Last night I wrote about Leon Panetta getting bad information about what's happening in Egypt from his underlings at the CIA. That's a bad thing, right? You know what's worse?
The administration appeared as taken aback by Mr. Mubarak’s speech as the crowds in Tahrir Square. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, testified before the House of Representatives on Thursday morning that there was a “strong likelihood” that Mr. Mubarak would step down by the end of the day.Emphasis mine. Think about that for a minute. The head of intelligence is basing his views on media broadcasts? Why bother having spooks at all? All we know is what we get from the news readers on CNN or MSNBC or (heaven forfend) Fox News? Worse still, why would unnamed (natch) "American officials" admit such a thing? Did they somehow think such an admission would make people think better of anyone involved, including the president?
American officials said Mr. Panetta was basing his statement not on secret intelligence but on media broadcasts, which began circulating before he sat down before the House Intelligence Committee. But a senior administration official said Mr. Obama had also expected that Egypt was on the cusp of dramatic change. Speaking at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, he said, “We are witnessing history unfold,” adding, “America will do everything we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy.”
Our government looks like a bunch of impotent fools when we start making official pronouncements based on what we pick up from the news feeds. That benefits no one. I don't even know where to begin to solve these systemic problems, but putting someone in charge of the CIA who actually understands something and ashcanning Leon Panetta might be a start.