The Obama Administration thought they had solved the crisis in Egypt. Yesterday in Marquette, Michigan, President Barack Obama told students at Northern Michigan University, “What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold. It’s a moment of transformation that’s taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change.” But hours later, after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down, White House officials were “stumbling for their next step in a crisis that was spinning out of their control.” How could President Obama have gotten events in Egypt so wrong?

The answer could be found hours earlier when both Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and General James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. First, Panetta touched off an avalanche of erroneous expectations when he testified that there was a “strong likelihood” that President Mubarak would step down by the end of the day. And where did Panetta get this valuable intel? The New York Times reports: “American officials said Mr. Panetta was basing his statement not on secret intelligence but on media broadcasts.” The Washington Post adds: “Panetta, who had little intelligence experience before taking the CIA job two years ago, has been praised … for handling public controversies with a deft touch. … Unlike other senior intelligence officials who were more circumspect in their comments on Egypt, Panetta did not hesitate in offering assessments of the rapidly shifting events.”

Continue reading on