Magazine article The American Conservative

Bring Your Best People

Magazine article The American Conservative

Bring Your Best People

Article excerpt

CIA Director Leon Panetta was quick to say that the deaths of seven CIA agents in Afghanistan on Dec. 30 didn't result from a failure of tradecraft. But by what best practices did the Agency allow an asset of dubious provenance to be ushered, without security screening, onto a Forward Operation Base? By what classified method did they assemble a crowd of senior officers for his suicide-bombing convenience?

The Jordanians who played matchmaker claimed that Humam Khalil AbuMulal al-Balawi, a resident of Zarqa--a known jihadi hotbed--had been "deradicalized," which means they put him in prison and turned the screws until he agreed to play along. The plan was simple: because Balawi was a physician, he should be able to cozy up to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who is al-Qaeda's second-in-command.

Problem is, the mindset that enabled Balawi's deadly mission is also simple--dangerously so. We're the good guys, they're the bad guys. Because of the benevolence of our mission--pay no attention to the drones--the locals will eventually be drawn to the light of democracy and literacy for all. That a man might be more motivated by ancient tensions and hidden loyalties didn't fit the storyline. …

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