This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
If we are so smart why are we so dumb? I am referring to the “intelligence” that our spy agencies have gathered at great cost in both massive secret black box budgets and, much more important, the surrender of our personal freedom to the snooping eyes of our modern surveillance state.
“We know everything but learn nothing” would be an honest slogan for the NSA, CIA and lesser-known spy agencies that specialize in leading us so dangerously astray. For all of their massive intrusion into the personal lives of individuals throughout the world, it is difficult to recall a time when the “intelligence” they collected provided such myopic policy insight.
Take the revelations in The New York Times’s exhaustive six-part investigation published Saturday demonstrating that the devastating 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was an intelligence disaster. The Times “turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault” that led to the death of the US ambassador and three other Americans. Instead, a local militia leader on the side of the US-supported insurrection in Libya with no known affiliation with Al Qaeda is a prime suspect, and he and others allegedly responsible were not on the radar screen of the twenty-person CIA station in Benghazi because they were part of the insurgency the US supported.
As for the vast collection of phone and e-mail intercepts maintained by US spy agencies, it turned up only one bit of information, a phone call from someone involved in the mob attacking the US post. He called a friend elsewhere in Africa who allegedly knew some folks in Al Qaeda, but the friend “sounded astonished” at the news from Libya, “suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault,” according to US officials. In short, the only evidence turned up by the vast spying apparatus was evidence that inconveniently contradicted the Al Qaeda connection, so it was not made public.
As The New York Times stated, the Benghazi incident has been billed as “the most significant attack on United States property in 11 years, since Sept. 11, 2001,” an event that launched the much-ballyhooed war on terror. But as with that attack 11 years earlier, the perps turned out to be people the US secret agencies had once trusted. The enemy here was not Al Qaeda, but rather a homegrown menace empowered by foreign intervention. “The attack was led,” the Times reported, “by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistic support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi.”