover, the information she was exposed to made her realize that the U.S. wasn’t taking preventative measures against gender-based violence in its own conflicts. Read More..
HuffPost – The recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi likely represents a subtle but meaningful shift in the extremist threat to American interests: the catastrophic attacks on American soil at the start of this century are likely to be much less common than the attacks abroad that we witnessed in the 1990s. A consequence of this shift should be a reconsideration of not just our counter-terrorism strategy, but a re-examination of the risk response calculus that we, as a country, are willing to accept in the course of our pursuit, promotion, and protection of interests abroad.
Ansar al-Sharia, the lead suspect for the attack on the U.S. Consulate, might share a similar ideology with al Qaeda (i.e., establishing Sharia law), but it differs from al Qaeda in that it –
– like many other small, loosely formed militias that can be found in other areas of the world — doesn’t appear to be focused on achieving a strategic objective outside of the areas they inhabit or want to inhabit. Instead, they are effectively looking to fill a vacuum left by an absent or ineffective government, outside of al Qaeda’s immediate reach, or trying to carve out a space that they can lay claim to (like the Taliban did in Afghanistan in the early 1990s).
In the case of al Qaeda, we were confronted with a large, well-funded, strategic, and periodically effective network that sought to challenge and confront the United States and its allies on several fronts, not the least of which was a battle for hearts and minds throughout the Muslim world. Groups like Ansar al-Sharia, as they are currently understood, are not operating on the same level. Yes, the international press and online fora such as YouTube allow even small groups a degree of notoriety and fame, but — regardless of public perception — the real risk assessment revolves around the motivations, ambitions, and capabilities of the group.
That said, watching for the evolution and alignment of these small, like-minded groups is important, but it is a problem that we, as a nation, understand. It was from relatively small-scale attacks against “soft” diplomatic targets in Iraq that Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi first made a name for himself and his loosely knitted network in jihadist circles. After joining al Qaeda in 2004, Zarqawi leveraged funding, personnel and the brand to galvanize support for his operations. Still, Zarqawi remained focused on engaging U.S. forces inside of Iraq, which at times did not align with al Qaeda’s central leadership strategy of executing attacks on U.S. soil. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been rumored to have a possible role in the Benghazi attack. Even if AQIM played a role in the attack, the intelligence collection challenge remains in targeting small, loosely affiliated groups that act as the executioners with localized agendas.
The Haqqani network in Pakistan — which has links to al Qaeda and the Taliban — is another example of an organization whose members live among the community, operate businesses and focus on a localized agenda. According the Combating Terrorism Center’s report, the Haqqani network functions autonomously, shares the same ideology as al Qaeda, while concentrating on maintaining local control of territory. In fact, the Haqqani network shares a connection with a wide-range of actors in order to enhance their tactical operations.
The question for the United States is: how much of our resources, both money and personnel, do we devote to this problem? There is an assumed amount of risk encompassed in diplomatic and intelligence work. Not every militia or loosely affiliated network is a threat to the U.S. national interests and they certainly are not on par with the threat that al Qaeda represented during the last decade. If it’s a local threat, the host government should have more responsibility for and influence over the issue than the U.S. We are not and cannot be the world’s police force. There are legitimate questions around what types of support and how much support we provide to host governments, but that should be determined by a cold calculation of the potential of the threat.
A meaningful variable in the risk assessment is how much can we expect from local governments, especially those fresh from the throes of the Arab Spring? Nascent governments that have not yet achieved a degree of equilibrium or established functioning institutions are likely going to struggle to understand — let alone support and police — their own population. For example, the United States struggles to find fugitives on it’s own ‘Most Wanted’ list despite having large and often connected human- and computer- law enforcement networks; how can we expect these new governments to have everything wired from the beginning? Libyans are likely to feel some degree of shame and are likely to fear retaliation from the United States, possibly causing them to look for plausible explanations — e.g., deflect blame by exclaiming there were warnings of deteriorating security, blaming foreigners for the attack — rather than simply explaining that the security situation in Libya, let alone Benghazi, has been in varying degrees of disarray for the past year.
