“A spy agency that on September 11, 2001, had been decried as bumbling and risk-averse had, under the watchful eye of four successive CIA directors, gone on a killing spree,” Mazzetti writes.
The CIA now has a drone base in Saudi Arabia, and both the Pentagon and the spy agency are running parallel drone wars in Yemen, each fighting for resources.
And the Pentagon continues its foray into human spying. As W. George Jameson, a lawyer who spent 33 years at the CIA, lamented: “Everything is backwards. You’ve got an intelligence agency fighting a war and a military organization trying to gather on-the-ground intelligence.”
Mazzetti observes that the CIA, playing catch-up through so much of the Arab Spring, has turned a perilous corner, where a new generation at Langley much prefers “the adrenaline rush of being at the front lines” hunting and killing to the more patient, tedious, “gentle” work of intelligence gathering and espionage.
Relying on foreign spies for counterterrorism information can blind you to what is really happening on the ground.
Ross Newland, a career clandestine officer, told Mazzetti that the allure of killing people by remote control is “catnip” and that the agency should have given up Predators and Reapers long ago. The death robots have turned the CIA into the villain in places like Pakistan, Newland said, where the agency’s mission is supposed to be nurturing relationships to gather intelligence.
Obama, who continued nearly every covert program handed down by former US president George W. Bush, clearly feels tough when he talks about targeted killings and considers drones an attractive option.
As Mazzetti says, “fundamental questions about who can be killed, where they can be killed and when they can be killed” still have not been answered or publicly discussed.
It almost isn’t sporting, is it?