Petraeus, Benghazi, the DNI and IC-ITE

My initial intent was to discuss with you the intelligence related issues associated with the September 11th Benghazi attack and offer my views on the proceedings of AFCEA’s Fall Intelligence Symposium that focused on the importance of implementing  the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE, pronounced “eye sight”).  This train of thought, however, was jarringly  interrupted Friday (9 Nov) afternoon with  the mind bending announcement that the President had accepted (reluctantly) David Petraeus’ resignation as CIA Director because of an extra-marital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell (“ALL IN – – – The Education of General David Petraeus” with Vernon Loeb).  Ironically, Petraeus’ necessary but unforced departure from the seventh floor at Langley will vector us back to Benghazi and IC ITE.

My first reaction to the bulletin “Petraeus Resigns” was this probably is related to Benghazi being cast as an intelligence failure and somebody with sufficient name recognition had to fall on their sword post election to placate administration critics and get this story out of the media.  My next thought was what does unexpectedly having to find a new CIA Director means for IC?

While there was apparently some type agreement to keep a lid on what the FBI found in the email exchanges between Petraeus and Broadwell until after the presidential election on 6 November, I am willing to accept at face value the claims that Director Petraeus was not resigning because of culpability related to Benghazi nor over concerns about testifying (in closed session) to Congress regarding what the CIA or broader IC knew or did not know about threats to our consulate.  On the other hand, I am not willing to accept that Director Petraeus was not distracted by at by an FBI security investigation into his emails that morphed into revealing an affair that would hurt his wife and embarrass the CIA.  Since Petraeus’ resignation, a video of Paula Broadwell has surfaced where she tells an audience that the CIA Annex at Benghazi was used as detention center.  Senator Feinstein, SSCI Chair, says the CIA is denying this but more investigation is needed.  The SSCI Chair also claims that Congressional Intelligence Oversight leadership is being denied access to Petraeus  trip report to Libya to debrief the Chief of Station there about the 11 September attack.  Given the previous mortar and RPG attacks aimed at the Benghazi consulate, I am incredulous that the White House, State Department, DoD, and IC were individually or collectively unaware of the threat conditions there, but I can readily accept they didn’t know what to do about them other than to acknowledge them.  If Libyan militants perceived that the Benghazi Consulate was being used to detain their leaders that puts a new wrinkle on the motivation for the attack and why State and IC explanations have been so disjointed.

As for what this high profile resignation means for the CIA and the IC, it certainly means more leadership churn at Langley as the CIA gets ready for its fourth director since 2009.  That is mitigated though by the continuity of John Brennan at the White House, Michael Vickers at the Pentagon, and Jim Clapper as DNI all complemented by CIA’s own institutional forces.  Former CENTCOM and ISAF Commander retired Army General David Patraeus was, however, probably the right person at the right time as we withdraw forces from Afghanistan to oversee the HUMINT and Technical ISR effort needed to protect against a resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region.  Moreover the trust and direct relationships Petraeus enjoys with political, military and intelligence leaders in the Middle East and Southwest Asia will be missed.  Nonetheless, cemeteries are full of indispensable people.  DNI groupies like me though will be watching to see if Petraeus’ scandal-induced resignation weakens the influence of the CIA within the IC and allows the DNI to assert more authority across the community but especially at Langley.  It will probably be difficult to impossible to discern from the outside, but the degree to which DNI Clapper is consulted on who should be named as the next CIA Director will be a leading indicator on the relevance of the DNI going forward.

Prior to Patraeus’ resignation I saw Benghazi not as an intelligence failure (i.e. to warn), but as a failure on the policy side to act.  If anything the swirl of new information since the Patraeus/Broadwell affair only reinforces this view on my part.   Conversely, I now have new concerns about a cover-up regarding what the CIA was doing in Libya and why.  Also, the inference that US diplomatic missions are used for detaining host country citizens will have a deleterious impact on the safety of US diplomats and acceptance of American values.

Regarding IC ITE, I am as convinced as any of the IC CIOs or Agency Deputies I heard speak at the AFCEA Fall Intelligence Symposium that this initiative is critical to the IC’s mission success in an environment of exponential data growth and Moore’s Law should also free up funds for the IC to pay for its share of the already biting budget cuts.  But listening to these IC seniors I was equally convinced that IC ITE will also require a strong DNI empowering the ODNI staff to compel the IC’s largest agencies to accept collective governance of IC ITE and where necessary direct the reprogramming of agency IT funding to support IC ITE development and implementation in the best interests of the community.

That’s what I think; what do you think?

9 comments on “Petraeus, Benghazi, the DNI and IC-ITE

  1. Ted Trammel says:

    In a letter, the DOD has responded to Sen. McCain’s criticism over Benghazi here:

  2. Terry Casto says:

    ICITE and JIE

    My exposure to these two programs comes from the joint presentation at GeoInt by the DoD and CIA CIO’s. In response to a very pointed question as to why these programs will succeed when so many previous integration/collaboration/info sharing initiatives have failed, Al Tarasiuk answered “because we won’t have the budgets for each agency to keep doing things their own way”. I think I’ve heard that argument more than once, especially in the 90’s as we enjoyed the “peace dividend”. Didn’t work then, probably won’t work now. Not clear how Gen Petraeus’ regrettable circumstances could affect the outcome.

