This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

January 6, 2010
U.S. military official accuses CIA of lacking key knowledge

One week after the killing of 7 CIA officers in Afghanistan, an American military official has condemned U.S. intelligence failures.

A new report by the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Major-General Michael Flynn, says that there is too much emphasis on collecting information about capturing insurgents — and not enough on gathering basic information.

Flynn said that intelligence officials are “ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the power-brokers are and how they might be influenced…and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers.”

Fore more about the killing of the CIA officers and American intelligence-gathering efforts in Afghanistan, Daljit Dhaliwal interviews Jeff Stein, a former Army intelligence officer and author of the blog Spytalk.

Should the U.S. invest more to train intelligence officers in the languages and cultures of the places where they are posted?

Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Please be respectful and on-point. Malicious or offensive comments will be deleted, and repeat offenders will be banned.

bookmark    print




Search your person who enters a room. Do not put all of your key people in one place. Be aware of the person who wants to be your friend from another country. Other countries do not trust people from another country. Just look at how their own security agentices operate in another country. All outsiders are treated as such. They are search before entering a place that is secure. Everyone. The CIA fell into a routinue of trust. A big mistake.




If we are to invest in this so that we can bomb them better, then certainly it will be a waste. If it is so that we can understand their point of view and try to find the common good, then that is like asking a fisherman “to fish or not to fish” what a silly question!


Yes, I think they should. And, carefully recruit members of that nation for intelligence gathering. The persons used for intelligence gathering should be monitored with bugs to make sure they aren’t double agents.


Does anyone remember the slide-rule;chemistry,math/calculus,biological,electronic,etc.etc.,vest-pocket reference books for all grad students,…not forgetting to mention having to be proficient in at least two foreign languages minimum (two-years minimum each,but the more the merrier) just to qualify for the privilege of taking an entrance exam,… to any,or-all undergraduate college’s/universities? Remember when there were no hand calculators,laptops,(desktop computers)high-speed internet? Those ironically were the days of incubating true impirical growth, regarding learned intelligence. Noam Chomsky the world proclaimed,and renowned linquistic was a CIA asset/operative for years,…but eventually was able to look behind the smoke,and mirrors the agency so aptly painted for him in a rosy-colored narrative (as a pliable youth) of spreading the good-will of american ( little did he no of the ulterior motives plagiarized on capitalist hegemony) democracy. Well,..Noam eventually saw through the nefarious motives,and adamantly opposes the CIA’s covert-operations today. Needless to say he is an outspoken critic of his past (the CIA) empoyer! The final point I would like to make about General Flynn’s admirable recommendation is,…. “Local Skin must be in the Flavor of the Game” if not,… all is in vain. PS. Certainly were not there to make a better life for the woman,children,…and all other,worthy-mentionable indigenous land-dwellers. If so what happened in Africa must be our disillusional paralysis of sorted-priorities?


If Americans wish to have any reliable intelligence, their operatives HAVE to be fluent in the dialects of the area they are operating in. And those people should be steeped in the culture of the area, so that they can best assess credibility, nuances and so many other factors that affect intelligence offerings. To do less is negligent bordering on gross incompetence.

I don’t think they have the qualified people, and all NATO forces are in over their heads in Afghanistan. They need to leave. Now.


Yes, but start the training at High School and College and offer the instiutions a premeium for
their efforts.
As for the French Poet, please France observe
his last wishes for he disliked his time in Paris
and to place his remains there, would be a horror
to his Soul.
Bosnia, the world has a taste in it’s mouth
like when they think of what Hitler did to his victims. Unless you all admit to your past faults
and wrong doings to each other and instead go to war, I’m affraid the world well link your countries name to the atrocities committed by Hitler and those that took place in Africa, in
another words it well vomit at the mention of your countries name, is this what you want?


oK–would it be helpful to have more officers trained in languages–of course. I think when we make more people speak English in our country then we can make our heavily taxed Soldiers and Officers learn other languages. Think about it–We need our teachers to speak more languages–we can’t even understand the children in our public schools and they are on AMERICAN soil and using AMERICAN taxpayer money . . . . so ya WE SHOULD ALL SPEAK MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE!!!


For our intelligence officers to gain a useful knowledge of the language and culture is desirable but impractical. Beside the two official languages, Pashto and Dari, and their many dialects, at least seven additional languages are spoken in Afghanistan. Remember, we are only supposed to be there for another year. Maybe in that year we can learn to say “goodbye”.


We must substitute military strategy by, more and more, the internalization of culture, geographic, economic and political intelligence of which may be peculiar and strange to us. For the moment, at least, we have to make the effort to grasp, appreciate and undserstand different value systems. The area has a long history of invader defeats. We are in no position to overturn history with mailed fists.


If we are to relate we must learn their language and culture and respect it. Follow the suggestions of your guest Jeff Stein he wrote a book on it and makes perfectly good sense in your interview. Those CIA agent are dead because they didn’t follow their own rules and took a short cut.