Going forward, the U.S. needs to embrace a new calculus for assessing and responding to these loosely affiliated networks and militias, and watch to make sure that they do not coalesce into a successor to the threat posed by al Qaeda at its zenith. The tactics used in Benghazi resemble those used by al Qaeda, but, smaller in scope and scale, and mainly threaten our to our interests and assets overseas. Our diplomatic presence in other countries has always served us well when it’s open and engaging, but, like any other deployment of U.S. national power, incurs a certain degree of necessary risk. Withdrawing from the world is every bit as implausible as treating every militia as if it is al Qaeda.
Last week Glenn Greenwald and Daniel Trombly went through the academic exercise of trying to define what a ‘terrorism expert’ is or isn’t. Greenwald took the stance as titled in his article, ‘The sham “terrorism expert” industry’ that the expertise, false in nature, is built on financing the big machine that makes money off of scare tactics. Essentially terrorism, as defined by Greenwald, does not exist, it’s largely the effect of miscalculated US foreign policy. Regardless of the chain of events that lead to such atrocities, the acts of terrorism and their victims unfortunately cannot be mistaken. Casting blanket blame on those who try to make sense of despicable acts perpetrated by various groups disparages the hard and serious work of people trying to define a very complex issue with ideological, political, economic, sociological, and military facets. Most people who work in the field of counterterrorism are not responsible for the entire fiscal budget built around protecting the United States from terrorism. However, I do agree with Greenwald in that the threat of terrorist activity is all too often used as a convenient bogeyman used to justify unjustifiable things. As a country, we have over-reacted to the threat of terrorism and continue to fund a massive industry to protect us from that amorphous threat. Greenwald writes:
Many of the benefits from keeping Terrorism fear levels high are obvious. Private corporations suck up massive amounts of Homeland Security cash as long as that fear persists, while government officials in the National Security and Surveillance State can claim unlimited powers, and operate with unlimited secrecy and no accountability. In sum, the private and public entities that shape government policy and drive political discourse profit far too much in numerous ways to allow rational considerations of the Terror threat.
At some point the United States will have to understand that, just like the rest of the world, we can be vulnerable to the acts of individuals and groups that adhere to extremist ideologies even inside the United States. We can’t build a bubble that will protect us from everything; and those that would promise us such a bubble are incapable of delivering it, particularly when each promise comes at the expense of the rights and liberties on which the United States was founded. This is a refrain that security experts like Bruce Schneier often make, but often gets drown out by the very bureaucracies and industries that stand to profit from the impossible promise of absolute security.
That being said, part and parcel of this ‘terrorism expert’ industry. Greenwald expresses his concern over this group by writing:
But there’s a very similar and at least equally important (though far less discussed) constituency deeply vested in the perpetuation of this fear. It’s the sham industry Walt refers to, with appropriate scare quotes, as “terrorism experts,” who have built their careers on fear-mongering over Islamic Terrorism and can stay relevant only if that threat does.
Based on my experience as a counter-terrorism analyst and the Chief Targeting Officer hunting Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi at the CIA, I think that Daniel Trombly, who authored a rebuttal (‘What’s Glenn Greenwald’s Problem?’) to Greenwald, makes an excellent point worth acknowledging and considering:
…terrorism is a problematic subject of inquiry, but it is still a subject of inquiry (many so-called terrorism experts in fact identify themselves as, say, political scientists or historians that specialize in terrorism, rather than disciples of “terrorism studies” per se), and those who study it extensively may offer insights others do not grasp.
Terrorism is both a strategy and a tactic. Serious practitioners who are described as “terrorism experts” tend to see themselves as much in the same way that an economist might think of him or herself. Someone who understands general market forces and economic principles in one domain would be hard pressed to assert the same degree of expertise in another: an expert in Chinese macro-economic policy likely would be loath to speak authoritatively on market forces affecting soybean production in Argentina’s agricultural sector.
