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March 21, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Tibet fallout
The Chinese military crackdown in Tibet is raising questions about whether the Bush administration should go ahead with assistance to China's military for security measures at the Olympic Games this summer, defense officials said yesterday.

China has asked for advice and security equipment, some of which involves U.S. military gear, for the games and the request has set off an internal debate.

Pro-China officials favor providing the help and some military gear, arguing that President Bush will attend the opening ceremony in August and thus boosting Olympic security would benefit the United States.

Other officials opposed to the support say the U.S. military, in particular, should not help and is restricted by Congress from supporting foreign police activities because of past concerns over U.S. backing for Latin American security services that had links to death squads.

"The suppression of the monks supports blocking the Chinese request," said one official.

Some administration officials have sought to deflect criticism of the Chinese military, claiming the troops and armored cars used against unarmed protesters in Tibet are from the People's Armed Police (PAP), the Soviet-style internal security forces, and not the People's Liberation Army, as the military is called.

However, officials said there are signs the Chinese military is involved in backing the security force, and that both armed forces are under the control of the Central Military Commission, headed by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon this week activated its new hot line with China's military, but questions are being raised about whether the communications link is working. A test this week will determine whether Chinese military leaders will actually answer the phone and not ignore U.S. military calls as in the past.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said he is not aware that the Pentagon is coordinating with the Chinese military on Olympic security.

However, he stated: "The U.S. government traditionally works with Olympic host nations to offer whatever support they can to security efforts."

Diplomatic response
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill this week defended the administration's response to the Chinese military crackdown in Tibet and western China that is limited to diplomatic protests.

"I realize when you see people getting killed in these things, calls for restraint don't look adequate, but such is the nature of this issue," Mr. Hill, in charge of East Asia policy, said Tuesday during an interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Times.

The U.S. diplomatic protests were lodged by U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt, and in telephone calls from senior officials to the Chinese, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

So far, the administration has no plans for the president to cancel his planned trip to Beijing in August for the Olympics opening ceremony, or for other punitive measures such as sanctions, or curbing U.S.-China military exchanges.

"I think up and down the line we've let them know," Mr. Hill said of U.S. protests against the crackdown, which led to the deaths of about 100 people, according to human rights groups.

"The trick is to try and stabilize the situation and try to encourage the Chinese to understand that getting into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama is probably the best way to get through this," he said, referring to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The U.S. advice has been given to the Chinese both publicly and privately for years, "and it's advice the Chinese have not decided to take."

Mr. Hill said the People's Armed Police (PAP), as the communist security forces are called, was called in after a crackdown on Buddhist monks triggered widespread unrest, including violence against Han Chinese and their businesses in Tibet. "We understand that it is the PAP that is engaged in this. The PLA has not been directly engaged," Mr. Hill said.

Some defense officials favor curbing U.S. military contacts with the Chinese as a result of China's military crackdown. Critics of the exchange program in Congress have said the exchanges remain one-sided in favoring China's military, which has not reciprocated U.S. visits and access.

Analysts' funk
Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis Tom Fingar has given several recent speeches praising supposed improvements in U.S. intelligence analysis in the aftermath of the Iraq weapons of mass destruction failure.

But a new report by the private Rand Corp. stated that problems remain with U.S. intelligence analysis and that new intelligence failures are likely.

The report, "Assessing the Tradecraft of Intelligence Analysis," said interviews with analysts at the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and other agencies revealed a common concern among analysts is that "the intelligence community used to do analysis but mostly now does reporting."

The report said the intelligence analysis community is perceived widely as in trouble. "By some lights, both the number and the rate of analytic failures seem to be accelerating, and the consequence of them may be increasing dramatically," the report said. The report lists some of the major intelligence failures over the decades, including a 1948 prediction that the Soviet Union was five to 10 years from a nuclear bomb yet detonated one a year later.

Other failures included a false "bomber gap" with Moscow in the 1950s, the false 1960s estimate that Moscow would not deploy nuclear weapons in Cuba, disproved by the Cuban missile crisis, and persistent shortfalls in analyzing Soviet military capabilities in the 1970s.

More recent failures included missing the Soviet Union's coming collapse in the 1980s, the United Nations' discovery in 1991 that Iraq had a more extensive nuclear program than the CIA predicted, and the failure to predict the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998.

In 1998, also, U.S. warplanes accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade "as a result of erroneous target information provided by the CIA."

For the 2000s, the report said, the CIA failed "to forecast 9/11 attacks" and tracked al Qaeda members in Malaysia months before "but fail[ed] to place Khalid Al-Midhar [one of the September 11 hijackers] on its terrorist watch list."

On Iraq, beginning in 2001, the "Iraqi WMD estimate took 20 months to develop and was dead wrong in its assessment of Iraqi WMD," the report said.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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