Bob Barr
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Despite repeated, self-serving claims by Obama officials that the Administration did everything it could to head off and then respond appropriately to the violence against American facilities in Libya and Egypt last week, their blunders in policy, intelligence and security illustrates an incompetence every bit as profound as exhibited by the administration of Jimmy Carter in Iran 33 years ago. It appears nothing has been learned in more than three decades; despite significant gains in technology available to the U.S. government during those intervening years.

In 1979, the Carter Administration precipitously abandoned the Shah of Iran, Washington’s long-time and loyal ally in Tehran, once widespread dissatisfaction with his regime surfaced. In the melee that ensued, and which accompanied the return from exile of the radical Ayatollah Khomeini, student groups led a successful assault on the huge American Embassy compound. Washington, believing the insurgent forces could be placated by throwing the Shah under the bus, failed completely to heed warning signs in the build-up to the storming of the diplomatic compound, and was caught flat-footed.

Once in control of the American facility, the radicals gained access to innumerable classified documents and microfilm cards (which standard operating procedures dictated were supposed to have been destroyed earlier) containing sensitive intelligence information. Additionally, because other security protocols had not been followed, certain individuals taken hostage were identified to the radicals as intelligence personnel, and subjected to “harsh interrogation techniques” during their long months in captivity.

As a direct result of the fall of the embassy in Tehran, the U.S. lost access to invaluable technological facilities, including some in northern Iran that provided unique electronic listening posts for then-Soviet missile ranges. Perhaps even more disastrous, was the compromising of the identities of numerous cooperating agents in Iran and elsewhere in the region; many of whom were subsequently tracked down and killed. The loss of such resources continues to be felt to this day.

Fast forwarding to last year’s mis-named “Arab Spring,” the Obama Administration found itself in much the same situation as did its predecessor in 1979 -- and appears to have engaged in just as serious a misperception. Apparently believing that popular uprisings against unpopular regimes in the Middle East, including Egypt and Libya, signaled an embrace of Jeffersonian Democracy in the Arab World, Washington again let down its guard – this time with immediate tragic results.
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Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.