[FOUNTAIN]Crying wolf is a dilemma for spy agencies

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[FOUNTAIN]Crying wolf is a dilemma for spy agencies

The shepherd might not be a liar, but he will always be criticized one way or another.
If he cries “Wolf!” and the wolf does not harm the sheep, he will be accused of lying. Then, the shepherd will become discouraged and wait until the last minute to alert others if the wolf finally does appear. He would be spared from being called a liar, but he would lose the sheep he was guarding.
Spies face a similar dilemma. The U.S. intelligence agencies, which virtually control the global information network, have received both kinds of criticism in the last few years. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, they were criticized for not sounding an alarm. Then when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, they were accused of imprudently blowing the whistle.
In fact, the intelligence agencies are complying with the president’s intent. After the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya by al Qaeda in 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of alleged terrorist camps. The decision coincided with the release of “Wag the Dog,” a movie in which the White House stages a war to cover up a president’s scandal.
President Clinton was criticized for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky at the time, and the movie looked like a satire of the situation. Then the president began to ask for 100 percent reliable information, and the intelligence agencies produced conservative reports. The agencies found out but did not report the fact that some of the future terrorists entered flight school in the United States.
The situation changed after Sept. 11. Nearly all terror-related intelligence was passed along as fact. Aluminum pipes were considered a preparation for uranium enrichment, and gas masks were viewed as indicating chemical weapons development. Since the UN inspection team left Iraq in 1998, there had not been reliable information on the country’s development of weapons of mass destruction, but the president declared war against Iraq with conviction.
Since no weapons of mass destruction were found, Washington and London are holding investigations over the inaccurate intelligence. It could be called “WMDgate.” But unlike the Watergate or Whitewater scandals, tens of thousands of lives have been lost this time. The shepherd boy is not the only one to be blamed.


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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