U.S. intelligence suffers as Obama pursues second term
Bush Intelligence Operations Lead to bin Laden
Remember the feeling you had when you heard Osama bin Laden had been killed last year? People came into the streets chanting “USA, USA” as American pride swept across the country. Just a few hours after the news was revealed President Barack Obama appeared on television from the Oval Office to announce bin Laden’s death; it was, without a doubt, Obama’s greatest and perhaps only notable foreign policy moment.
Barack Obama’s foreign policy efforts list few successes and potential long-term damage. It started with Obama’s “Apology Tour” where he nation-hopped begging forgiveness for America’s digressions. Obama’s apologies to the world in just his first year are documented in the Heritage Foundation’s Top Ten Apologies; other than his ability to demean his own country, the president’s agenda has met with little success.
The famous “reset” of Russian relations did not result in a better relationship with the former superpower despite Obama’s unilateral withdrawal of an anti-ballistic missile system from Europe. Obama’s attempt to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program has been a dismal failure and Iran continues on a steady march towards confrontation with Israel. China’s rise to supersede the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower has not only continued, it has accelerated. We are rapidly losing our influence in Iraq and Afghanistan surrendering our achievements to governments more corrupt than our own. South American countries are slipping back into authoritarianism and Hugo Chavez consistently exhibits his disrespect for the U.S. and Obama.
Shortly after the intelligence community’s and Special Force’s success in locating and killing bin Laden Barack Obama made a point of arguing that the death of bin Laden was not something we should celebrate and insisted we should not “spike the ball.” Now as we move into the 2012 election season and with little to show for more than three years in office, Obama is on a Spike the Ball campaign tour.
The recent memoir by retired CIA officer Jose Rodriguez explains that the operation that killed bin Laden was made possible by an intelligence infrastructure that President Bush put into place and Obama has tried to dismantle. Information from the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda operatives identified the sole courier with direct access to bin Laden. Electronic surveillance eventually located him, which allowed the CIA to pinpoint bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan. Without the intelligence obtained years before Seal Team 6 would never have had a mission to perform and Obama’s decision to authorized the attack would never have occurred. Bin Laden’s death came as a dividend of the Bush administration’s investment in intelligence gathering, primarily the exploitation of information held by al Qaeda leaders.
While it may be true that Obama kept in place many operational capabilities built by the Bush administration, such as the Special Forces teams and drones that can strike with from half-way around the world, he has acted consistently to degrade intelligence operations that provide the targets for these operations.
Obama famously announced in his first year in office that he would shut down Guantanamo Bay and move terrorists to trial in downtown New York City rather than in special military courts; fortunately others within the government have stepped in to stop the transfer of terrorists to American soil.
Intelligence Suffers Under Obama
The U.S. no longer captures terrorists and has relied solely on stepped-up drone attacks to kill them. Dead terrorists might be celebrated by some but they yield zero intelligence on future plans or other terrorists. The Obama administration has not captured a single high-ranking al Qaeda leader since taking office. Obama ended all enhanced interrogations, the same actions that led the Bush Administration to capture or kill more than a dozen high-ranking al Qaeda members.
Many intelligence experts believe that the death of bin Laden in 2011 had little effect on al Qaeda, which was already deep into a transition into countries such as Sudan and Yemen. The drone campaign has forced the terrorist group to decentralize, but with intelligence operations hamstrung by Obama’s rules the U.S. is often dependent upon intelligence gathered by other nations to locate or track terrorist operations.
While Obama touts the death of bin Laden in his campaign he masks the facts that he has placed the U.S. in a dangerous position of having to survive off intelligence gathered during his predecessor’s administration and that gravy train won’t last forever. What will happen when a new terrorist attack of the stature of 9-1-1 is planned but the U.S. lacks the intelligence information to prevent it? Will Obama accept responsibility to the same degree that he’s willing to take credit?