Friday, March 20, 2009

Afghanistan Redux

Serendipitously I attended another meeting last night at which the speaker was Gary Berntsen. Mr Berntsen is a retired CIA officer and he ran the agency's operation at Tora Bora in 2001. His blog is at the link. He is adamant that he requested an 800 man Ranger Battalion to seal off Osama bin Laden's escape route into Pakistan. His claim is that General Franks denied the request and that order came from the White House. My letter to Mr Berntsen follows:

Thank you for a good overview of The Company at yesterdays Club meeting. The book looks great and I hope to finish it off this weekend. Today I hope to get out another job application after sending this message. Frankly things are brutal and looking bad. Got as far in the book as a seeing a future naval officer ask "Daddy, what's going on?" and I always read the end first. A quick search on you at Google got only one personally adverse comment you may want to acknowledge in your presentations. At I found the following:
False or Mistaken Account by CIA Officer - CIA officer Gary Berntsen heads the CIA's emergency deployment team to Tanzania in the immediate wake of the bombings. He will improbably claim in a 2005 book that the US at first primarily suspects Hezbollah. According to him, it is only on August 15 when a CIA officer in Karachi happens to notice an article saying that an Arab traveling on a false passport was arrested in Karachi near the time of the bombings. This is discovered to be Odeh, who is transferred to US custody. Only then does al-Qaeda's involvement become clear. Perhaps to support this timeline, Berntsen also falsely claims that another bomber, Mohamed al-Owhali, is arrested on August 15 when in fact he is arrested three days earlier.
This strikes me as a surprisingly minor level of reaction for anyone to face on the web and you should feel pleased that you appear to have drawn fewer ad hominem attacks than others. Given that you packed in a large volume of information I am not sure how you could have included other topics that I personally am interested in such as:
1) The role of Valerie Plame and her spouse and their impact
     on the CIA's reputation.
2) Mike Scheuer's performance since leaving the agency and
     the the ability of the agency to conduct effective observation
     and analysis without internalizing the prejudices and
     conflicts of those being studied. The English called that
     "Going Native."
3) The proposed appointment of Chas Freeman to head the
     PDB team and what that says of the current leadership.
4) The role of the NSA and its size compared to the CIA.

For 28 years I have regretted not joining the agency. A good rule is that if you are going to do something do it with the best in the business. It was my hope that I could have gotten into Customs and used that to back door into the JCTTF. Unfortunately I got a minor strain injury down at FLETC before the firearms test. Despite my having a 95 examination average with nothing adverse on my record and having passed physical training and defensive tactics, and despite my having over 9 years of federal service and despite my never have been seen by a physician after having reported the injury, they ordered me to attempt the shoot and then sent me home.

The event I mentioned that I attended on Wednesday can be found here, On a broad array of topics they offer the best policy debates in town. While I found the extreme Libertarian Hornberger to be useless in the debate I think that the other three, Preble of CATO who was for a small footprint and withdrawal, and the pro interventionists Boot of the CFR and Goodson of the War College, to all be people that you would want to interact with.

Please stay in touch and let me know if you have Roger Ailes ear or any other ideas on how I could be useful.



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