Significantly, true expertise in domains such as terrorism requires “time on target” (the amount of time needed to be conversational with the issue and the information that informs the collective understanding of the issue; it is worth noting that people such as Malcom Gladwell assert that this comes at about the 10,000 hour mark…or about five years of full-time work) and, in the case of “hard targets” such as terrorism, access to some information that simply does not exist in open sources. This is not to say that good analysis cannot happen using open sources, but rather that the scope and depth of that analysis is likely to be limited to one degree or another. Classified intelligence provides an insight into these underground groups, including all illicit networks, that open source and academic information does not contain.
Despite my experience, I would not define myself as a ‘terrorism expert’. The skills that I developed as an analyst and targeter are extensible to other domains: lately I have become interested in helping stem the flow of human trafficking in the US. I don’t have the subject matter expertise of groups like Shared Hope or the FAIR Girls effort, but I know enough about weighing data, developing and following leads, framing out networks and depicting the relationships between nodes, and telling compelling narratives that I think I can make a small but useful contribution to the ongoing fight.
by Suzanne Kelly CNN National Security Correspondent
Nada Bakos used to go work with a Glock strapped to her thigh. The former targeting officer for the CIA started her intelligence career as an analyst in 2000. But then September 11 happened.
“Everybody’s life changed,” said Nada Bakos, who, like many other women who were serving as analysts prior to 9/11, moved to the counterterrorism and eventually made the switch to the operations side, which meant she wasn’t just analyzing the data on the bad guys, she was going after them.
She didn’t yet have a family when she accepted her assignment as a targeting officer in Iraq, working alongside special forces in the hunt for the now-deceased terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. She won’t share the details of exactly what she did to help find him, but she saw definite advantages to being a woman in the arena, noting that she sometimes had a very different experience than her male counterparts when it came to working within the norms of the culture.
“I got a completely different response than the men did,” said Bakos, describing one particular effort to gather information. “How is a 26-year-old white male gonna walk up to a woman in the Middle East and say ‘Hey, why don’t you talk to me?’ “
After a couple of years, Bakos realized that she knew more about Zarqawi than she did about many of the other men in her life. That, in part, was a wake up call to do something more: She wanted to start a family. But she was deep into her career on the operations side. That was a problem.”The difference between men and women is that it’s really hard for women to live the lifestyle of a case officer,” said Bakos. “If you have a significant other, it’s hard for you both to be employed. I was 37 then and I can’t really say, ‘Hey, let’s interrupt your career and you can carve out what you need.”
At least 160 other women feel her pain. Women from the CIA, the National Security Agency, Naval Office of Intelligence and dozens of other agencies met last week in a hotel conference room in McLean, Virginia, to try and find a better way.
The “women in national security” conference was sponsored by Working Mother Media. Carol Evans, president of that group, noted the unique environment in which these women compete.
“These women work in a very unusual industry,” said Evans. “National Security is still a very heavily male industry and many of these women as they will say throughout the day, are oftentimes the first in their field to be a woman – the only person in the room who’s a woman. So when we bring women together in an industry like this, they just feed off of each other, they catch each other’s energy, and they build relationships.”
And relationship-building while navigating a career in intelligence and national security is key, according to Letitia Long, the only female director of any of the 16 intelligence agencies that make up the intelligence community in this country.
Long, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency spoke at the conference. She insists that work-life balance is something she has to work at every day.
“I’m passionate about what I do, so I often want to stay to do that last e-mail or sign that last memo, or ensure that I’m prepared for the next day. But we do have to remind ourselves that if we are going to be at the top of our game, if we are going to be rested and ready to lead, we have to take that step away and ensure we are keeping that work life balance,” Long said in an interview with Security Clearance. “These are some of the stressful, some of the most stressful positions that are in the work force and if we are able to balance this, then perhaps there are some secrets that we can share with others so that they can balance also.”
Long said that part of the stress is dealing with a culture at the agencies that needs to change.
