Report Warned White House of Intelligence Blind Spots

Thursday, 21 Mar 2013 11:56 AM

By Cyrus Afzali

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President Barack Obama was warned late last year that the nation’s intelligence agencies were not adequately focused on potential threats from China, the Middle East, and other hot spots because too much focus had been placed on drone strikes and military operations.

According to the Washington Post
, a report presented to the president by his Intelligence Advisory Board said the decade-long Afghanistan war had led the CIA, National Security Agency, and other spy agencies to drift away from their original roles, creating possible blind spots in the nation's intelligence network.

The report called for a significant shift in intelligence resources for the first time since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was sent to senior national security officials in the Obama administration, who in recent weeks have echoed some of the same concerns publicly.

CIA Director John O. Brennan, Obama’s former top counterterrorism advisor, testified before Congress in February that he planned to evaluate the agency’s current missions, saying the CIA’s involvement in legal operations was an “aberration from its traditional role.”

Intelligence officials believe any adjustments will be more incremental rather than broad based because of both the continued al-Qaida threat, as well as the expanded influence of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

Brennan has also made it clear the CIA will maintain its armed drone fleet. He said the agency had a long tradition as a paramilitary organization and “must continue to provide the president with this option.”

However, there have been moves to change counterterrorism operations, including the implementation of tighter rules on the targeted killings of overseas terrorism suspects, the Post reported. The White House is also considering giving the Defense Department a greater role in the drone program and reducing the CIA’s involvement, although some officials caution that transition could take years.

Officials acknowledge that spy agencies are now facing increased demands as a result of political turmoil in the Arab world, a concern that China may engaging in cyber-espionage, and the rise of militant groups in North Africa. At the same time, most agencies are confronting decreasing or stagnant budgets following years of rapid spending increases.

But none of that has affected the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to keep abreast of key developments no matter where they occur, according to Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.. He told the Post that while the agencies face “a more varied and voluminous array of challenges,” the nation’s intelligence community continues to “successfully gather and analyze the intelligence that helps protect us from threats around the world.”

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