Monday, January 23, 2017

The National Security Agency's Definition of Success in Iraq

Other than this:

...what did it take to make the leadership at the NSA think that the United States efforts in Iraq had been successful?

Thanks to the liberating efforts of Edward Snowden, we now have a glimpse into the mindset of the NSA in February 2005 from this writeup, composed by Major General Richard Quirk, Signals Intelligence Director, which appeared on the SIDtoday internal website:

There you go, another confirmation that the Iraq war was "Mission Accomplished" as early as the first "democratic election" held in Iraq during January 2005.  This, despite the fact that the January 2005 election is widely believed to have led to the disenfranchisement of the Sunni population because of their lack of participation/boycotting of what was seen to be a flawed electoral procedure in which, ultimately, only 58 percent of eligible voters turned out.  It was this disenfranchisement that led to increased Shi'ite - Sunni tensions and made it exremely difficult for the coalition forces to quell the post-election insurgency.  Interestingly, the situation in Iraq prior to and during voting was so violent that the International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IMIE), the monitoring organization for the January 2005 election chose to remain in Amman, Jordan, leaving the in-country ground work up to volunteers who represented the various political parties competing in the election along with non-partisan volunteers who were recruited by non-governmental organizations.   Despite that little setback, here are some of IMIE's observations about this day that was so emotional for Major General Quirk:

"While democratic media norms were not always fully respected, some coverage of opposition parties and candidates on both state and private media was visible or audible. Government events were excessively covered on the pretext of "government business," but the opposition was not totally excluded. There were a number of appearances by opposition candidates. While none of the people contacted to write this report totally condemned Iraqi media election coverage, in future events this coverage needs to be monitored more closely, and equity in access to media must be enforced.

Many newspapers, television and radio stations claim to be independent but have strong links with political parties. Al Iraqiya (IMN), the state television station, seems to have received pressure from authorities outside the station to cover specific stories. However, some radio and television stations with political connections seem to have given their political opponents an opportunity to buy air time and broadcast their messages.

If the use of indelible ink remains a check against duplicate voting for forthcoming electoral events, it may be useful to have the voters cast their ballot before dipping their finger to avoid stained ballots. It was also reported that the ink could be rubbed off with hand lotion or certain types of detergent. While a stain would remain, inexperienced observers and election officials may not have noticed this.

Problems and irregularities that were noted during the polling process resulted typically from a combination of the security conditions, inadequate training of IECI staff, human error and the novelty of, and the resulting unfamiliarity with, complex polling processes. Reported irregularities regarding voter eligibility, and illegal activities or deliberate manipulations by electoral staff and/or political actors, should not be discounted. However, to the extent that such problems occurred randomly through the polling process, they are unlikely to have undermined its integrity or diminished the legitimacy of the election results.

There were some local problems with the tamper evidence bags being used improperly (placed in with the ballots rather than in a separate box to be sent to IECI headquarters) or not being used at all. Also, some ballot boxes were not properly locked.

The reconciliation of all ballots remains a key area for improvement. For example, in Northern Iraq, there were reports of ballot boxes that had been obviously tampered with or stuffed. Specifically, there appear to have been 49 rigged ballot boxes in Ninewa (Mosul), which were sealed with the old seals from the Saddam Hussein regime. Some 10,000 ballots appear to have been stuffed in this way. Far more numerous were the 300 questionable ballot boxes from Erbil containing perhaps 200,000 dubious ballots. (These ballots were investigated at IECI headquarters and rejected, which was a positive final outcome.)

That said, the complaint process also experienced a number of problems. Despite the laudable decisions of the Board to accept complaints by e-mail, and to extend the submission deadlines, a number of remaining obstacles made it difficult for individuals, political entities and organizations to submit complaints. Among the most important were fears for personal safety, travel and communication difficulties, and lack of information about the complaint process. These obstacles might explain in part why so few complaints were filed." (my bold)

Actually, now that I think about it, some of these issues sound like they could have stemmed from the 2016 American presidential election!

It is interesting to see how quickly the NSA leadership was willing to pat itself on the back for a job well done in Iraq.  I guess they were blind to the possibility that their current actions would have a detrimental impact on the future of Iraq.

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