The media seems thrilled that the various intelligence agencies did not know Kim Jong-il was dead until it was formally announced. I am not so concerned. Was there a major policy decision that was required between Saturday and Monday? Ah, what is intel good for? The mantra I remember from the Joint Staff: intel drives policy. Knowing the situation as best as you can should shape what you do.
Of course, shortly thereafter, you had the WMD mess of Iraq and the deployment of Chalabi (an Iranian agent) as our choice for leading Iraq.
But that is not the intel failure I want to discuss right now. Those were obviously driven by politics with little regard for reality (what intel told us). No, if the media wants to make a big stink about intel failure, go back to 2005-06: was there a failure of intel or was there just so much wishful thinking about the allies that the expansion of NATO to Southern Afghanistan was seen as relatively unproblematic? In my research, I have heard various things about what the intel was on Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan as the Canadians, Brits, Danes, Dutch and Aussies were headed there. This might be the subject of a serious intel failure story.
But being a bit slow on succession in North Korea, a place where we never had a great grasp? Where we were not facing a major or even minor policy decision at the time? Talking about distraction sauce, where is the damned fire?