Archive for November of 2005
The “War Over the CIA” from 2001-2005 will merit its own chapter in the history of this Time. The CIA was a minor player in the larger struggle of the Bush Administration's feverish drive 2001-2005 to cement the United States' transformation to a post-modernist society of faith, mass emotion and belief. A minor cog, but a significant one.
To the Administration and its water-carriers, the CIA served as both a bogeyman and standin for the “pre-9/11 thinking” of empiricism, facts and verification.
The CIA is a complex bureaucracy. Certainly portions of the DO (Directorate of Operations) and other elements dutifully (in some cases enthusiastically) embraced the White House transformative post modernist vision. Other portions at the Agency resisted.
The CIA writ large helped its critics because of its track record. That record opened itself to — and invited — criticism, skepticism and even disdain. To Administration critics, particularly after November 2003, the CIA became a short hand for institutional truth-telling, competence and a healthy skepticism for neocon dreams.
Like a typical WWF-written script, both sides had villains and heroes. But is this reality? Not even close.
Two items come to mind. First is from Michael Sheuer, former Agency analyst, the celebrated author “Anonymous” and former head of the (Alec) Bin Laden Station. Sheuer has just written a colorful and occasionally brutal essay in the Washington Post “Book World” entitled Bad Intelligence: Two new books on the evolution of the CIA help explain the agency's current black eyes. Second, a recent WaPo article on the new Open Source initiative at the Office of the estwhile new Director of National Intelligence (OenDNI) highlights some of the points prompted by Scheuer's piece.
What are we being told here?
Michael Sheuer and the WaPo OenDNI initiative article both leave us locked in the Vince MacMahon narrative. One can cheer or boo depending on preference. In Sheuer's case, he performs well and we get some bravura body slams. Sheuer at least does not ask if we can smell what he is cooking. (One shudders).
But by now with the Bush Administration's post modernist transformation project in disarray, we are entitled to more. If we wish to jettison the Bush Administration's contempt for facts and empiricism, surely we must demand the same of its critics?
Who knew that John Lehman was a Sophia Coppola fan?
Lehman's crie de coeur in the WaPo “Getting Spy Reform Wrong” deserves mention because it is both telling important truths and it appears to have no discernable impact.
As Lehman notes:
Negroponte and his deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, are trying to implement some of our reform recommendations, such as the use of much more open-source intelligence (e.g., reading foreign newspapers). But in every case the implementation creates another box on the organization chart and yet another layer of bureaucracy. When it comes to staff, usually more is less: Authority is spread so thinly that no one can say yes and too many people can say no. Management becomes detached from what is going on in the field, the labs and the analytic shops. The result is delay and indecision — exactly what we saw before Sept. 11.
Lehman goes on to decry the bizarre Washington mindset that equates process with substance — (something that Larry Wilkerson does constantly on his 2-year-too-late “Dick Cheney Is A Menace” World Tour, when he claims all would be well if more meetings were held with more bureaucrats):
The administration just does not seem to get it. It appears to have a childlike belief that creating a new bureaucracy is the solution to every problem. Creation of the Department of Homeland Security has not improved our homeland intelligence. The bureaucratic method was amply demonstrated when DHS held 150 firefighters for three days in Atlanta while people died in New Orleans, so that the firefighters could be given the requisite instruction in avoiding sexual harassment. That's all about process, not results.
Is intelligence reform dead? In the grand sense, quite possibly. Negroponte et al. will make modest adjustments at the margins. But the system itself largely preserved its identity and sanctity. Ackerman-esque “high moments” that bring the public, Congress and the Executive together to decide major issues — such as the role and purpose of intelligence in a democracy — are rare. We may not have another for a long time.
Incremental change, welcome nonetheless. The Office of the ertswhile new Director of National Intelligence (OenDNI) announced the creation of the new Open Source Center designed to enhance the intelligence community’s use of publicly available information. The Open Source Center will be part of the OenDNI yet be located at Langley (think TTIC-like mechanism). Negroponte also announced the new assistant deputy director of national intelligence for open source, also located at OenDNI. The position has yet to be filled.
Recent bureaucratic wars between and among the WH, OSD, Foggy Bottom and CIA et al. and the attendant publicity re Iraq have obscured the larger truth: for much if not most of the world intelligence target sets, open source information is often far more timely, accurate and informative. And the expertise to understand it almost always now outside of government. (Sandy Berger was very good on this point when appearing before the 911 Commission). For closed societies ala Hussein-era Iraq and North Korea now, this was less true. But they are the exception, not the rule. Gotta give credit to where credit is due, at least OenNDI is giving some lip service to recognizing reality.
Much has been said about his refusal to submit the individuals identfied in the Inspector General Helgersen long suppressed report for disciplinary review regarding 9/11.
A separate issue is whether the report should be declassified and made available to the American people. Goss' own statement notes that to release the IG report is inappoprriate because of the fabled “sources and methods” bolierplate.
Harman's statement on Goss' decision replies “While it is never appropriate to reveal sources and methods, much in the report should have been made public by Goss and some already is public in the reports of the Joint Inquiry on 9/11 and the 9/11 Commission. We are exploring whether under Intelligence Committee rules or the DNI statute, portions of the report can be declassified.”
This is a month old already. Yet, it is instructive to note the abstract of the Ames Inspector General's report after the fold. Too bad Tenet seems to be showing more balls now re avoiding an Accountability Board than when he was On the Job. . .