Musing about Putin’s swallowing up Crimea back on March 5, we posited that perhaps our intelligence agencies just aren’t that intelligent. There’s a real howler in the lede of today’s Wall Street Journal front page article about the matter:
U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn’t intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.
America’s vaunted global surveillance is a vital tool for U.S. intelligence services, especially as an early-warning system and as a way to corroborate other evidence. In Crimea, though, U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.
“Even though there was a warning, we didn’t have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen,” a senior U.S. official says.
Seriously? Does our assessment of the character and intentions of our adversaries really depend on intercepting a conversation like this:
Col. Natasha: Hey Boris, how’re those Ukraine invasion preparations coming?
Capt. Boris: Just great comrade. . . er, whatever we call each other these days. . . Anyway, everything is in place, and I’ve instructed everyone to waive to imperialist spy satellites when they make their overhead passes.
Col. Natasha: Good. I’m sure they’re not listening to anything. And I hear they’re still scanning that container full of recycled Olympic Misha dolls we sent them the other day for bugs.
Capt. Boris: So has comrade Putin set a date for the invasion yet?
Col. Natasha: It’s still uncertain. The original plan was to go when Obama left for his next vacation, but our intelligence service can’t seem to figure out how to identify when that takes place. It seems he takes a casual approach to his job. We think it is disinformatzia. . .