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Why the CIA No Longer Works—and How to Fix It

Charles S. Faddis at Hillsdale College

Photo by Sander Sammy / Unsplash

On September 11, 2012, two American compounds in the Libyan city of Benghazi were attacked by a well known Islamic militia with a history of attacking Western targets. One of the compounds, occupied by the Department of State, was overrun. The American ambassador to Libya, who was visiting from Tripoli at the time, was killed.

The other compound was occupied by CIA personnel and was better prepared to resist. Those inside held out long enough for an ad hoc relief force from the embassy in Tripoli to arrive and for the CIA personnel to be evacuated. No military relief force was sent by the Obama administration.

Throughout the attacks on the compounds, a continuous stream of reporting was sent to Washington from the field. All that reporting told the same story: a large-scale assault had been launched on two American-occupied compounds by a heavily armed Islamic terrorist group.

Nevertheless, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the Obama administration began to peddle the narrative that a peaceful demonstration in Benghazi had simply gotten out of hand—that this was not an act of terrorism. The backlash against this transparent lie was immediate. The Obama administration came under scathing criticism.

Enter Mike Morell, acting director of the CIA, who stepped forward to take the blame for the erroneous claims of a peaceful demonstration. Analysts at the CIA, Morell said, had written an assessment to this effect, and he had passed it on to the White House. Obama and company were blameless. The CIA had given them bad intelligence.

This was absurd on its face. CIA analysts do not review a mountain of reporting about ongoing attacks using heavy machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades and then write up an assessment saying, “We think they meant this to be peaceful.” Nor, obviously, has any evidence of such an assessment been produced.

In short, the Director of Central Intelligence had injected himself into a domestic political dispute, covering for a blatant lie concocted by the administration. He did so, presumably, because he believed that Secretary of State Clinton would become the next president and that he would be named to a senior post in her administration. Interestingly, when Clinton lost in 2016, Morell was given a post with a six-figure annual salary at a Washington think tank aligned with the Democratic Party.

In the runup to the 2016 election, people within Clinton’s campaign concocted the idea of smearing Donald Trump with false accusations of colluding with Russia, based on a dossier filled with lies, gossip, and innuendo. When this failed to prevent Trump’s election, they carried on the deception with an eye to destabilizing the Trump presidency and perhaps even removing Trump from office.

The involvement of the FBI in this effort, known by its FBI codename Crossfire Hurricane, has been extensively documented. What has been much less talked about is the CIA’s role.

The extensive investigation of what transpired during Crossfire Hurricane has shown that American intelligence sought the involvement of a number of allied intelligence services, most notably the British. It has also shown that with the passage of time, the British in particular became decreasingly enthusiastic about their involvement as it became clear to them that this activity was inappropriate and illegal.

Such interaction with close allies doesn’t happen without the involvement and assistance of the CIA. That is not the way it works. If you are in London, for instance, meeting with British intelligence and counterintelligence services, you are doing so not only with the knowledge of the chief of station in London, but also with his or her permission and assistance.

John Brennan, the CIA’s director at the time, not only had to know about Crossfire Hurricane; he also had to approve it. When Brennan stepped down as head of the CIA, he was replaced by Gina Haspel. She had been the chief of station in London throughout Crossfire Hurricane and had to have been directly involved in the interactions with the British services that were part of this plot.

We should also note that when news of Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” threatened to derail Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign for the White House, 51 former intelligence officers came forward and signed on to a now infamous letter branding the laptop as a product of Russian disinformation. I have seen the contents of that laptop and retain a copy to this day. I can assure you it was immediately obvious in looking at the laptop’s contents that it was real and that it suggested strongly that Joe Biden himself was compromised by a number of foreign actors—chief among them the Chinese Communist Party.

Five former directors or acting directors of the CIA were among the 51 signatories to this letter, whose clear purpose was to bury the contents of the laptop and get Joe Biden elected. Both Mike Morell and John Brennan were among those five.

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