An Ever Less Intelligent Intelligence

One thing’s for sure: nobody wants to kill Barack Obama. If somebody wanted to assassinate the current U.S. president, resulting in the same end met by Lincoln and Kennedy, that person would have had a good 16 occasions to do so, without any obstacles. Sixteen, in fact, is the number of times that someone has managed to gain access to the White House, without permission, in 2013 alone. News of the latest case concerning Omar Gonzalez went worldwide. The man managed to enter not only the grounds, but the East Wing of the White House, uninterrupted. But this is not all. Two weeks ago, President Obama, while visiting Atlanta, shared an elevator with an ex-criminal armed with a pistol. And nobody noticed a thing.

After all these weak performances, Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service and the first woman to head the historic agency resigned. The Secret Service Agency was founded the day after the attack on Lincoln in 1865 and charged with conducting financial investigations and protecting the image of the president. Pierson was nominated by President Obama to reorganize the protection service in a period of budget and personnel cuts. Regardless of the recent lapses and other than the budget cuts, the Secret Service is still a respected body, with 6,300 highly trained agents and a $1.8 million budget. In other words, everything that is necessary to protect the president of the leading global superpower. A year prior to Pierson’s nomination, the Secret Service suffered a blow to its reputation when 11 of its agents were reported to have visited prostitutes in Colombia, a story uncovered by the news media and which caused an international scandal. During her tenure, Pierson managed to further worsen the reputation of an already-talked-about agency.

The Secret Service making a fool of itself is more than an isolated fact, unfortunately for the U.S. intelligence community. The fact that the president was directed into in an elevator with an armed criminal, is an indictment of the Secret Service agency’s scarce expertise in gathering information, its lack of respect for security protocols and the failure of the protocols themselves. The Secret Service, therefore, consoles itself. In only the last two years, we have helped create even worse fools in other intelligence agencies. The National Security Agency (NSA), to note a more striking example, has been so naïve as to allow a young technician working under a contract to gain possession of all the documents necessary to destroy the agency’s image. Edward Snowden had enough information in his hands to reveal to the entire world the techniques and programs that were used to intercept communication lines. And do we want to mention military intelligence? In Iraq, a theater of war, it was possible for Bradley Manning, a young official who was mentally unstable, to gain possession of hundreds of thousands of private and confidential documents, save them on a CD disguised as a Lady Gaga album and upload them to WikiLeaks, which promptly provided them on a gradual basis to all newspapers worldwide.

And do we want to talk about Obama himself? The intelligence community has admitted “underestimating” the Islamic State and the threat it posed in Iraq. But the big error was made by the president himself, according to the news that has been emerging in the last few days in the U.S. press. In fact, it has been at least eight months since the commander in chief received alarming reports from the CIA and from other intelligence agencies. However, the question was not confronted until August. In any case, until this summer, U.S. intelligence spoke about nearly 10,000 jihadi militants. Now it has been discovered that since June, the figure is more likely to be 30,000.

Yet another weak performance weighs upon the CIA and the military analysts: not knowing enough to predict and prevent Russia’s invasion of Crimea, at the end of last February.

With such a weak intelligence agency, how is anyone able to sleep peacefully?

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