Top US senator: 'No real warning' on Egypt unrest

WASHINGTON- US intelligence services gave the White House and lawmakers "no real warning" that unrest would rock staunch Washington ally Egypt, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said Tuesday.
Feinstein told MSNBC television that US policymakers had "a good deal of intelligence about Tunisia," where turmoil drove longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, but "virtually nothing about Egypt."

"So there was, to the best of my knowledge, no real warning either to the White House or certainly to the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Congress," the Democratic lawmaker said in an interview.
Asked whether intelligence officials had sounded the alarm after Ben Ali's ouster, telling lawmakers that the uprising in Tunisia could trigger unrest in Egypt, Feinstein replied: "Not that I know."
"And as a matter of fact, I don't believe there was any intelligence on what was happening on Facebook or Twitter or the organizational effort to put these protests together," she said.
Asked whether the events in Egypt had highlighted a US intelligence failure, Feinstein replied: "I would call it a big intelligence wakeup."
The lawmaker expressed concerns about the transition from longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak to democratic rule, citing the country's "tricky" mechanisms for political succession.
Feinstein said she had met with Tunisia's ambassador on Monday and that the country was "redoing" its constitutional rules on who can run for president and declared: "the Egyptians, I believe, need to redo this as well."
Feinstein also expressed US "concern" about Islamists taking over and that Hamas's victory in Gaza elections in 2006 showed "we do not understand the ebb and flow of the currents in the Middle East."
The White House on Friday had defended the US intelligence community, with National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor saying it had been warning for years about instability in the Middle East.
"The president expects the intelligence community to provide relevant, timely, and accurate analysis of events as they unfold, and that’s exactly what’s been done throughout this crisis," Vietor said.
On Thursday, Stephanie O'Sullivan, who was picked by Obama to be deputy director for national intelligence, said in a congressional hearing that Obama was warned late last year of potential unrest in Egypt.
There were also US media reports that Obama told Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that he was disappointed that US intelligence agencies failed to predict the upsurge of social unrest that overthrew the government in Tunisia.

Tuesday, February 8th 2011

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