[IWAR] CIA intel, conflict, war

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Sat Dec 27 1997 - 09:41:35 PST

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    [Listmembers might also wish to check the jya.com site out, as they
    have posted a copy of the CIA intel analysis process there. --MW]
                    CIA seeks to provide warnings of global conflicts
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       WASHINGTON (December 27, 1997 11:36 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) --
       The warning came Dec. 19, 1979 in a top secret alert: the Soviet Union
       was preparing for "multibattalion combat operations" in Afghanistan.
       CIA satellites had spied convoys of fuel trucks along narrow roads
       leading to the Afghan border. But the spy agency said the Soviet force
       appeared limited in scale and that an incursion might not be imminent.
       Nine days later, the Soviets attacked, abruptly ending efforts at
       reaching U.S.-Soviet detente.
       The ability to provide "strategic warning" -- more than minutes or hours
       before an attack -- was a major preoccupation of the CIA during the Cold
       War, according to newly declassified intelligence documents.
       It remains one today, with new threats arising in such flash points as
       the Persian Gulf, Somalia and Bosnia.
       "This has been an issue that has been worked extensively by the
       intelligence community to try and help the policymaker focus on a
       problem," said former CIA Director Robert Gates. "It's to say, 'You'd
       better pay attention to this one because there's a chance it might blow
       up in your face."'
       The Associated Press examined the formerly top secret "National
       Intelligence Estimates" dating from the 1940s to the 1980s.
       Through much of the Cold War, the CIA presented a coldly realistic
       picture of its ability to predict aggression. Despite aerial
       reconnaissance, moles behind the Iron Curtain and a host of other
       assets, the message was that war might come without warning, and that
       any warning at all would likely be uncertain and hedged.
       "The chances of providing warning of an ICBM attack designed to achieve
       maximum surprise would be virtually nil," the CIA wrote in a 1966
       estimate. "Intelligence could almost certainly give no firm warning of
       an intention to attack. Intelligence is not likely to give warning of
       probable Soviet intent to attack until a few hours before the attack, if
       at all."
       A source high in the Soviet government might help, if only the CIA had
       one, the intelligence agency said five years earlier. Such an
       intelligence coup was judged to be highly unlikely.
       Though the technology of spying has improved markedly since then, the
       number of potential enemies has increased.
       In 1990 in the Persian Gulf, U.S. spy satellites saw Iraqi forces
       massing on the Kuwaiti border, but policymakers discounted the
       possibility of invasion after Arab allies said Saddam Hussein was
       Intelligence officials say it is particularly difficult to predict a
       missile attack -- whether by Soviet ICBM or Iraqi Scud.
       "My warning was going to be physical evidence derived from infrared
       satellites and ground-based radars of actual ICBM launches," said
       retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Horner, who headed the NORAD North American
       defense command in the early 1990s.
       In an August 1978 top secret report, CIA analysts said their ability to
       predict a Soviet chemical attack on Western Europe also was low. Easier
       to foresee, the agency said, would be a conventional Soviet invasion
       because of the preparations that would have to be undertaken.
       Depending on the size of the Soviet force, the CIA said in November 1978
       that it had high "confidence" it would detect war preparations almost
       immediately and could provide three to 12 days advance warning.
       Even so, the warning would be uncertain: "We are unlikely to be able to
       ... foretell when the enemy will attack, where he will attack, or
       whether he will attack at all."
       Complicating this was the CIA's conclusion that the most likely war
       scenario involved an East-West crisis escalating to the point of
       The CIA said it would have a hard time differentiating whether the
       preparations were defensive or offensive in nature. It was a recurring
       problem; the CIA cited the same concerns in 1954.
       "Soviet behavior in a period of heightened political tension would not
       necessarily give specific warning of a Soviet intention to attack," the
       agency said at the time.
       These reports point to what intelligence experts view as the universal
       challenge of strategic warning.
       The best warnings require not just data but an insight into the mind of
       an enemy, an elusive goal in the case of "rogue" adversaries such as
       "The warning process is plagued with uncertainty from beginning to end,"
       former warning intelligence expert Cynthia Grabo wrote in a monograph.
       The CIA was created after the U.S. government failed to act on
       indicators pointing to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Other
       attacks that were not detected in advance or, if detected, were not
       considered likely by policymakers include the North Korean invasion of
       South Korea, Chinese intervention in Korea, the Soviet invasion of
       Czechoslovakia, the Tet offensive and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
       Within the CIA, Afghanistan emerged as a key episode because it provided
       a rare instance in which the intelligence community could grade its own
       powers of prediction.
       Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, who headed the CIA at the time, rated
       the CIA's performance as "sterling."
       "With our photographic satellite capability, nobody's going to line up
       110,000 people to invade a country without our knowing it," Turner said.
       The CIA itself, while saying it may have been too cautious in predicting
       the size of the Soviet invasion, concluded that "no key policymaker
       should have been surprised."
       Reporting on Afghanistan might have been better, the agency said, had
       not the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis in the fall of 1979
       intervened. That episode caught the CIA and the Carter administration by
       complete surprise.
       Just over a decade later, U.S. spy satellites showed a force of more
       than 100,000 massing near a border -- this time, the border of Kuwait.
       But most top administration advisers considered the move a bluff and
       doubted, up to the last minute, that Iraq would invade.
       The CIA had anticipated this problem in a 1966 report.
       "A warning judgment which is not believed by responsible policy
       officials," the agency wrote, "is as ineffective as no warning at all."
       By JOHN DIAMOND, The Associated Press
                       Once a week, CIA looks at likelihood of war
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       WASHINGTON (December 27, 1997 11:36 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) --
       Once a week a group of senior intelligence officials gathers at CIA
       headquarters outside Washington to try to predict the likelihood of war.
       They scan a list of a dozen or so hot spots and express their views in
       terms of percentages about whether war will begin.
       "We take odds," said a senior intelligence officer familiar with the
       warning process. "What is the likelihood that this will happen over the
       next six months? We poll the people."
       If intelligence officials see an area of particular concern, they might
       recommend that the CIA director issue an "alert memorandum" to the
       president and his top national security advisers that conflict is
       "You are not hiring me to observe and comment," CIA Director George
       Tenet said at his confirmation hearing. "You will be hiring me to warn
       and protect."
       Earlier this year, the intelligence community alerted senior
       policymakers that refugee flows into Zaire from strife-torn Rwanda could
       threaten the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was evenutally driven
       from power.
       Things have not always worked so smoothly, as with the government's
       failure to clearly recognize in 1990 that Iraq was about to invade
       "The intelligence community could see the buildup of Iraqi forces
       opposite Kuwait," said the senior official, who spoke on condition of
       anonymity. But policymakers remained skeptical.
       After this experience, then-CIA Director Robert Gates established a
       commission to recommend changes in how warnings are provided. The
       commission's report, still classified, established a more formalized
       National Warning Committee that would meet regularly and assess global
       But Gates also wanted individual analysts who might hold minority views
       to have access to the CIA chief.
       "In most instances, by the time you have intelligence community
       consensus on an issue, the invasion's already taken place," Gates said
       in a telephone interview. "The real warning, more often than not, is
       likely to come from that individual analyst."
       By JOHN DIAMOND, The Associated Press

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