White House defends US spies on Egypt

Last Updated: Saturday, February 5, 2011 - 13:39

Washington: The White House on Friday defended the US intelligence community following reports and suggestions from Congress that it had failed to warn President Barack Obama in advance about unrest in Egypt.

As turmoil rages in Cairo, the first murmurings of political dissent on the crisis are beginning to emerge in Washington, with the complex web of US spy agencies a familiar target.

But the White House sought to tamp down the recriminations. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the US intelligence community 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.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed doubts about the ability of the CIA and others to quickly inform the president, the secretary of state, and Congress of threats.

"I have doubts as to whether the intelligence community has lived up to its obligations in the area," she said.

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.

An unnamed official also said Obama was given little prior warning of unrest in Egypt.

The President has had repeated intelligence briefings on the political meltdown in Cairo, and conducted a number of meetings with national security aides, including Clapper and other top US spies.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, February 5, 2011 - 13:39

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