Sunday, September 04, 2011

Drones . . .

Check out the mission symbols.

WIRED has an article by Spencer Ackerman, "How the CIA Became ‘One Hell of a Killing Machine’". It's an account of how the CIA got up to speed with its efforts to attack al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to Spencer, the CIA started from zero.

On April 14, 2004, CIA Director George Tenet looked so impotent he might have starred in a Viagra commercial. Tenet had come before the 9/11 Commission for what was sure to be a public flogging. In response, he alternately apologized for the agency’s failure to stop 9/11 and explained it away. Finally, the exhausted panelists posed him a bottom-line question: how long would it take Tenet to get the CIA in a position to counterattack al-Qaida?

“It’s going to take another five years,” Tenet confessed, ”to build the clandestine service the way the human intelligence capability of this country needs to be run.”

Seven years later, no one views the CIA as anything resembling impotent. The drone strikes it operates are the most important counterterrorism tool the Obama administration uses, battering a relatively small section of Pakistan so intensely that in 2010 they struck an average of once every three days. Osama bin Laden is dead as the result of a military operation the CIA commanded, highlighting the unprecedented coordination between CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In the words of the head of CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, its central nervous system for counterterrorism: “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.”

CIA’s fleet of 30 Predators and Reapers — the Post gives the total — get the most attention, and understandably so. But it’s easy to forget that the drones are a lagging indicator. Every intelligence operation, even the ones that go wrong and kill civilians, is the result of the CIA’s cultivation of a network of spies it didn’t possess back during Tenet’s testimony. Drone strikes need spotters; the CIA has them in a group of Pashtun informants who cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with news of militant activity.


thwap said...

Genuinely curious, what reaction do you want from posting this?

Like WTF???

Edstock said...

A thoughtful one. Look, a lot of people suffer from anti-American knee-jerk. They may have legitimate reasons, but knee-jerk doesn't get it done. Let's just ponder a few implications . . .

First, the account I posted is the first one I have encountered that mentions any details on how non-SOC targets get selected. These UAV's don't operate without intel sources.

Pashtun informers/agents? Just like the days of Harry Flashman and the Great Game. Are these Pashtuns and others working directly with US/UN/NATO, or are they working through Pakistani and/or Afghani intelligence services?

Do these tie in with other American interests in central Asia, especially the petro-stans? Just how big is the American intelligence effort in central Asia?

Second, like it or not, UAV's are here to stay. Start thinking about what kind you want the RCAF to have by 2020.

"None" is not an acceptable choice.

Should the ground-attack versions be Canadian Army-owned/controlled? Should Arctic surveillance UAV's be an R.C.N. responsibility?

Lots to think about. :)

thwap said...


Thanks for nothing then Edstock.

Edstock said...

Well, it's all about attitude.

Of course, you're aware that the CIA's greatest challenge has been "humint".

Does this effort with the Pashtuns indicate that the CIA is finally "getting up to speed" with humint?

If so, could this affect how things unfold around the world as the CIA's on-the-ground, in-country network of humint grows?

You may not like the Yanks, but try to keep up with developments. Know thy enemy: that means stifle the opprobrium so you can build up a realistic picture of the adversary. They are not all mindless myrmidons — and to the anger of "progressives" everywhere, Americans are really good at learning new tactics and techniques.

But if you're too busy generating attitude, things like this can be missed.

Mark, Ottawa said...

Edstock: Under current CF policy if it flies it's RCAF (cf. choppers on ships).


thwap said...

So what are you saying Edstock?

That we should have our own drones to attack the US adversary?

You make no sense.

Edstock said...

"You make no sense."

Thwap, you're entitled to your opinion.

You seem to have a phobia about the US: "That we should have our own drones to attack the US adversary?"

But the US is just one country we have to ponder about. We need UAV's to patrol our Arctic coast line, because our maritime patrol aircraft are old, and need to be replaced. UAV's might be a cheaper way to go, as the Russians and Europeans start looking at Arctic waters as the ice melts.

On a world scale, the UAV's show that the CIA humint seems to be in a resurgence. It seems that you don't know much about the CIA and its history, but the CIA has had a humint "deficit" since the early 60's and Col. Penskovskii. The fact that the Ugly Americans are getting humint to feed their UAV's suggests that the CIA may become one hell of a lot more effective.

Interesting times, dude, interesting times.

thwap said...


You called the USA "the adversary" and said we'd need drones of our own, for reasons unspecified.

You also appear to think that I hold the espionage and fighting power of the USA in contempt.

I do not.

In fact, i fear it.

OTOH, your discovery that they've found low-level informants "humint" in Pakistan, doesn't rock my world. They've got high level "humint" too. And an incredibly contradictory, often times self-defeating policy vis-a-vis Pakistan.