Two retired military enlisted guys–Brandon Webb, Navy SEAL, and JackMurphy, Green Beret–may have been quality guys in the service, but they are proving themselves clueless when it comes to buying a bullshit story about the downfall of General David Petraeus.

Now, it is possible that the Daily Mail is misreporting the content of their book. If so, then I owe them an apology. But that does not appear to be the case. In fact, they are specifically quoted in the bizarre Daily Mail piece.

Let’s start with the so-called “palace coup:”

Senior CIA officers targeted Petraeus because they didn’t like the way he was running the agency – focusing more on paramilitary operations than intelligence analysis. They used their political clout and their connections to force an FBI investigation of his affair with Paul Broadwell and make it public, according to ‘Benghazi: The Definitive Report.’

‘It was high-level career officers on the CIA who got the ball rolling on the investigation. It was basically a palace coupe to get Petraeus out of there,’ Jack Murphy, one of the authors, told MailOnline.

This is utter nonsense. For starters, we have never had a Director who put more priority on “intelligence analysis” than operations. Boys, you been watching too much Homeland on Showtime. Analysts at the CIA have always, absolutely always, taken the back seat when it comes to the sexiness of ops. Moreover, the CIA’s one time dominance in the realm of analysis has evaporated. The movement of the Presidential Daily Brief to the DNI (taking it outside of the control of the CIA) made the role of CIA analysts less relevant, not more. Petraeus is at the end of a long line when it comes to dissing intelligence analysts.

Then there is the claim that Petraeus was ramping up paramilitary ops.

Drones started in the CIA. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the CIA was the only US Government agency with a drone up in the air and they were the first with a drone out killing people. The escalation we have seen in drone strikes since Barack Obama took office have been carried out predominantly by the CIA.

CIA drone strikes started diminishing in 2011, which happened to coincide with our attack on the Bin Laden compound in Abottabad. Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal has terrific graphs charting the ups and downs of the drone activity. If anything, the chart makes it pretty clear that drones strikes have been going down, not up. Especially during the tenure of Petraeus.

One of these days the true story of the drone in the war on terror will be told. It is really two different stories. There are drones that are under the control of the military and there are drones under the control of the CIA. The CIA activity is more frequent and more lethal than that carried out by the U.S. military.

Webb and Murphy also take a whack at trying to explain Benghazi. Their version sounds plausible but is flawed:

Murphy and co-author Brandon Webb also revealed that the September 11 Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, was retaliation by Islamist militants who had been targeted by covert U.S. military operations.

The book claims that neither Stevens nor even Petraeus knew about the raids by American special operations troops, which had ‘kicked a hornet’s nest’ among the heavily-armed fighters after the overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, had been authorizing ‘unilateral operations in North Africa outside of the traditional command structure,’ according to the e-book. Brennan is Obama’s pick to replace Petraeus as head of the CIA.

Longtime readers know I have no lost love for John Brennan. I think he is a dangerous, incompetent. I think he should be prevented from becoming the head of the CIA. But let’s be sure to blame him for things he’s really done. The military, especially the Special Ops folks, do not send Op Orders to John Brennan for approval. Even the most highly classified units that operate within the confines of highly classified task forces still follow established JOPES procedures when it comes to planning and executing operations.

The notion of “military operations” outside the traditional command structure is truly a Hollywood fantasy. Even the raid to take out Osama Bin Laden followed the traditional command structure. The military command folks simply applied a strict need-to-know principle. Raids in North Africa are carried out under the authority of a specific task force and under the control of senior military personnel. Webb and Murphy should know better. But then again, maybe they were not cleared for full access to special ops activities and lack complete awareness of how things are really done.

Webb and Murphy may have been picking up rumint (rumor intelligence) about the White House running an “off-the-books” intelligence operation. There is precedent for that kind of thing–Iran Contra.

