President Obama sent word to National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was “disappointed with the intelligence community” over its failure to predict the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, according to one U.S. official familiar with the exchanges, which were expressed to Mr. Clapper through White House staff.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence, said there was little warning before Egypt’s riots as well.
“These events should not have come upon us with the surprise that they did,” the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said in an interview. “There should have been much more warning” of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, she said, in part because demonstrators were using the Internet and social media to organize.
“Was someone looking at what was going on the Internet?” she asked.
Top CIA official Stephanie O'Sullivan told senators Thursday that Mr. Obama was warned of instability in Egypt “at the end of last year.” She spoke during a confirmation hearing to become the deputy director of national intelligence, the No. 2 official to Mr. Clapper.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, said it was unrealistic to expect intelligence agencies to predict what would happen in either country. “We’ve got to be realistic about its limits, especially regarding the complex and interactive behavior of millions of people,” he said.
DNI spokeswoman Jamie Smith insisted that the intelligence community “has been closely tracking these countries and as tensions and protests built in Tunisia, it was fully anticipated that this activity could spread.”
White House national security staff relayed the president’s disapproval over the wrong call in Tunisia to Mr. Clapper and other top intelligence officials in one of a series of high-level meetings in mid-January, prior to the outbreak of the demonstrations in Egypt, according to one official.
In the aftermath of the botched call on Tunisia, the intelligence community widened the warnings to the White House and the diplomatic community that the instability could spread to much of the Arab world.View Entire Story
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