Alot has been said about the erstwhile new NDI's penchant for lazy 3 hour lunches.
On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence, John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club's library. “He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday,” gripes a senior counter terrorism official . . “Yet, Negroponte is not alone.
Look at the the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Their handling of L'Affaire NSA shows them taking a dive as well. Both Committees are essentially walking dead. Their viability as independent entities representing a co-equal branch of government more or less came to a halt by 2005. If one dates them not from their actual formation but from the codification of the oversight mechanism in the 1980 Intelligence Oversight Act, they had a 25 year run.
Not bad in the scheme of things. A shame they died right when they were needed most.
Is that too harsh? How realistic is it to expect either Committee to be an effective overseer when the institutions themselves, the House and Senate, no longer believe (or want to act like) co-equal branches of government? So when HPSCI,as Bill Arkin reports, trades active oversight for mere access to info , the Committee is actually just mirroring what has happened to the House as a whole.
And likewise in the Senate. Today the Committee voted for not investigation, just the formation of a subcommittee. Frist's earlier threats to dissolve or change the Committee structure had their intended impact. The Senate is not even pretending to do anything other than log roll. ``This committee is basically under control of the White House,'' Rockefeller told reporters after the two-hour meeting today in Washington. ``It's an unprecedented bout of political pressure from the White House.''
As some of you know, the Stiftung was not a big fan of how the criminalization of intelligence policy played out going back to the early 1980s. Then, as now, the Stiftung believed that citing dicta on either side about Article I versus Article II obscured the imperative and wisdom of seeking political solutions. But the radicalism of this Administration and its sweeping imposition of Executive secrecy and diktat is without precedent. Better the oversight mechanism of the past than this sorry mess.
But back to Negroponte. If Congress itself is going to take the equivalent of 3 hour lunches and surrender its constitutional function, perhaps in Negroponte's mindset, is it fair to ask why should he be expected to act any different? Why should he fall on his sword when neither the House nor Senate will?
We think it bizarre to see the relative neophyte Hoekstra , as well as more capable members like Harmon and Feinstein, demand Negroponte be a dynamic agent of institutional change. Yet then they scurry back into lethargic passivity themselves. We don't carry a brief for Negroponte. Do a search on the sidebar to the right. We would, however, understand if he looked at demands for his vigorous impositon of change coming from Congress with some cynicism.
Negroponte in the end is smarter than the average bureaucratic careerist. He, too, just like Congress, is obeying his President's wishes — not rocking the boat — whether expressed or implied.
UPDATE: 08.03.06 — As the CQ article noted and the Stiftung has written, the DNI was hamgstrung by OSD and Rumsfeld before Negroponte even took office. The Times today confirms long standing reports about the insertion of DOD-specific intelligence assets into embassies outside DNI (and State's) control.
”The Department of Defense is very eager to step up its involvement in counterterrorism activities, and it has set its sights on traditional C.I.A. operational responsibilities and authorities,“ said John O. Brennan, a 25-year C.I.A. officer who headed the National Counterterrorism Center before retiring last year. ”Quite unfortunately, the C.I.A.'s important lead role in many of these areas is being steadily eroded, and the current militarization of many of the nation's intelligence functions and responsibilities will be viewed as a major mistake in the very near future."