The New York Times published a bewildering, disturbing story today on U.S. intelligence and the Ukraine–i.e., U.S. Lacks a Clear Picture of Ukraine’s War Strategy, Officials Say.
But despite the flow of all this news to the public, American intelligence agencies have less information than they would like about Ukraine’s operations and possess a far better picture of Russia’s military, its planned operations and its successes and failures, according to current and former officials.
Governments often withhold information from the public for operational security. But these information gaps within the U.S. government could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to decide how to target military aid as it sends billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine.
I am sure that the average layperson read the piece and was not alarmed. But those with even a modicum of intelligence experience were shocked by the revelations in this piece.
Andrei Martyanov’s reaction is a case in point:
Or, if you wish with “We told you so” titles. I wrote so much about US “intel” and how it is not really an intel that I don’t have time to list all those occasions. But numbers of VSU (Nazi) losses during SMO which begin to circulate now give an impression on the progress of Russian operation in 404. Of course, all this info has a massive geopolitical impact, especially on the United States which, as always, came up with absolute BS narrative which is collapsing really fast.
Well, NYT decided to start steering clear of this whole Russia “lost in Ukraine” BS it promoted together with neocon crazies, and begins this ever familiar tune of the “intel failure”. Right. . . .
Hm, how about I put it bluntly–the U.S. never had clear picture on anything, especially on Russia, or, as a private case, SMO and completely bought into Ukie propaganda, which shows a complete incompetence of the “intel” in the US.
For those of you who have not worked in the U.S. intelligence community, let me help you understand the problems raised by this piece.
First, there are four basic types of raw intelligence collected–human source, intercepted communications, imagery and electronic signals. The people and technology employed to collect this raw intelligence are not left to their own devices to figure out what should be collected. In other words, a CIA case officer does not get out of bed in the morning and ask himself (or herself) what should I do today in terms of getting intel from my human agent? Neither does the NSA analyst make a random decision about what conversations to tap and decipher.
Second, Everything is done according to a collection plan. Collection plans are put together a year or two in advance of the plan being implemented and the plans are assembled under the guidance of staff who work for the Director of National Intelligence. Those plans are updated on the fly if a crisis burbles to the surface.
While it is likely true that the collection plan for Russia is more robust than the plan for Ukraine, there absolutely had to be a plan for Ukraine. The only country in the world without a collection plan (i.e., a plan that directs the intelligence agencies on what information to collect on a specific country) is the United States.
So take a new gander at the NY Times article. As a former intel analyst I would be tasking the collectors to answer questions like these:
- Why are we not collecting intelligence on the plans and intentions of President Zelensky, his cabinet and his advisors?
- What are the battle plans drawn up by Ukraine’s Minister of Defense and are those plans being executed?
- What is Ukraine’s military’s order of battle?
- What ground units have been deployed to specific locations in Ukraine?
- Are those units fully manned and equipped?
- What ground losses have the Ukrainian units incurred in specific engagements with the Russians?
- How have Ukrainian armored units performed and what losses have they sustained?
- Is Ukraine’s missile arsenal still intact and is it carrying out effective strikes against key concentrations of Russian units?
- Is Ukraine’s air force capable of reconstituting and challenging Russia for control of Ukraine’s air space?
The New York Times report, if accurate, reveals shocking incompetence on the part of Joe Biden and his national security team. Consider this nugget of manure:
Even without a complete picture of Ukraine’s military strategy and situation, the Biden administration has pushed forward new capabilities, like the rocket artillery systems President Biden announced last week. Ukraine is awaiting the arrival of more powerful Western weapons systems as both sides in the war suffer heavy losses in the eastern Donbas region of the country.
Would you give a handgun to a man with no arms and no legs? Hell no. But the NY Times is admitting that the United States is supplying weapon systems without any idea whether there are competent personnel in Ukraine capable of using the weapons. An equally important question, clearly not answered, is whether those weapon systems can be deployed into the combat theater?
Frankly, I find it hard to believe that there are not solid analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency who know the answers to all these questions. The real problem may not be a lack of intelligence. Nope. It is the fear of telling the politicians hard truths they do not want to hear.
Given the billions of dollars the United States is spending on “intelligence” collection systems, it is time for the Congress and the American public to demand that the intelligence services do their damn job.