US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warns of the presence of Al Qa'eda in Syria
Like all of us, the CIA has been caught off-guard by the pace of events in Syria. The advance of insurgents in parts of the country might have been expected, but suddenly the battle was in Damascus. Then came Wednesday's surprise: the bomb that decimated the top ranks of the Assad regime.
So what does a responsible intelligence service do? It launches a public-relations campaign.
The CIA got in touch with its long-time if unofficial Press Secretary, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, and the Obama Administration also fed lines to Helene Cooper of The New York Times. The message? Ignatius declares, "President Obama is seeking a 'managed transition' in Syria with the twin goals of removing President Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible and doing so without the evaporation of the authority of the Syrian state."
Using Ignatius and Cooper's transcripts, what are the CIA's priorities in that managed transition?