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Killers of Intel Reform Prefer Death of Troops

The Congressmen who killed intelligence reform along the lines recommended by the 9/11 commission apparently prefer the continued deaths of American troops to intelligence reform that would cost some of their patrons money or power. Congressmen Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner were the two mainly responsible, aided by Congressman Gingrey (R-GA), Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Myers.

They claim they killed the bill because it would not allow sufficient military control over tactical military intelligence that the Pentagon needs, as opposed to big picture strategic intelligence that the White House, the State Department, and the CIA need. But recent news articles strongly refute that position. One strong argument against killing the bill was given by Congressman Gingrey, who apparently thought it supported his position. He said on the PBS Newshour on November 24:

REP. PHIL GINGREY: Let me make it very personal. Tyler Brown, first lieutenant, killed in action. Georgia Tech graduate, president of the student body, 26 years old, was killed by a sniper three weeks after he arrived in Iraq from the DMZ. That young Marine, young soldier, Army first lieutenant, he needed information right away about where that sniper was, where that possible attack was coming from.

If we have to worry about that information going up the chain of command to an NID who is outside the Department of Defense, then we have some real concerns here.

Gingrey’s example is of a man whose life was lost because the present Pentagon system did not work, not of a man whose life was saved by the current system. It is an argument for improvement, not for the status quo. In addition, today’s New York Times says that in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other hot spots, the military increasingly relies on civilian, commercial satellite imagery, not military intelligence satellites. Ironically, the commercial imagery works well, but the difficulty is distributing it to the troops in the field, the very thing that is said to work so well by those who defeated the intelligence bill. The NYT article says:

The unclassified source of the photographs is also critical, because the commercial images can be shared not only with United States partners – troops from the Iraqi National Guard or aid groups – but also with United States Army soldiers who often do not have security clearance. An image from a government spy satellite can be declassified, but the process is time-consuming. Even Iraqi war prisoners were shown some commercial images last year in an effort to locate hidden weapons….

During the conflict in Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002, the Air Force used the United States mail to send cartons filled with CD’s to pilots. The Air Force Combat Support Office set up what it called the Pony Express, delivering the CD’s in person. Delays in creating and distributing the maps resulted in many missions being flown without up-to-date information, Air Force officials acknowledge.

Army officials cite similar difficulties. A brigade combat team in Iraq took 18 hours to move from Baquba to Najaf instead of the typical six hours, because maps had not been updated to reflect that a bridge had been knocked out, said Robert W. Burkhardt, director of the Army Corps office that is building the Urban Tactical Planner.

The existing problems with distribution of intelligence described in the NYT article are exactly those which the Republicans who killed the intel bill claimed do not exist but would be created by the intelligence czar in the bill.

A final example of how ignorant those Republicans are, and how uncaring for troops in the field, is an article in MIT’s Technology Review for November 2004. The cover article shows Lt. Col. Ernest “Rock” Marcone with the title, “How Tech Failed Him.” The article says:

Marcone says no sensors, no network, conveyed the far more dangerous reality, which confronted him at 3:00 a.m. April 3. He faced not one brigade but three: between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles. The Iraqi deployment was just the kind of conventional, massed force that’s easiest to detect. Yet “We got nothing until they slammed into us,” Marcone recalls.

Later the article says, “Once the invasion[of Iraq] began, breakdowns quickly became the norm…. In three cases, U.S. vehicles were actually attacked while they stopped to receive intelligence data on enemy positions. ‘A lot of guys said, “Enough of this shit,” and turned it off,’ says Perry, flicking his wrist as if clicking off a radio. ‘We can’t afford to wait for this.'”

This is the wonderful system that cannot be compromised in order to reform the intelligence community. I don’t know how the people who make those arguments — Hunter, Sensenbrenner, and Gingrey — can look at themselves in the mirror, knowing that they are putting the lives of American fighting men and women at higher risk than necessary every day in Iraq.

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