Former CIA Director: We Were Surprised by Arab Spring
Leon Panetta says CIA was caught flat-footed and didn’t ‘really understand what was going on’
Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the spy agency was caught flat-footed when the popular revolts and armed insurrections known as the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East in the early 2010s.
“Obviously, we made a couple of mistakes that I have always stuck in my mind,” Panetta said in a wide ranging interview on the SpyTalk podcast released Thursday. “One is, frankly, with the Arab Spring ... We really didn't have that much of a heads up in the intelligence community about the various factors that contributed to the Arab Spring, to really understand what was going on. And what ultimately took place.”
The revolts, prompted by low standards of living under corrupt, repressive regimes across the region, erupted in over a dozen countries and ended up toppling four strongmen, in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
Panetta, CIA director from 2009 to 2011 in the Barack Obama administration, said the agency’s “people on the ground were aware of what …