  3. Pete Speer says:

    The allegation that the Benghazi consulate was being used as a detention center remains unproven. Too many questions to be answered:

    For whom? There are as many sides to the Libyan spring as on the Rubik’s Cube.

    On whose behalf? Was the Libyan regime aware (and I can not believe in that sieve of a country that it was not.)

    and many more.

    But what concerns me most is the inference that both the Taliban and al Qaeda had been formerly “desurged”. Au contraire, mon ami, al Qaeda related organizations after a short period of contemplation came back strutting in Egypt, Syria and Libya. Martyrdom of their leader created the opportunity to regroup.

    The Taliban as well moves forward, their control of the Pashtun areas real and continuing. The Northern Alliane won their part of the revolution, but they have never controlled the countryside..

  4. Mark Ward says:


    A nice tour through this crazy week and what we’ve learned on the unclass side of things, which is where I happily live these days. I found nothing I disagree with. Geez, another lesson that truth really is stranger than fiction. And to think, last Tuesday we were all watching our TVs to see who was going to lead – seems so long ago.


  5. Keith Herrington says:

    A thorough, insightful and thought provoking analysis. Thanks for that. You have a career at any of the major news rags if ever you get bored where you are.

  6. Jim Barnett says:

    Joe…not going to comment on the Petraus issue…not after reading Klauthammer’s words today. Besides, we have beaten that to death. On ICITE…I find your statement “But listening to these IC seniors I was equally convinced that IC ITE will also require a strong DNI empowering the ODNI staff to compel the IC’s largest agencies to accept collective governance of IC ITE and where necessary direct the reprogramming of agency IT funding to support IC ITE development and implementation in the best interests of the community.” to be very true and approaching unobtainium…accept collective governance??? I will note that the DDIRNSA in his really well done words chose not to mention ICITE or the Fort’s mandate…he chose rather to tell us what they “must do” and are doing. That might be called leadership by example…but I doubt anyone will actually follow…particularly if it would require reprogramming of THEIR funds. And getting the two agencies to somehow meld (can’t use the word merge) their “clouds”…priceless but not reality.

  7. joemazzafro says:

    Ted, Terry, Pete, Mark, Keith, and Jim – – – – thank you all for your thoughtful comments and feedback.

    First with regard to Benghazi I certainly accept that the information in the public domain is disjointed and confusing. DNI Clapper says the IC is responsible for Ambassador Rice’s inaccurate comments that what happened was a flash demonstration gone violent vice and attack. CIA Director Patraeus has said nobody in the CIA refused any request for security assistance. I am willing to accept all of this on good faith as truth – – – but it raises the question of why/how did the IC give Ambassador the flash mob analysis (the first report is always wrong?) and if nobody refused security assistance why didn’t it arrive (time distance, too much risk, host country sensitivities)? As to whether the Consulate Annex was or was not a detention center, the more relevant question is what did the local militants think it was being used for. I don’t think Paula Broadwell pulled her about it being a detention center from “the what if pile” of possibilities. She heard/read that somewheree, but not in public domain

    Institutionally the CIA is as weak as it has ever been since the DNI was established in the spring of 2005. Director resigning in disgrace and leadership churn of four directors in five years. If the DNI is ever going to the CIA to recognize DNI authority in the IC it now

    Its important for the “D” DNI to mean something or IC ITE has no chance regardless of what IC CIO’s say about being “all in” and we have “burned the boats” All the major IC agencies have their own IT inftrasture and if IT ICE flounders things just go back to the way the agencies want them. When heard the CIO at the Fall Symposium I was impressed with their passion and commitment to IC ITE, but if I where a venture capitalis I would have to demur on “investing in IC ITE” until you have business plan and operating model. Telling me their is no other alternative does not give a reason to expect success (was success for IC ITE defined?), but more importantly its not true.

    And finally no media career for me – – – – I am keeping my day job!

    Thanks again guys joemaz

  8. Lynn Wiston says:

    As a low level intelligence player while in the Navy, it was then obvious to me the strong (and healthy?) egos that comprised the different intelligence agencies. Handling (and reading) thousands upon thousands of Top Secret codeword messages clearly revealed that fact to me. Over the years, as a civilian, it became quite obvious that nothing much changed. The omnipotence of the DNI has yet to be established, and I surmise that only a crisis will effect it. That crisis may be at hand with the rapid turnover of CIA leadership. They may now be readily induced to join the bandwagon and follow orders and procedures ingrained (for the most part) of those in the military. Budget cuts may further force consolidation and integration of collective intelligence gathering and analysis. Possibly, this may be a golden opportunity for a smooth flow of cooperation, without one agency looking down upon another with a false sense of superiority. Pipe dreams maybe; but nevertheless, an eternal hope. The Benghazi incident may be the catalyst. We shall see.

    • joemazzafro says:

      First Happy Thanksgiving Lynn to you and all who read MazInt. I am not exactly sure why you do, but I am constantly encouraged by your feedback and comments — both on an off line

      Lynn optimistically I share your view that the current motion and commotion over Benghazi and the unexpected departure of CIA Directo Patraeus creates a real opportunity for the DNI to establish control and leadership over the IC. It would help if the President both said and followed up in fact with a pronoucement that the DNI is who I look to run and represent the IC across the whole of government. Pessemistically, I fear that this will be the last real opportunity for the “D” in DNI to mean something


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