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Shorting intel: Chilling warning

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Monday, June 18, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
 

Terrorist-killing drone strikes carry an often overlooked cost: lost opportunities to gather intelligence about terrorist plots. And the Obama administration's renunciation of interrogation techniques that helped foil at least 10 such plots exacerbates that problem.

So says Jose A. Rodriguez. Some think the former CIA counterterrorism chief and best-selling "Hard Measures" author could be CIA director in a Romney administration.

He tells The Washington Free Beacon that there's no U.S. system or facilities in place today for questioning captured terrorist leaders: "They are not taking prisoners in Guantanamo, (and) the black sites have been closed." He blames the Obama administration for America's terror intelligence gap.

President Obama's 2009 Cairo speech "unequivocally" prohibiting "torture" outraged and disgusted him and his colleagues. They believed they had proper authorization for harsh interrogations.

Limiting interrogators to Army field manual techniques means America's intelligence about terrorist plots is increasingly outdated, and "we're going to pay for this (lack of intelligence) at some point," Mr. Rodriguez says.

It's a chilling warning — and another Obama administration shortcoming.

Sloppy Pells

Who would hand students billions of dollars for college — with too little regard for their financial need or academic aptitude — and never check their grades or graduation rates? The U.S. Department of Education, that's who, and in the form of Pell Grants.

A new study from the nonprofit John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy says the cost of Pell Grants, established in 1972 to help low-income students, ballooned to $36 billion in 2010-11. Of America's 16.4 million 2009-10 undergraduates, 9.6 million received Pell Grants and just 39 percent of them were dependents -- sure signs of lost low-income focus.

Only about half of Pell Grant recipients graduate within six years. But Education officials don't even track recipients' academic progress.

The study recommends tightening eligibility rules to refocus on "very low-income" students, requiring minimum SAT verbal and math scores (850) and high school grade-point averages (2.5), limiting Pell Grants' use to four years of full-time college and publicizing regular reports on recipients' progress to evaluate effectiveness.

These moves would save billions of dollars, help curb tuition increases, assist the best-prepared students most in need and get the program back to basics — all needed for Pell Grants to make the grade.

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