Could U.S. have stopped Syria’s chemical attack?

   < < Go Back
from CNN,

We recently learned that U.S. intelligence agencies had at least three days’ warning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was preparing to launch a chemical attack on his own people, but wasn’t able to stop it. At least that’s what an intelligence briefing from the White House reveals. With the combined abilities of our national intelligence apparatus — the CIA, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and all the rest — it’s not surprising that we had advance notice. It’s not known whether the U.S. shared what it knew.

More interestingly, the U.S. government did not choose to act on that knowledge (for example, launch a pre-emptive strike), which left some wondering why.

There are several possible explanations, all of which point to a fundamental problem with intelligence information and our national intelligence apparatuses.

The first possibility is that we may have had the data, but didn’t fully understand what it meant. This is the proverbial connect-the-dots problem.

The second possible explanation is that while we had some information about al-Assad’s plans, we didn’t have enough confirmation to act on that information. This is probably the most likely explanation.

The third is that while we were sure of our information, we couldn’t act because that would reveal “sources and methods.” This is probably the most frustrating explanation.

More From CNN: