Colin Powell’s ex-chief of staff: “Dollars do not buy intelligence”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson on the intelligence alleging Iraq’s possession of WMDs:

I don’t disagree that there should have been a hell of a lot better job done [in identifying the presence or absence of WMD’s in Iraq] by what is now a $65-plus billion intelligence community. And incidentally, I don’t think it’s doing a much better job today than it did [prior to the invasion of Iraq]. Dollars do not buy you intelligence.

Wilkerson’s comments are particularly salient when one considers that drone strikes are predicated on information also provided by the US intelligence community. As Micah Zenko writes in a recent CFR report on US drone policies, “the precision and discrimination of drones are only as good as the supporting intelligence, which is derived from multiple sources.” One would be wise to question whether this intelligence is sufficient for determining whether an individual deserves to live or die on the basis of the executive’s decision making.

A National Journal report on John Brennan’s Senate confirmation hearing yesterday describes how according to Brennan, several agencies – including the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department – are all involved in a “coordinated interagency process” to vet potential drone targets. The report goes on to allege that “behind the scenes the CIA has not always cooperated in sharing the vetting process, especially in Pakistan” – where most of the drone strikes have taken place. Zenko’s report cites two sources who describe how:

In the tribal areas along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan…the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reportedly maintains a paramilitary force of three thousand ethnic Pashtuns to capture, kill, and collect intelligence.

The article from the National Journal also quotes several affiliates of Brennan who describe how Brennan a) thinks the drone program has “run its course as a CIA operation,” with the “collateral damage” of the program far outweighing its success, and b) wants to move the drone program from the jurisdiction of the CIA – the agency he has been nominated by Obama to lead – to that of the Defense Department, in the interests of allowing “greater congressional and public scrutiny”.

Brennan also has concerns about the US failing to “lead in developing an ethical and legal policy framework on the use of drones,” undermining “decades’ worth of international law” and precipitating the likelihood of other nations – particularly Russia and China – abusing the use of drones. Juan Cole rightly criticizes this “paternalistic assumption that the US is responsible but lesser races are not,” [emphasis own] though he nevertheless concedes that it is likely that other countries will use the actions of the US to justify their own violations of international law.


One thought on “Colin Powell’s ex-chief of staff: “Dollars do not buy intelligence”

  1. Pingback: Senator Feinstein is a Crackpot (for drones) | The Drone Fallacy

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