I’d like to apologize to readers for failing to realize that a link in the previous article was to a satire piece. It’s getting harder to spot them, but just as an aging man has to try to walk each day or never walk again, the effort must be made, even though you’ll lose in the end. I’ll try harder next time.
While we’re on the subject of knowledge gaps, Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations notes that the CIA never measured the effectiveness of their covert programs. Take interrogation. A memorandum by the CIA dated June 27, 2013 — but only released today — responds to “the SSCI’s conclusion that the ‘CIA never conducted its own comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques’”. (emphasis mine)
We agree with Conclusion 10 in full. It underpins the most important lesson that we have drawn from The Study: CIA needs to develop the structure, expertise, and methodologies required to more objectively and systematically evaluate the effectiveness of our covert actions.
We draw this lesson going forward fully aware of how difficult it can be to measure the impact of a particular action or set of actions on an outcome in a real-world setting.
Zenko concludes that “therefore, the CIA admitted that — as late as June 2013 — it was simply incapable of evaluating the effectiveness of its covert activities.” They just kept doing the same old covert things without knowing how well, or even if they were accomplishing their goals. Zenko’s main point comes next:
this also directly implies that the CIA lacks the ability to adequately evaluate its much larger, more lethal, and more consequential covert program: its role as the lead executive agency for drone strikes in Pakistan, and many of those in Yemen. … Based upon the best publicly available information, the CIA has killed an estimated 3,500 people in non-battlefield drone strikes since the program began on November 3, 2002 …
I have spoken with former and current National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) officials and analysts, who have always been uneasy with having CIA analysts evaluate CIA covert programs.
Specifically, they claim that — compared to the NCTC’s own analysis—CIA analysts are more likely to discount claims of collateral damage and the thesis that drone strikes creates blowback in the form of enhancing terrorist recruitment. …
If the 119 detainees who entered the rendition and interrogation program — 26 of whom were wrongly detained — deserve a public accounting, then don’t the 3,500 who have been killed deserve this as well? Or, is the United States simply more comfortable with torturing suspected terrorists than killing thirty times more of them?