At the agency Long heads, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, women make up about 31% of the workforce, and the attrition rate is slightly higher than that of men. As director of the Agency, Long feels that balance has to change if the country is going to build a stronger, more diverse, national security workforce.
“I do notice that women bring a different perspective when we’re talking about the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and our core mission, of GEOINT, as men and women are looking at imagery, they see things differently,” said Long. “We all are a product of our background and our upbringing and women will just tend to notice different things in an image than men will. Or if we’re looking at pattern of activity, they might notice something that a man might not and vice versa. A man will notice something that a woman will not, because they don’t see it as important or they don’t see it as relevant, yet something that’s not relevant today, might be relevant tomorrow.”
The Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, David Shedd, agrees. With women making up close to 35% of his employees, he sees the distintive advantages of finding a workforce more in balance when it comes to women.
“Women as a rule tend to have stronger intuitive skills and in the world of intelligence, where you are often dealing with less than perfect information, that intuitive nature is important,” said Shedd. “Men tend to be more fact-based.”
Shedd also offered advice to the women attending the conference. When a woman from the NSA stood up and told him that she personally struggles with how effective she is at her job because when she makes an unpopular decision, instead of being seen as a strong leader, she is referred to as a word that rhymes with ‘witch,’ he agreed that some misperceptions still exist.
“As a man, I can tell you when no women are around, men still say that type of woman, you used the ‘witch’ word, but the man, he’s just strong-willed and strong-minded,” said Shedd. “I am very familiar with that. Changing the culture is critical.”
Shedd advocates for women in intel to build a strong team of mentors and then to call on them often and to set clear goals, not being afraid to show their ambition in finding what comes next in their careers.
Bakos, the former spy mom with the Glock, is on that path now. She retired from the Agency, has two kids, and is looking for consulting work.
She still feels like she has much to offer. “I think there has to be a better way,” said Bakos, who advocates for changing the culture within the intelligence community, to help allow women to live both lives.
(Featured on SOFREP.com)
The Central Intelligence Agency is, by the very nature of its mission, an opaque and intentionally misunderstood organization. To an outsider, of which I am now one, the Agency’s silence is both perplexing and infuriating. As a former officer, I can tell you that its by design, and CIA employees labor silently, and often thanklessly, largely on behalf of the President of the United States and his senior staff. As a result of it, few will ever know the critical role that women, especially, have played in America’s CIA-led response to the attacks in 2001. There are 87 stars on the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters, each representing an officer who has fallen in the line of duty. To see the Memorial Wall is a sobering event; to see a new star being carved into the Wall is both moving and painful. Some of these stars represent women who have sacrificed their life for a mission equally alongside men doing the same jobs.
My career began as an analyst in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September and later transitioned to the National Clandestine Service, where the spies work. As an analyst, I had the rare opportunity to work with some unbelievably smart and perceptive people, men and women who can discern pertinent pieces of information in volumes of data and make sense of them in a clear and concise manner, working at speeds and under pressures that few others likely experience. Given the realities of intelligence collection, analysis is (and likely will continue to be) far more an art than a science. As my career transitioned from an analyst to a Targeting Officer following Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, my career path was full of unanticipated and unimaginable possibilities.
The women I met along the way were exactly as Peter Bergen described in his new book, Manhunt, “They seem to have an exceptional knack for detail, for seeing patterns and understanding relationships“. There were a handful of us in the Targeting position at the time, there was no formal training, but there was a methodology inherent in our work that we shared amongst ourselves. In my experience, the leadership of women in Targeting roles cultivated patience, attention to detail and a willingness to wait for a pay off. The pace is grueling and can take a toll mentally and physically. The tidbits of information aren’t the highly classified results, it’s the analysis and the work that goes into translating the meaning of that disparate information.
