Who Bombed in India?

The CIA, according to the author of a classified CIA report. The mainstream U.S. press, according to Village Voice media critic James Ledbetter.

The author of the CIA report, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, chastises the Company on Page 1 of today’s New York Times for failing to note the obvious clues that the Indians were about to detonate their nuclear bombs. He also rips the CIA for not employing enough on-the-ground spies in India and for relying too heavily on orbiting satellites, which produce more data than its haggard analysts can interpret. Jeremiah echoes the views voiced last month by the Hill’s intelligence-oversight committees, which expressed astonishment that the intelligence establishment’s $27-billion-a-year budget wasn’t adequate for the job.

But as Ledbetter wrote late last month, the “surprise” detonation of the Indian nukes constitutes more of a press failure than it does an intelligence failure. Ledbetter’s database search uncovered more than 500 stories and dozens of broadcasts since the beginning of the year that announced the intentions of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to make India a genuine nuclear power. “The problem is that almost none of them appeared in mainstream American publications,” writes Ledbetter. “Prior to the actual detonation, for example, the New York Times never published the story everyone today says was obvious: that the BJP’s electoral manifesto contained a pro-nuke plank. The Washington Post…included the nuke angle in the last two paragraphs of a story on March 19.”

Now that Adm. Jeremiah has retired from the U.S. Navy, he might want to join Ledbetter as a media critic. Listen as the admiral complains about the institutional failings of the CIA: It sounds like he’s griping about the flat-footed U.S. press!

“You fall into a pattern,” Jeremiah says, and “you start to expect things to happen… .You need to have a contrarian view.” CIA managers are passive, he says, when they should be saying, “Who’s in charge? Take charge. Make things happen.”

Jeremiah praises the quality of the CIA’s staff–Chatterbox is equally admiring of the quality of U.S. journalists–but concludes that they must be “much more aggressive in thinking through how the other guy thought.”

Jack Shafer