I am curious to see if Webb and Murphy dug up any new details on the David Petraeus missions to Turkey in March and September of last year. As I noted in my earlier piece, Petraeus was dealing with the issue of moving weapons to jihadist fighters in Syria. He helped turn on the faucet in March and, apparently, was turning it off in September.

I wish Webb and Murphy good luck, but they should know better–you can’t polish a turd.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • Jack Murphy

    I understand your skepticism and embrace it. I felt the same way when I first began to investigate this matter. I agree that the Agency was already para-military heavy, but Petraeus wanted to move even further in that direction and certain career agency officers objected to the policy he wanted to pursue. On top of that, there is a massive culture clash between the military and the CIA, one I think you must be aware of. The CIA did not like their Director running around and acting like he was still a Four-Star General and this was also a contributing factor to what I’ve been quoted as calling a “palace coup”.

    • Jack Murphy

      Also, I think your Iran-Contra comment may be closer to the mark than you think. There is a reason why I drew a parallel between Brennan and Oliver North in the book. There is some scary stuff going on in North Africa.

      • Larry Johnson

        If you really are Jack Murphy I encourage you to get in touch with me. We need to chat.

    • Larry Johnson

      I am well aware of the culture clash. But, what you guys reportedly wrote referenced a JSOC mission/missions in North Africa that Petraeus did not know about. If you truly knew about JSOC you would not have written what you wrote. They have not changed and their ops are certainly not being directed by the White House.

      • Jack Murphy

        Like I said, I understand your skepticism. Feel free to shelf the book for now, just keep it in mind as we move forward into the future.


    way of topic

    this man deserves better. can you or your associates do something to help him?

    • Larry Johnson

      I’m sympathetic but there is some of the story that’s not being told. For example, this guy never jumped from a plane without checking his chute. Now, he wants us to believe that he jumped from a secure job into nothingness without first checking to make sure he had a functioning parachute. Does not make sense and he needs to man up for his decisions.

      • HELENK2

        sometimes just someone telling him to get off his ass and do something is just what is needed. sometimes the pointing the way forward is just what is needed.
        sometimes just suggestions are just what are needed. How many times has someone said to you , did you think of this or tried that.
        I agree with you that charity is the last thing that is needed. but helping him find a job could make a big difference.


    US Senate Armed Services Committee chairman says vote on Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief is planned for Tuesday – @Reuters

  • Popsmoke

    One of the problems I have with Bill’s graphs is that they are based on press reports and the kill ratio seems rather high for the amount of mission flown.

    • Larry Johnson

      It is accurate as far as public reports go. Nothing wrong with Bill’s methodology.


    thank you for writing about this. When I read the article, It sounded strange. But as goofy as this administration is I was not sure.

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    Thanks Mr. Johnson for your post about this, I saw the link on Drudge about this and didn’t understand all the details.

    I like and respect Gen. Peterus, still pretty shocked he allowed himself to be compromised like that, he could have been blackmailed. And from what’s I read of him and listened to his past speeches, he seems a pretty stand up guy, very surprised this all went down the way it did.
    Maybe the 2 ex-military gentlemen are telling the truth, I guess time will tell as more details come out. I hope they keep pursuing all avenues to the truth.

  • Popsmoke

    Got to get the drone thingy out of CIA control with exception of using them for spook stuff NOT judicial killings. I have a huge problem with the way we are conducting these drone strikes. Yes I understand that out-of-theater strikes are different tactically. But we have done them in the past with a load of hush-hush-mush-mush rather than make them part of an administration PR campaign to show how tough this administration is over every other one. In the meantime we are pissing away hearts and minds by killing the wrong people or 16 year old kids whos fathers are US Citizens though terror connected without judical oversight. While flying in foreign airspace without permission. Of course judicial oversight is a load of horse shit. What Judge is going to order someones death without due process or even a lousy charge? The FISA Courts are badly flawed and in need of major overhaul.
    My opinion? Get drone strikes away from CIA and let the military handle it. Its not like we have not done this kind of stuff before using specops folk following and strict regimen of procedures which are sorely lacking currently.