It’s the classic intelligence agency dilemma. The President and the Congress want the CIA to do everything it can to disrupt and destroy Al Qaeda and its affiliates. The pressure to perform is enormous. The CIA works with national intelligence agencies across the Middle East to get the job done. It devotes virtually all of its available resources to the task. Working with national government agencies throughout the region, the agency takes its eye off of what is happening in those countries.
As a result, the CIA misses the roiling popular uprising brewing across North Africa and in the Middle East. And everyone asks: How could it have missed such an important development? How did we not know?
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius observes:
Here’s the bottom line: The CIA is caught in a jam that’s emblematic of America’s larger problem in the Middle East. The agency has been so focused on stopping al-Qaeda that it has been distracted from other questions. America depends on good intelligence as never before, and the simple truth is that the CIA has to lift its game.
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