As a manager in the Targeting organization, our action arm was quite often the Special Forces teams and the CIA’s targeting teams were set up to meet their unique requirements for ‘high value, actionable’ intelligence. Our targeting work focused on compiling “intelligence” collected holistically to create “targeting packages” against specific individuals and organizations vs whack-a-mole targeting. That is in no way meant to degrade the military personnel that were charged with carrying it out, but it was a strategy destined for failure. Unlike previous wars, traditional tactical battlefield intelligence wasn’t always actionable, intel had to be rooted out from multiple sources and pieced together. In fact, without understanding the over-arching picture of Zarqawi’s group, traditional military targeting would fall short by misunderstanding the role of an individual within the group.
One thread of intelligence can be miles long before it becomes clear whether or not it can be useful for the big picture. When I read about claims of responsibility for tracking any terrorist, I cringe. I know from my own experience, it took years of analysis, human intelligence, technical collection, and working with foreign intelligence services to paint the picture of Zarqawi and his inner circle. Rarely does intelligence come to light after one conversation, one piece of technical collection or one interrogation. Crumbs are dropped throughout the intelligence collection process and Targeting Officers, who understand the modus operandi of the group, piece them together.
Having been out of the game for three years, I still wake up every morning a news junkie, looking for little nuggets of information that might be a precursor to something bigger. During my tenure, I watched ‘Meet the Press’ religiously every Sunday, perception was reality before the Iraq war for the public and Administration. I would sit in front of the TV and yell at guests when they were spinning the intelligence to their flavor and applauding Tim Russert when he caught them. It was my version of sports. The myriad of hours intensely focused on one issue makes for a slightly manic lifestyle. When I wasn’t physically in the office, I was checking the news, waiting for my cell phone to ring asking me to come in because Zarqawi’s group had yet again set off another car bomb. It’s hard to not take your work home when you feel responsible for him still not being caught and killing innocent people. It takes a long time to step back from that level of intensity even after leaving the Agency. I miss my job at the Agency, regardless of the factors that made me leave. My identity has been shaped by this job, not because I can say I worked at the CIA, but because I understand the fragility and strength of our National Security process.
Iran and nuclear are the new buzzwords, in fact, according to Google Trends, this month alone they have been googled as often as ‘Kardashian’. It’s a serious issue, the Obama Administration is facing a defiant, isolated regime that has proved to be dangerous, including ridiculous schemes like taunting the US with toy drones. So we now have a glut of articles espousing why or why we should not attack Iran. There is a disturbing trend in a few of the arguments–they are devoid of historical precedence created by invading Iraq. In fact, it’s like it never happened. For example, The Case for Regime Change in Iran by Jamie Fly and Gary Schmitt is a response to Matthew Kroenig’s article, Time to Attack Iran, that also supports striking Iran, but in a get-in, get-out strategy. Fly and Schmitt argue that the best approach is military action with a full strategy of destabilizing or taking out the Regime. I am not picking on these particular authors per se, but these are recent examples of strategies that do not use the lessons learned from Iraq. And it’s not 2002.
Having been privy to the pre-war planning in the run-up to the Iraq war, I can say first-hand that destabilizing a regime is not as simple as shock and awe. Unfortunately, we are not experts at nation building or regime change, that shouldn’t be a surprise to these authors. So this simplistic statement defies logic:
If the United States seriously considers military action, it would be better to plan
an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the
regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all.
Ask anyone that works in an Intelligence organization if they are confident regime change in Iraq has led to an end of the pursuit of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ by Iraq, forever. The fact remains that the US government did not plan for the reconstruction period and devise a strategy for nation building. Next, Fly and Schmitt do not mention nation building after the regime falls, but instead predict a welcoming crowd of happy Iranians:
It is sometimes said that a strike would lead the population to rally around the
regime. In fact, given the unpopularity of the government, it seems more likely
that the population would see the regime’s inability to forestall the attacks as
evidence that the emperor has no clothes and is leading the country into
needlessly desperate straits. If anything, Iranian nationalism and pride would
stoke even more anger at the current regime.
