Codevilla explained two key failures in the intelligence community in America. The first is in the area of technology. To him, US intelligence suffers from “a variety of grave technical problems.” One of these is the futility of imaging technology because the other side always knows what is visible and what the imaging technology can see.
The second failure, according to Codevilla, is the dysfunctional nature of intelligence due to “how our governing class considers intelligence in general.” He sees in legislators and executives a desire to forsake important considerations in order to shape US Foreign Policy. He believes that US intelligence agents need to exhibit more humility and to realize that they “can be had.”
To further his point, Codevilla pointed to the December 30th attack in Afghanistan in which a double-agent killed 7 CIA agents who had been gathering intelligence from him over several months. While he was certainly somber about the deaths of the agents, he explained that the false information the agent had been providing was likely causing the deaths of thousands of innocent people by American drone attacks. It is this situation that impels Codevilla to call for heightened skepticism among the US intelligence community.
To be sure, Codevilla believes the best form of intelligence is human-focused, one in which agents are on the ground, close to their targets, and using human abilities to profile and match collectors to sources. This type of low-cost yet more effective intelligence community is, according to him, run by the French and the Israelis.
Did Osama bin Laden’s killing meet Codevilla’s standards? Without more details of the operation, it is hard to know, but Codevilla probably would have appreciated the human-level approach.