Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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Showing posts for "Intelligence"

You Might Have Missed: FAA UAV Roadmap, Salaries of Congress, and Blackwater

by Micah Zenko

Despite Challenges, Africans Are Optimistic about the Future,” Pew Research, November 8, 2013.

The world’s two leading powers, the U.S. and China, enjoy mostly positive images in Africa. Both nations receive higher favorability ratings in Africa than in the other regions included in the 2013 survey. Across the eight African nations, a median of 73% express a positive opinion of the U.S., while 65% hold this view about China. Globally, the U.S. generally gets higher marks than China on this question. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and the NSA.

by Micah Zenko

Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, “As Security Deteriorates at Home, Iraqi Leader Arrived in U.S. Seeking Aid,” New York Times, October 31, 2013.

Until now, Mr. Maliki was reluctant to openly ask for United States support. A former American official said that in 2012 Mr. Maliki was on the verge of asking the United States to fly reconnaissance drones over Iraq to help pinpoint the growing terrorist threat but backed off at the last moment when the request became public. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Syria, and Technology

by Micah Zenko
Drone site People gather at the site of a drone strike in southern Yemen on August 11, 2013 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Allegation of U.S. Spying on Merkel Puts Obama at Crossroads,” New York Times, October 24, 2013.

“This was colossally bad judgment — doing something because you can, instead of asking if you should,” said one career American official with long experience in Europe. A senior administration official declined to say what Mr. Obama knew or did not know about monitoring of Ms. Merkel’s phone, but said the president “doesn’t think we are in the right place.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Japanese Drones, Shutdown, CIA in Syria

by Micah Zenko

John Hudson, “U.S. Rules Out a New Drone War in Iraq,” Foreign Policy Magazine, October 3, 2013.

In 2013 alone, Iraq is averaging 68 car bombings a month. The United Nations reports that 5,740 civilians were killed since January, which is almost two times more deaths than recorded in all of 2010. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Surveillance Programs, Intervention in Syria, and Chinese Foreign Policy

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper departs after a Senate briefing on national surveillance programs on June 13, 2013 (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Alastair Iain Johnston, “How New and Assertive Is China’s New Assertiveness?” International Security 37, no. 4 (Spring 2013): 7–48.

Why, then, does it matter whether PRC diplomacy as a whole in 2010 can or cannot be characterized as “newly assertive”? It may matter because language can affect internal and public foreign policy debates. There is a long-standing and rich literature on the role of the media in agenda setting. What does agenda setting mean in concrete terms? It means focusing attention on particular narratives, excluding others, and narrowing discourse. In the agenda setting literature, it refers to the power of information entrepreneurs to tell people “what to think about” and “how to think about it.” It can make or take away spaces for alternative descriptive and causal arguments, and thus the space for debates about effective policy. The prevailing description of the problem narrows acceptable options. Read more »

Demanding CIA Accountability for Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense, during his final visit to the CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia, on February 14, 2013. (Fawcett/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense) Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense, during his final visit to the CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia, on February 14, 2013. (Fawcett/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense)

Leon Panetta had unique and unprecedented access into U.S. targeted killing programs as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (February 2009–June 2011) and secretary of defense (June 2011–February 2013). As Daniel Klaidman revealed last year, one procedural change implemented early in the Obama administration was that “the CIA director would no longer be allowed to have his deputy or the head of the counterterrorism division act as his proxy in signing off on strikes. Only the DCI would have sign-off authority.” While he was the director of the CIA, Panetta personally approved roughly two hundred drone strikes in Pakistan. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Syrian Air Defenses? Drones, and Benghazi

by Micah Zenko
Witnesses Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, foreign service officer and former deputy chief of mission/charge d'affairs in Libya at the State Department, and Eric Nordstrom, diplomatic security officer and former regional security officer in Libya at the State Department, are sworn in at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on May 8, 2013 (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). Witnesses Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, and Eric Nordstrom are sworn in at the May 8, 2013, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya (Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

You Might Have Missed: Spending on Overseas Bases, Drones over Boston, and Benghazi

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim at Seoul Air Base (Paul J. Richards/Courtesy Reuters).

Donna Cassata, “Report: US Footing Greater Bill for Overseas Bases,” Associated Press, April 17, 2013.

The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says. Read more »

Worldwide Threats Briefing Highlights

by Micah Zenko
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on March 12, 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on March 12, 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) held its annual open hearing on “National Security Threats to the United States.” First started in 1994, the hearing is the rare instance where the leaders of the Intelligence Community (IC) provide a public overview of the trends in U.S. national security threats and answer senators’ questions. Since the question and answer section is unscripted—unlike the prepared statements for the record—there are often new or interesting wrinkles in how the IC perceives the world. I have heard from intelligence staffers and officials who warily watch this hearing, cringing whenever their bosses answer questions that verge on the realm of classified information. I actually had the opportunity to attend part of this hearing, and witnessed staffers furiously scribbling notes during discussions of highly sensitive issues like Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. Read more »

Rand Paul’s Filibuster and Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
U.S. senator Paul appears on a television screen in an office at the U.S. Capitol as he filibusters in opposition to the nomination of Brennan to lead the CIA on March 6, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. senator Paul appears on a television screen in an office at the U.S. Capitol as he filibusters in opposition to the nomination of Brennan to lead the CIA on March 6, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Although Rand Paul will deservedly receive all the attention, yesterday’s marathon filibuster was catalyzed by the Obama administration’s general refusal to engage with Congress on the issue of targeted killings. Like any White House desiring maximum authority with minimal oversight, the Obama administration maintained that it is only required to report covert actions by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and counterterrorism operations by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to the requisite intelligence and armed services committees. While Congress is almost never satisfied with the responsiveness and openness of the executive branch, members who do not serve on the aforementioned committees are particularly upset about the lack of clarifying information on drones. In part, this is because the issue is so widely debated, but also because this administration’s practice echoes the even less responsive nature of the George W. Bush administration. Read more »