I think we have been down this road before, predicting we would be embraced with warm hugs and cookies. The logic of the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ does not hold up. On the contrary, the authors are advocating a full-on strike, including the urban neighborhoods, and they expect that the Iranian people would be ‘ok’ with it. It’s far more likely the Iranian nationalism would evolve into hatred toward the US after killing many innocent civilians.
And here is a question that answers itself:
Whether a limited military strike or regime destabilization operation, Iran’s leaders
would almost certainly believe they would have to respond forcefully to such a
challenge to maintain their credibility in the region, employing missiles, proxies,
and their own terrorist operatives…… Given the likely fallout from even a limited
military strike, the question the United States should ask itself is, Why not take
the next step? After all, Iran’s nuclear program is a symptom of a larger illness –
the revolutionary fundamentalist regime in Tehran.
Now the whole point is regime change and not stopping the threat of Nuclear weapons? I would ask the authors, have you been reading or watching TV for the last 9 years? We aren’t in the business of regime change, we suck at it. Will it be necessary to stop Iran if we have intelligence that indicates they have nuclear weapons and are a threat to the United States? Of course, but to completely ignore the phase after the military strikes of nation building is, at best, naive. It’s like having a conversation about scuba diving, but not acknowledging that you need an oxygen tank. This discussion needs to evolve and mature in order for Political leaders to understand, we get it, we don’t want to make the same mistake again. Invading Iraq will look like making cupcakes compared to dealing with Hizballah and Iranian organizations around the world. We had best get our ducks in a row before we wax poetic about yet another military strike.
This week (July 2011) Secretary of Defense Panetta was quoted in the Washington post,
“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked,” he told troops at Camp Victory, the largest U.S. military outpost in Baghdad. “And 3,000 Americans — 3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings — got killed because of al-Qaeda. And we’ve been fighting as a result of that.” [sic]
I don’t think Mr. Panetta is unreasonable in his statement, after 9/11 incredibly reasonable people were caught up in an angry stupor by the shock of the tragedy. However, Mr. Panetta made the unfortunate blunder of echoing the remarks from 2002, that al-Qaeda was somehow connected to Iraq.
We all have fatigue over the argument of why we invaded Iraq, me included. As an analyst at the CIA, I was on the team charged with analyzing and writing the intelligence to determine if there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda and 9/11. The 9/11 Commission report that extolled our long hours and determination to get it right, agreed that Iraq did not collaborate with al Qaeda to attack the United States.
What bothers me the most about the article, is this:
Pressed by reporters to elaborate, Panetta said: “I wasn’t saying, you know, the invasion — or going into the issues or the justification of that. It was more the fact that we really had to deal with al-Qaeda here; they developed a presence here and that tied in.” [sic]
But in fact, al-Qaeda did not have a presence in Iraq in 2001. There were Islamic extremists sympathetic with al-Qaeda’s agenda, but that is a far cry from being part of central al-Qaeda who attacked the World Trade Center towers. The argument has been hashed over many times, should it matter that he had this gaffe? Yes, it does, for all of us. Not because Mr. Panetta said it, but because we all need to understand the nuances of information and intelligence before our government makes foreign policy decisions that will have a drastic impact, in this case, subjecting our nation to war. Facts matter and seem to have a short shelf life, spin appears to be infinite.
We have every right, as a country, to be hurt, angry and defensive when attacked like we were on 9/11. But losing sight of who attacked us and how they could do it again is frankly, inexcusable. Blame is shared among us, from politicians, to media, to the public for not sorting out the facts from fiction post-invastion. Yet many chose to believe that we were going after the enemy by entering Iraq, taking our eye off the ball. Painting revenge with such a broad brush is dangerous and counterproductive. Being bogged down in two wars with the nearly impossible task of reconstruction is more than unfortunate, it’s costing lives. We also helped a fairly unknown punk turn into one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
Mr. Panetta is a smart man, he understands the nuances of intelligence and why facts are important. What concerns me the most, is that to this day, we don’t seem to get the story straight on why we invaded Iraq, and it matters, it really does matter.