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Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon Hardcover – February 12, 2008
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Graduating from college with a degree in Middle East studies, Rossmiller joined the Defense Department's Intelligence Agency in 2004 and soon volunteered to join a DIA unit in Iraq. He vividly recounts his six-month tour—the physical misery of the environment and the frustrations of feeling his work rarely made a difference. Good intelligence, he explains, begins with people on the spot (in this case usually Iraqis), who take risks but supply information that is often fragmented, out-of-date and even self-serving or false. Analysts, such as the author, tease out useful data and deliver it quickly to fighting men. Hobbled by clueless superiors and their turf wars, as well as ignorance of Iraqi culture, DIA units, including Rossmiller's, witnessed American forces repeatedly acting on poor or outdated intelligence. They killed and arrested plenty of genuine insurgents but also killed, arrested and infuriated many innocent Iraqis, which crippled their efforts. Back in Washington, Rossmiller discovered the agency under pressure to provide good news for the Bush administration. Superiors regularly rejected his analyses of Iraqi politics as too pessimistic. If repeated rewrites lacked an upbeat conclusion, superiors inserted one. That his predictions turned out to be correct made no difference. This intense, partisan arm-twisting devastated morale, resulting in an exodus of agency experts, including the author. Rossmiller gives a lively insider's view of the petty and not-so-petty politics that affect the intelligence our leaders receive in their efforts to pacify Iraq; it is not a pretty picture. (Feb. 12)
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Advance praise for Still Broken
“A. J. Rossmiller has given us a crucial piece of the Iraq debacle–a bottom-up, insider’s account of how the U.S. intelligence community has been twisted by politics and paralyzed by bureaucracy. Still Broken is also a powerful personal story of how a smart, well-educated, and patriotic young American tried to serve his country, in Iraq and in the Pentagon, and became disillusioned by the rank incompetence at the heart of the so-called ‘Global War on Terror.’ And while Rossmiller demonstrates, repeatedly, that his taste in music really needs an upgrade, he also proves to be an engaging, skillful, and funny writer.”
–Joe Klein, Time political columnist
“A gripping ground-level view of the exasperating journey of a brave intelligence analyst trying to serve his country at a time of cherry-picked, slanted, and downright deceitful intelligence. As he debriefs detainees, plans for raids in Baghdad, and offers apolitical Iraq analysis in Washington, his conscience never fails him, even as the leaders of his country do. It is one thing to decry ‘politicized intelligence,’ and another, deeper thing to live, as Rossmiller did, with the devastating consequences of ideology and ego run amok.”
–Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell
“A. J. Rossmiller is a truth-teller, a rarity today, and the title of his book–Still Broken–is the succinct truth about the U.S. intelligence apparatus. That apparatus is not only failing, but it is failing catastrophically. To understand part of the reason why, read Mr. Rossmiller’s book.”
–Lawrence Wilkerson, Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor of Government at the College of William & Mary, and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
“A. J. Rossmiller has emerged as one of the most insightful and sophisticated foreign-policy commentators in our country. He combines a passionate patriotism and irreplaceable real-life experience with the U.S. military in documenting the profound corruption and ineptitude driving our Iraq policy. Rossmiller served his country nobly during the war, and does so again with this important and moving new book.”
–Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act?
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Rossmiller joined the DIA young and naive, assuming that politics would not affect intelligence, which has such a direct affect on war and decision-making. Rossmiller was wrong
What he found was a litany of characters, many of whom he tries to give aliases to here, though any reader of Tom Ricks would likely pick them out.
Rossmiller's work for the Combined Intelligence Operations Center (CIOC) in Baghdad, the commands office meant to include the "best and the brightest." Anything would be farther from the case.
Rossmiller bogs down when start to describe the well trodden failures of the Bush Administration. Most readers of Rossmiller likely already know this. It doesn't need to be included.
But the stories, and the activities of the people he reveals on colonel on the bad side, John McCreary and his "Nighthawk" publication is the good.
I recommend this book.
Well to anyone familiar with DIA, his conclusions appear remarkably on the mark. Since its creation by Robert McNamara, DIA has been an agency in search of a mission. Although designed to be the military equivalent of CIA, DIA has never been able to acquire the cache' of CIA although it has also managed to miss most of the notoriety as well. The personal of DIA are an uneasy mix of military and civilian intelligence professionals under the often erratic management of military line officers and a few civilians of often dubious qualifications. DIA management is at best a mixture of competent and incompetent officers and civilians at all levels. This in large part is due to the Byzantine selection and promotion processes common to the IC as a whole, but exacerbated at DIA by the need to have a large number of military officers at field grade or higher in most senior positions whether or not they are qualified. Further, like the rest of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), DIA makes the fallacious assumption that all analysts of a given grade are identical so fails to recognize good analysts from bad. And it is certainly true that analytic judgments are often warped by the pernicious practice of letting rank trump facts or by elephantine attempts to support often badly conceived policies.
Rossmiller's account of his assignment to a DIA counter-insurgency operation in Iraq is a classic example of inept managers who relied on the DIA team actually deployed to sort out a mess caused by their incompetence. But his account of his experiences in the `Direct Action Cell' under a Captain White (USAF) also explains why DIA is able to function at all. Rossmiller is an acute observer and a facile writer who has written a well crafted book.
In case anybody cares, this reviewer worked with DIA on and off over a career of 42 years in the IC and actually worked at DIA for two years as an integrated analyst a quarter century ago. From Rossmiller's account it appears DIA today is unchanged from those far off times.