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Context of 'January 2003-March 17, 2003: CIA Provides Centcom with Target Intelligence, but It Is ‘Crap’'

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Army General Tommy Franks raises concerns that al-Qaeda will attack Western facilities in the Middle East using planes loaded with explosives. [Franks, 2004, pp. 235-236; Globe and Mail, 10/9/2004] As commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), Franks is in charge of US military operations in an area covering 25 nations in North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. [CNN, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 1/7/2006] “Through the spring of 2001 and into the summer, protecting our deployed troops from terrorists remained an ever-present concern,” he will later write. During the summer, CENTCOM intelligence officers work with the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, “collecting and analyzing persistent but unspecific indications of planned terrorist activity in the Middle East.” On several occasions, Franks increases CENTCOM’s force protection posture—the “Threatcon”—“but never as a result of a specific threat” (see June 21, 2001). “Something was brewing, but the best minds at the CIA and the National Security Agency could not pin down the threats with any degree of certainty,” he will comment. “Where would we see a terrorist act… and when?” As he reads “the increasingly alarming reports of potential attacks on Western facilities in the region,” it occurs to Franks that al-Qaeda might carry out suicide attacks using aircraft. “Al-Qaeda had used cars, trucks, and boats as suicide bombs,” he will write. “What about small planes loaded with high explosives?” He sends a note—first to the US embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and then to the other US embassies within CENTCOM’s area of responsibility—in which he asks the ambassadors to pass on his concerns to their hosts. He tells them, “We should work to tune the host nations in the region in to this type of threat.” [Franks, 2004, pp. 235-236]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Al-Qaeda, US Embassy in Riyadh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The CIA provides Centcom with intelligence for the purpose of planning targets in Iraq. But Centcom sources later tell Newsweek the intelligence was extremely poor. It “was crap,” a Centcom planner later tells Newsweek. Another source tells the magazine that the sites the agency suggests for targeting are for the most part the same ones that were bombed during the First Gulf War. While the CIA has satellite photos of the buildings to be targeted, it turns out they know little about them. “What was inside the structures was another matter,” says the source. “We asked, ‘Well, what agents are in these buildings? Because we need to know.’ And the answer was, ‘We don’t know.’” [Newsweek, 6/9/2003 Sources: Unnamed Centcom planner]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), officially opens the Joint Intelligence Operations Center at CENTCOM, which houses a new intelligence organization to train military officers, covert agents, analysts, and policy makers who agree to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan for up to a decade. The organization, called the Afghanistan Pakistan Intelligence Center of Excellence (COE), is led by Derek Harvey, a retired colonel in the Defense Intelligence Agency who became one of Petraeus’s most trusted analysts during the 2007-2008 counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. Harvey explains that the new organization is both a training center and “like a think tank,” partnered not only with the US military and intelligence establishments, but also with academia and the private sector in order to further long-term US interests in the region. [U.S. Central Command Public Affairs, 8/25/2009; U.S. Central Command Public Affairs, 8/26/2009] In an interview with the Washington Times, Harvey says the center will focus on training and will immerse future analysts, officers, and covert operators in Pashtu and Dari language and culture. Recruits will also be asked to sign a form that commits them to work on Afghanistan and Pakistan for up to 10 years. Harvey explains that in addition to training, the center will focus on intelligence gathering and analysis. He speaks about a shift from traditional spying and surveillance toward using on-the-ground sources, such as military officers and aid workers. “We have tended to rely too much on intelligence sources and not integrating fully what is coming from provincial reconstruction teams, civil affairs officers, commanders, and operators on the ground that are interacting with the population and who understand the population and can actually communicate what is going on in the street,” he says. The center will coordinate with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. According to Harvey, the CIA has also detailed many analysts to support the center and will continue to cooperate with CENTCOM. [Washington Times, 8/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, US Central Command, Afghanistan Pakistan Intelligence Center of Excellence, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, Derek Harvey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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