CIA provided no heads up on current Egypt crisis

Friday, February 4, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The CIA said it warned the administration of President Barack Obama in late 2010 that Egyptian stability would plunge in 2011.

But a senior official admitted that U.S. intelligence did not see the current crisis developing in advance. The official said the CIA assessed that the Egyptian opposition was growing to the point where it could threaten President Hosni Mubarak.

"We have warned of instability," Stephanie O'Sullivan, a senior CIA official, said. "We didn't know what the triggering mechanism would be for that. And that happened at the end of the last year."

In testimony to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on Feb. 3, Ms. O'Sullivan, nominated as principal deputy director of national intelligence, acknowledged that the CIA did not envision the events over the last week in Egypt. She refused to elaborate on the intelligence assessment concerning Egypt.

"My duties involved a more general understanding of the debates that were going on and not the face-to-face briefing of the president over this past year," Ms. O'Sullivan, director of advanced technologies at the CIA, said.

The official said the U.S. intelligence community was first alerted to the prospect of regional Arab unrest amid the riots that ousted Tunisian President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali in January. Ms. O'Sullivan did not rule out the prospect of revolts in other Arab countries.

"The events in Egypt are rapidly unfolding and the intelligence community is working flat-out to track them on the ground," Ms. O'Sullivan said. "But the minute things started earlier on in Tunisia, the intelligence community started looking at the long-term strategic impacts."

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