CIA and Egypt chaos

January 31st, 2011

What should or could the CIA have known about the Egyptian uprising? Joseph Wippl, a professor of international relations at BU and a 30-year CIA operations officer gives the following view:

“Part of the intent in the creation of the CIA through the National Security Act of 1947 was to avoid surprise, the most noteworthy being the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The authority granted to CIA was to engage in human intelligence, better known as espionage, to avoid surprise and to better understand the cause of events and their implications for the future.

“The question now is did the CIA forewarn regarding the events occurring in Egypt and prior to that in Tunisia? And if not, why not? What kind of clandestine sources were needed then or are needed now?

“Are sources needed in the Egyption armed forces, the Ministry of Interior where police powers reside, the executive offices of the President, the Foreign Ministry, the religious leadership, all the various opposition elements, including the Moslim brotherhood? Have the possible new leaders in Egypt been identified and approached before the crisis?

“There are never enough sources with access to information of importance, but when these sources exist, they are there because of decades of continuous cultivation and handling. Sources can provide invaluable information to the U.S. leadership. Has such a program of long-term agent recruitment taken place? Have other partner countries engaged in these activities which can now assist us in better understanding events?

“In the past, the U.S. intelligence community has missed major events. Usually the reason is a concentration on immediate problems — that is, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq — at the expense of intermediate and long-term problems of as great or greater importance.”

Contact Joseph Wippl, 617- 353-8992, jwippl@bu.edu

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