- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2015

Senior U.S. lawmakers, tired of being blindsided by Russia, have begun probing possible intelligence lapses over Moscow’s military intervention in Syria.

Lawmakers are concerned that spy agencies were too slow to grasp the scope and intention of Russia’s military buildup in the region. Now the Senate and House intelligence committees are questioning the extent to which the intelligence community overlooked critical warning signs, congressional sources told Reuters.

If the blind spots exist, the findings would mark the latest of several intelligence loopholes discovered in recent years, including the failure to anticipate Moscow’s surprise takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea last year and China’s rapid build-up of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Intelligence agencies have sought to ramp up spying efforts on Russia but continue to struggle with inadequate resources because so much of the intelligence emphasis has been on counterterrorism in the Middle East, U.S. officials told Reuters.

A senior administration official told Reuters there were “no surprises” and that policymakers were “comfortable” with the intelligence they received ahead of Russia’s offensive.

Spy agencies had carefully tracked Moscow’s military build-up, including the transportation of assets and personnel to Syria, in recent weeks, but intelligence officials say the administration was caught off guard by the speed and aggressiveness of Russia’s airstrike campaign and the target list that included anti-Assad rebels.

“They saw some of this going on but didn’t appreciate the magnitude,” one source told Reuters.

It’s unclear how the Obama administration might have reacted differently with better intelligence. Advance warnings of Moscow’s attack plans may have given defense officials time to warn U.S.-backed rebel groups that they might be targeted in Russia’s airstrikes.

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