CIA program investigation offers learning opportunity

I missed this article on the CIA’s super-double-secret assassination program when it first came out:

Enter Leon Panetta, the new CIA director. After settling in, he was briefed by the Counter-Terrorism Center on the assassination idea and was concerned. In the years since 2001, explains a government official, “money was spent, agents were recruited, teams were trained, people were deployed.” Panetta sensed that the program had a “troubled history,” and that although nobody had been killed, there had been “one pretty red-faced flap” when an operation went wrong, this official says.

Panetta is said to have asked two questions: Had Congress been briefed, and had the program been valuable? The answer to both questions from CIA counter-terrorism officials was “no.” So Panetta decided in late June to stop the program, pending a further review, and to brief Congress about it.

The House intelligence committee is preparing its investigation. I hope it will focus on both sides of Panetta’s question: Why wasn’t Congress briefed on this idea for a global squeeze on al-Qaeda, and why didn’t it work?

Those are precisely the questions to ask, and I suspect there is more to be learned from the latter than the former.  Not that it has to be one or the other, but the question casts in sharp relief the opportunity Washington has to choose blame or learning.

[Image:  Tom Clancy’s “Ghost Recon” from Ubi Soft.  Not sure if that was obvious enough.]

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