US spy chiefs grilled over Muslim Brotherhood

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 19:12 EDT
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WASHINGTON – Top US intelligence officials faced tough questions from lawmakers Wednesday over Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, acknowledging the spy agencies lack certainty on the opposition group’s views.

The intelligence chiefs struggled to answer questions about the agenda of the Islamist movement, amid accusations the spy services were caught off-guard by the unrest in Cairo that forced Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak to step down last week.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper told senators at a hearing that the group did not speak with one voice and that he was unsure about the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance on Iran, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and weapons smuggling into Gaza.

“It’s hard to at this point to point to a specific agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood as a group,” he said.

A dissatisfied Dianne Feinstein, chair of the intelligence committee, said the spy agencies needed to do better at understanding a group that could shape events in Egypt’s political vacuum.

“From an intelligence perspective, it is critical that we know what is that position (of the Muslim Brotherhood) and what is apt to happen. Egypt is the key country in the Middle East. And I worry about that,” she said.

Clapper said the intelligence agencies would bolster their efforts.

“This is obviously something we’re going to watch. We’re going to have to step up our observation,” he said.

US intelligence agencies enjoyed close ties over three decades with the Mubarak regime, which devoted huge efforts to tracking and suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some critics say the CIA developed a blind spot in its reliance on Arab regimes to counter Islamist militants, failing to closely track opposition movements and social unrest in the Middle East.

American spies cultivated relations with their Egyptian counterparts but often at the expense of understanding “the world of the protesters,” columnist David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post last week.

Feinstein slammed the intelligence agencies for their work on the Mideast turmoil, saying the services seemed to miss the importance of social media and that the US military’s Central Command had produced more useful reports.

Clapper reinforced doubts about the intelligence agencies last week when he described the Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.” But at Wednesday’s hearing, he admitted he made a mistake.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is obviously not secular. What I had hoped to convey, and would like to clearly state here, is that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt tries to work through a political system that has been largely secular in its orientation,” he said.

Clapper, a veteran of the intelligence world, said the Islamist group had diverse “factions” with “a conservative wing whose interpretation of Islam runs counter to broad electoral participation, and a younger, more liberal wing who are more inclined to work through a secular, political process.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta told senators the Muslim Brotherhood was not “monolithic” but that the intelligence services were closely following the organization, which he said included “extremist elements.”

The future role of the Muslim Brotherhood is the subject of heated discussion in Washington, with some lawmakers warning the group harbors hardline goals.

Citing the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, Panetta has announced a 35-member task force that is supposed to improve the CIA’s intelligence gathering on trends that can fuel political upheaval.

The task force will focus on tracking popular sentiment, opposition groups and the role of the Internet.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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  • Anonymous

    The Muslim Brotherhood were well known to both John Foster Dulles and President Dwight D. according to several media reports representatives from that organization met several times with both the Pres. and Mr. Dulles. So its not like they came into existance when Israel was first created.

  • dk504

    What they don’t know yet? These guys have been around for how long? Ask Kenyan women how much they just loooovve the Muslim Brotherhood, make sure you have an exit plan first. From what I have seen and heard in interviews they aren’t liked, they are despised and should be forced out of politics, as they are zealots.

  • Anonymous

    Last week Clapper said they were a secular movement. This week he says he is not sure. I certainly can’t say for sure what they are all about, but there is video of one of their leaders praising Hitler, so that might enlighten Clapper a bit on what their position might be on the Egypt-Israel peace agreement.

    If Clapper still has a job if The Donald is President- “you’re fired!”

  • foxdup

    Ummmm Source? All reports on Al Jazeera throughout show different. The leaders of the Brotherhood were on regularly. Stating clearly they are one small part of the whole people joining the protests. Not organizers. Not interested in the presidency. In fact. Stated point blank. We want a secular democracy!

    Stop the fear mongering. Accept this fact. The Egyptian People proved themselves to be mature, peacefull and strong people. My former home, the U.S. of . could learn much from them.

    This is Egypt, not Kenya. It’s not a franchise. Stop watching Beck. Stop taking that $250 / hr to troll from The Chamber of Commerce.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/L5PHKRPFHK3LLTRDNVH2ZBIWOA Cal

    I guess the real question is, “can they be bought like Mubarak?” I’m sure that there’s one corrupt bastard in their ranks who would take money and turn in his mother. Lets see how long it takes for the US to identify that guy and find out what his price is. What a world.

  • cannotvote

    Why don’t these paranoid idjiots just mind their own business.

  • cannotvote

    http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html – would be a good starting point.
    If you desire money, you will get money – but when money is acquired in such volume, you must then realise it’s not the money – but the desire. if you search for truth you will acquire much knowledge and you’ll still be left searching – this is the same process as the acquisition of money – but one takes, the other gives! (or something like that) Methinks the Gnostics were about this. The search for the material is unsustainable, the search for knowledge is sustainable. America is about money and so are it’s masters – which is why truth and knowledge are so scorned – and why America has so much to learn.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N6BJ56PKHQMYMIH3LYCOQC233I Sidd

    …when he described the Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.”

    Hilarious!!! Maybe Clapper needs to look up the word secular in the dictionary? The group is called “Muslim Brotherhood”. What made him think the group is secular when they have the word “Muslim” in the group’s title? DUH!

  • Spire

    Since we are on such good terms with the Egyptian military, ask them.
    Aren’t they 1 percent of the population? That’s huge in Al Ciada terms.

  • Anonymous

    “…National Intelligence Director James Clapper told senators at a hearing that the group did not speak with one voice and that he was unsure about the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance on Iran, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and weapons smuggling into Gaza…”
    good grief, what do these intelligence agencies spend their $70-80 billion on if they can’t even answer relatively simple questions such as these, hell, Juan Cole and some of these other academics I read could easily answer these questions and so could i after about an hour reading around on the internet. good grief. but really even if they knew the answers what the heck difference would it make to the revolution now taking place.

    and by the way i haven’t written this in a few days: Good riddance to gamal and hosni mubarak. I hope they are getting the briefs and investifations ready for the trials of these corrupt and ruthless people…..

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    Horseshit. Pulled that straight out of your ass, did you?

    Edit: Read and educate yourself a little, junior.