Feinstein Slams Middle East Intelligence, Urges Caution On No-Fly Zone

March 8, 2011 11:06 a.m.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, harshly criticized the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community for failing to forecast the uprising in the Middle East and warned the White House not to intervene in Libya without international support.

“Our intelligence, and I see it all … was woefully inadequate. [The unrest in] Tunisia was the only intelligence we got right,” Feinstein told TPM Tuesday, adding that U.S. intelligence completely missed the instability in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain.Feinstein chalked up the black hole on intelligence in the Middle East to the failure to have the right “human assets” gathering information on the ground, as well as a fundamental failure to analyze and evaluate open-source intelligence on social medium platforms. She also derided a briefing on the Middle East she received from intelligence officials last week, saying it contained “nothing that we didn’t see in the newspapers.”

“[CIA Director Leon] Panetta is aware of this, and he’s going to take action,” Feinstein said, noting she had reached out to him to share her concerns.

As air attacks against Libyan rebels grow more violent this week, Feinstein also pushed back against some of her colleagues calls for swift and strong U.S. military intervention.

“This is a civil war,” Feinstein said of the uprising in Libya. “This is a spiraling plume across the Middle East. … If you go in there now we will be faced with similar situations in other countries and we have our hands full in other places right now. We’re expecting a Spring offensive in Afghanistan.”

Instead of instituting a no-fly zone or arming rebels, Feinstein said we should wait for consensus from NATO and other international partners.

A chorus of senior senators from both parties, including Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have stepped up their calls for a no-fly zone over Libya in recent day. Other senators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), have backed the President’s more cautious approach.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week warned against military intervention in another Arab country. He told a congressional panel last week that suppressing Libyan air forces would require military strikes.

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