WASHINGTON — US intelligence agencies drew criticism from the White House and Congress that they failed to warn of revolts in Egypt and the downfall of an American ally in Tunisia.
President Barack Obama told National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was "disappointed with the intelligence community" over its failure to predict that the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, according to one US official familiar with the exchanges, which were expressed to Clapper through White House staff.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence, said there was little warning before Egypt's riots as well.
Top senators on the Intelligence Committee asked when the president was briefed and what he was told before the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
"These events should not have come upon us with the surprise that they did," the committee's chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in an interview. "There should have been much more warning" of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, she said, in part because demonstrators were using the Internet and social media to organize.
"Was someone looking at what was going on the Internet?" she asked.