The ever-mysterious Central Intelligence Agency is typically considered a shrouded but beneficial entity that works to keep America and its interests safe at home and abroad. Despite the good that may come of its shadow operations, there are also plenty of mistakes that have been made, often with serious consequences. One recent story of such errors is that of a failed 1966 attempt to recover a plutonium-powered sensor in the Himalayas installed as part of an attempt to spy on China that was lost in a landslide. This sensitive machine may have been secretly recovered and kept for research purposes by the Indian government. These are some of the other major mistakes made by the CIA in its history:
1. September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack:
In what is probably the most recent controversial action of the CIA, American Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was killed during an attack on the embassy in Benghazi, along with three other Americans. There are still ongoing investigations and controversies surrounding the events, but failures on the part of the CIA are known. The CIA base was located about one mile from the consulate, so they were immediately aware of the situation, and initially responded quickly. However, shortly after the situation began, the CIA decided it was in the best interest of everyone to rely on Libyan security forces. The CIA also failed to provide the response team operatives who rushed to the consulate with appropriate heavy weapons. CIA leadership then forced Agency reinforcements to remain at the Benghazi airport for three hours while trying to obtain Libyan clearance to leave and to obtain appropriate vehicles. In the end, nearly eight hours after the beginning of the assault, the Libyan forces that the CIA had decided to rely on finally arrived. Sadly, it was much too late for the four Americans who lost their lives.
2. Kidnapping in Macedonia:
In December 2003, German citizen Khaled el-Masri was pulled off a bus in Macedonia by CIA agents and whisked away to a secret prison in Afghanistan where he was held and interrogated for five months. It turns out that el-Masri was not connected to terrorism, and the CIA analyst who pushed for el-Masri’s detention was not punished, but was actually promoted higher in the organization. This is perhaps one of the largest failures in the post-9/11 era of the CIA, when rules have been notoriously lax with respect to interrogation techniques and investigative conduct.
3. Operation Cyclone:
If you’re familiar with the late politician Charlie Wilson (D-Texas), or the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, this will no doubt sound familiar. As early as 1979 and continuing through 1989, the CIA provided support to Afghan Mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Russians during their invasion of the country. As it would turn out, members of the Mujahedeen would become part of Al-Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, one of their major leaders. CIA-trained terrorists with residual finances from the CIA would go on to commit such acts of terror as embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, as well as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is perhaps the biggest mistake and miscalculation made by the CIA when one considers how far-reaching the impact has been.
4. Bay of Pigs:
On April 17, 1961, Cuban counter-revolutionary forces financed and supplied by the CIA attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro. What ensued was perhaps one of the greatest failures of any invading force in modern military history. After the force of B-26 bombers flown by exiles failed to damage much of Castro's air forces, the invading ground forces were dispatched by a Cuban counteroffensive and forced to surrender on April 20. In total, 114 Cuban exiles and four American airmen died during the debacle, with 1,202 members of the invasion force being captured. Eventually, American lawyer James Donovan brokered a deal with Castro to release the remaining 1,113 prisoners in exchange for $53 million dollars in food and medicine. In the end, this attempt to overthrow Castro resulted in the solidification of his legitimacy and prolonged Castro rule, all as the result of the CIA's poor planning and preparation.
These are just four examples of failures by the CIA, an agency that serves as the clandestine arm of the United States for security. However, with errors like these, the question must be asked. Could the CIA be a hindrance with such gross failures?