Mike Morrell Speaks

Mike Morell served 33 years at the CIA, culminating when he became the acting director. His book, The Great War Of Our Time, co-written with Bill Harlow, discusses his critical role in the most important counterterrorism events of the past two decades. He not only discusses the successes, but is very up front about recognizing the mistakes made as well. The book covers a wide range of issues that include Benghazi, ISIS, his surprising view of President George W. Bush, the Iraq War, the Enhanced Interrogation Program, the Drone Program and Iran. However, this article will concentrate on the issues of Iraq and Benghazi.

Regardless of someone’s political views people should agree with Morell’s one-sentence dedication: “To the men and women involved in CIA’s fight against terrorism -- the finest public servants you will never know.” He also has in the last chapter this same theme of acknowledging the talented and passionate public servants who are part of the front-line to keep Americans safe. Morell emphasized that these men and women receive little public acclaim and money while working long dedicated hours.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the chapter about the decision to go to war with Iraq, especially given the recent questions directed towards Jeb Bush on this subject.  In the book Morell writes, “I understand why the President felt it necessary, and it is hard to say that anyone presented with the same facts and burdens would have come to a different conclusion. After all, most of the Congress saw the war as necessary for the same reason that the President did.”

He told American Thinker, “As with the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) what I tried to do is tell the readers the context of President Bush’s decision, which was that the US had just been attacked, 3000 people killed, the CIA is telling him one of our greatest adversaries, Sadaam Hussein, has WMDs, chemical weapons, is producing biological weapons, and is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. The CIA also told the President that Hussein is supporting international terrorist groups, although not Al Qaeda.  The President was also told if he builds up a strong Iraq, friendly to the US, it can be a bulwark against Iran and not our enemy. It wasn’t only President Bush, but the majority of Congress who also believed this, many of whom have conveniently forgotten.”

There are numerous quotes by Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi attesting to that fact; yet, the press only faulted President Bush.  Even more interesting is that President Bush is blamed for the intelligence community getting it wrong but the Obama Administration never received that same scrutiny regarding Benghazi. Remember Hillary Clinton standing by the coffins saying it was motivated by a video?  When asked Morell told American Thinker, “We still don’t know with any degree of certainty what motivated the attackers that night.  We won’t know until we capture a whole bunch more.  My analysts never said that attackers that night were motivated by the video.  They said the attackers were motivated by those in Cairo and a call for revenge after the killing of a senior Al Qaeda guy, Al-Zawahiri.”

Hillary Clinton wants to be president but does not show the leadership of President Bush. He never speculated about the perpetrators of 9/11 but waited for the facts to come in, while Clinton quickly rushed to judgment. Morell confirmed that President Bush “did not say the attacks were caused by Al Qaeda until we in the intelligence community told him it was Al Qaeda. My strong preference as an intelligence officer is that elected officials when talking about national security stick as close as they can to what the intelligence community believes and has told them.”

Sharyl Attkisson is at the forefront in investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack. A recent article on her website cites an internal Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report that tied Al Qaeda and a Muslim religious ideology to the attack, planned at least ten days prior. When asked about this, Morell told American Thinker, “Be careful.  DIA is a single intelligence report.  At the end of the day the analysts at the CIA concluded there was little pre-planning.  It does not matter how much pre-planning there was.  This was a terrorist attack with four Americans murdered. It does not matter whether it was two months of preplanning or four days. If there was significant pre-planning then we did not do our intelligence job in seeing it coming.”

Yet, the reason it does matter is that any pre-planning means it could not have been caused by a video.  Morell responded, “Right-right.  But take a look at the 2014 FBI briefing.  They said those who ordered the attacks were because of the video and Al Qaeda’s call for revenge.”

Attkisson also questions the talking points changes, and Morell’s statements about those changes. In his book Morell refers to a quote by the State Department that asks for a removal of the sentence blaming Al Qaeda for the attacks.  He directly noted, “What they said to us when they asked us to take out that sentence, ‘The only way we know about this is from classified information.’  The argument to take it out: it would expose classified information.  My analysts accepted that, but as I say in the book I think it was a mistake to take Al Qaeda out.  However, it was taken out long before I saw those talking points.”

He does understand people’s skepticism.  However, he believes a lot has to do with partisan politics considering “The Senate and House Intelligence Committees put it to bed and understood my role as a professional was trying to do my job without having political motives.  After I left the CIA there came a view that I was part of Secretary Clinton’s team.  None of this is true.  Yet, as a result people came at me a second time, because I do some consulting with Beacon Global Strategies.  It is incorrectly seen as Hillary’s company. There are four principals of the firm.  Three are close to Hillary but the fourth is a die hard Republican and would have been Mitt Romney’s transition guy for intelligence had he won.  There are a lot of misperceptions about where I stand.  When I worked at the CIA the only thing I wanted to do is to have my analysts do their job and say what they needed to say as well as to protect the Agency.”

For him the real consideration should be, “Why didn’t the State Department facility have better security; why were all the requests for better security rejected; and more importantly why didn’t the people in Washington see the need for greater security considering all the strategic warnings provided by the CIA given that the situation was getting worse and worse.  My people initiated a review of our place there and as a result we upgraded the security at least twice. We told everyone, the President and the National Security team, that the security situation in Eastern Libya and Benghazi in particular was getting worse and worse, but did not provide tactical warnings of when there will be an actual attack.

Morell does not put much credence into the email correspondence between Secretary of State Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal whose testimony is scheduled for June 16th. Blumenthal will answer questions from the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding emails sent to Clinton on the security and diplomatic environment in Libya.  Morell stated, “My question is how the hell does he know?  The problem is that Blumenthal has no credibility and does not say who his sources are.  Where is the information coming from?  Just because he says something, that is meaningless.  People should also understand that it is not unusual for friends and colleagues of senior officials to send them stuff.  It happens all the time.”

Readers of The Great War of Our Time will gain an insight into the thinking of Michael Morell who played a pivotal role with Benghazi and Iraq. It provides an understanding into the world of intelligence through Morell’s explanation of the different terrorist threats and how the CIA handled and assessed them.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.