We do need to develop more Training and recruiting for our Intelligence Services. The problem started back under President Clinton when the State Department wrote the Directive that forbid our own Agencies from sharing info.The person that wrote that treacherous Directive was Janet Napolitano, and look at where she is now. Freedom for all of us depends on good Intelligence.


While it truly shouldn’t matter in the way we treat people, I think for US citizens to be able to finally understand the damage they are causing, it will be necessary to better understand their language and culture, so as to have a less easy time distancing them from ourselves.
But the truth is, it really shouldn’t be necessary. Death and violence is a part of all languages, and affects all people in ways to terrible to justify.


The Institute of World Politics ( is an excellent way to prepare Americans to understand the environments which are crucial to our national security. We have not done a very good job of educating those who go abroad, in an intelligence capacity, to appreciate the critical aspects of others’ cultures and are therefore at a disadvantage from the start. We cannot afford to keep making the same mistakes.


No amount of inteligence gathering will cure man’s STUPIDITY toward man. They must look inside their soul, and ask WHY, they are this way? Peace on this planet will never come to pass…


The answer is “yes of course” we should. Going into a country, hoping to make any kind of progress without speaking their language and knowing nothing about their culture is nothing less than sheer stupidity. We seem to think nothing of attempting it though. After years of being at war with some of these countries I still hear news anchors pronounce the names of Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan incorrectly. Why? Because they can’t be bothered to even learn the correct way to say those names. If we can’t even get ourselves to pronounce the names of these countries correctly, well, then how can we expect to achieve anything at all?

Also, wake up America, it’s a brand new world out there! We’re not the only ones on this planet and we’re not the only one that counts. We want to “play” with the rest of the world, we’ll have to assimilate with the rest of the world. One of the best ways of doing that is to learn how to speak other people’s languages.




If the USA wants to maintain and/or expand its empire it will certainly need to better prepare its intelligence services; unfortunately this at the expense of dealing with numerous domestic issues.


Why was it not being done already? Oh, wait a minute — I know, the money that should be spent on it is instead on, well, you name it. Medicare, medicaid, health care reform, etc. is more important than spying on our enemies!!!! What the @#$@$@$% Hell is that all about??


You will probably class this as offensive, but I
ask again – what the hell is the point of these opinion polls – what do you do with them?? Are
you just placating viewers by making them think their opinion ‘counts’ — counts for what – do you every release the results of the polls?? I
think it is a waste of time – you don’t need to
waste your time ‘banning’ me – I won’t write again – apparently no one there has the ethics to answer my questions – must be nice to so isolated. Happy New Year P E Dillon


It is almost a standing joke that Americans are some of the most ignorant people when it comes to geography. Much more emphasis must be put on language training, and an appreciation of other cultures than just American culture in The United States.



To use an Illustration (of what a glass Prism enables by virtue of its nature):

Let the White Light Of Common Human Knowledge
go through the Prism Of The Workings Of The Collective Subconcious State Expressing in the Variations of Manifest Multi-Nationalities of People just as they could be perceived when considered across the expanses and firmaments of linear and vertical Time-Space Segments, collectively…and while this is being considered, begin to note the Natures Of The “Colors” And Styles Of Information which “come out” of the Prism (which is, internally, processing your Manner Of Awareness) and begin to perceive, again where the Cultural Boundaries
may, truly if not obviously, be…when each “Color” is, “spectrally” (“modern variants” …but of the same Ancient Truth), examined (as to physical and psychological terrains) in a Multi-Tiered Way–in the same way as a Map Of The World might be examined: one glass level rising upon the glass structure of the one just below it–as that Way leads to far better “realized” overviews of all the manifestations of all the interpretations of all the varying internal and external languages which are being spoken, even by usages of the linear and vertical “line-threads” of many “intersections” on the transcendent dimensions layered across and above the Chessboards of Silence, which are ever being “communicated” (often without “concious awareness”) beneath the Ear’s more audible ability to, physically, hear…those deeper “sensings” as to the “depth-meanings” behind all the “surface-inflections” being used in the analyses of the tonal qualities of Human Languages and Speech.


Goodness, most Americans are not required to know how their own government works. Not much of anything is taught in our schools anymore, maybe football, basketball. No one wants to spend money and energy on history,civics, languages. WE have no intellectual curiosity.


Absolutely. In my opinion and to paraphrase your guest, we haven’t learned anything since Vietnam. War is not a video game. Technology does not take the place of a concerted policy.


Yes, it is very critical that those in our intelligence service and foreign service make a serious attempt to learn and use the language of the country they are posted to, as well as learn and respect the cultural norms of those countries.

Learning the language and being in sync with the culture helps lower the communication barrier – be it in business or politics. This is a vital ingredient in bridging the gap between cultures and promoting global understanding and friendship.

Making an attempt to communicate in the local language and learning the nuances of the culture has helped me in my career as a global business developer. When I make mistakes, I find that people go out of their way to help me get over the hurdles. Its a very educating and refreshing experience indeed.


“common sense is not so common”

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2018 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television