Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top Spy: Intelligence on Ukraine 'Not a Failure By Any Stretch'

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is disputing the conventional wisdom on Russian incursion into the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine.  In an interview with WTOP Radio that is also posted on the DNI's website, Clapper insisted that the intelligence communities reading of the situation prior to Russia's military intervention was "not a failure by any stretch":
"I have lived through some genuine intelligence failures in my career and this was not a failure by any stretch," Clapper said. "We tracked (the situation in Ukraine) pretty carefully and portrayed what the possibilities were and certainly portrayed the difficulties we'd have, because of the movements of Russian troops and provided anticipatory warning of their incursion into Crimea," Clapper added.  
During an expansive interview in his office, Clapper pointed out that, "We were following closely the political and economic developments in Ukraine. We spoke to it in our statement for the record at the time and as the situation unfolded with the Russians."
     On February 27, Secretary of State John Kerry was publicly expressing optimism that calm would prevail.  The following day, the day of Russia's invasion of Crimea (as the State Department would later refer to it,) State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked about Russia's military intentions towards Crimea:
QUESTION: So talking about reports – sorry. Do you have any independent confirmation yourselves within the Administration that there is yet any Russian intervention in [Crimea]?... 
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything – any more details to share with you. We’re concerned about the same reports that you have seen, and obviously, we’re closely watching this internally as well. 
QUESTION: So nothing – no independent knowledge of any Russian intervention in Crimea? 
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent information to share with you.
     The WTOP report notes that "[d]uring a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, McCain, a Republican, said it was a "massive failure" that the U.S. intelligence agencies did not predict Russia's activities."

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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