Plenty of time for navel gazing on What Does It All Mean later. Today, let's do a tour of the battlefield. What really have we seen?
To make a clear judgment, first we need to inject some reality into the dominant (and false) meme floating around since 2003. This meme, embraced mostly (but not entirely) by Oppositionists of all hues, is that the CIA was a competent and diligent organization bravely speaking up to the Administration in clear dissent. For this, the Agency suffered an unjustified purge by Cheney and the Neocons. In this nutrasweet narrative (encouraged by the Agency and its apologists) the Agency is a stand in for opposition to the Administration, while those supporting reform are either stooges or members of the Cheney purge clique.
Would that things are that simple. The latest manifestation of this simplistic bifurcation can be found on an item over at Ken Silverstein's Harper's blog. Silverstein's “page 6” item on the Agency is interesting and not bad per se. We say “page 6” because the item is largely a recap of his Agency sources' agenda. Similar stories are peddled across the Imperial City around water coolers. We heartily approve of Silverstein rebuffing more of Stephen Hayes' Neocon water carrying. The piece adds to the dominant meme.
There are, however, three inaccuracies with that meme: (i) an implicit assumption that the Agency's resistance to necessary and profound reform is unrelated to Porter Goss' defenistration; (ii) the assumption that Goss was wrong to bring a coterie of outsiders with him to the Agency; and (iii) the implication that those who called for reform of the Agency are not its friends or mere stooges for Cheney/Neocons.
On the first point, the Agency was a malfunctioning institution long before 2002-2003 or even 2001. This has nothing to do with the Cheney/Neocon ideological critique. George Tenet's go-along-get-along malfeasance was obvious even in the 1990s before 9/11. The Stiftung called for Tenet's resignation during the Clinton Administration and even before 2003 under Bush. In our conversations across the Hill from from SSCI Counsel Ford to others — “the Tenet problem” and how to get reform underway was a common theme — long before the CIA was a political football for the Administration and the Left.
At the time, all those long interested in reform knew that the task would be hard, if not impossible. Absent some massive change in the landscape, the CIA's internal anti-bodies resistant to change would be formidable. The culture was so insular as to be damn near immune. This is something CIA apologists do not acknowledge, let alone address.
Any post-Tenet regime required reform. Inside CIA itself in 2004, some wiser senior personnel privately admitted that the corporate culture would be resistant, hostile and subversive to change. Change would have to come from without. The kind of reform needed far transcended Kappes' much lauded strategic reconception of the DO.
Even as a former DO Officer, given HPSCI's criticism of CIA as “heading over a cliff” (an assessment Harman also agreed with), Goss was coming as an outsider and critic. Stansfield Turner's unsuccesful tenure and other history all suggest that Goss would either be co-opted by the status quo culture or marginalized, isolated or even destroyed — unless he brought his own staff with him and loyal to him. Even friends of the Agency made that observation when his name was first being circulated. Once Goss pursued that path, his only shot at success was to have the finesse to try and make that inherent tension into a productive and positive internal relationship. Not to be.
So the idea of the “Gosslings” per se as some kind of hostile, malignant and aberrant presence was (a) inevitable to the CIA internal culture; and (b) not in and of itself, a bad thing. Reform is going to break rice bowls. Had Goss arrived with supreme diplomats and just a reform agenda, the institutional antibodies were poised to resist. And some of the leaks against Goss when he first arrived were pre-emptive bids to preserve the status quo.
Unfortunately, Goss also was carrying out the Cheney/Neocon purge agenda for ideological fealty. With Gosslings ill-suited for finesse. And Goss himself was simply managerially inept. A recipe for deserved insurrection. Thus the Agency's internal forces of status quo/anti-reform were able to conflate their stance with the quite sensible reacton of alarm to the clumsy and detrimental ideological campaign. The leaks against Goss, the threats of reprisal, the Kappes departure — from there reform and purge became a unified effort to be opposed.
Silverstein's reporting needs to be understood within this larger mosaic of conflicting institutional agendas. The Left simplistic meme narratives of our time, Goss = Cheney = Neocons = Purge = “Reform” = Evil, thus by definition CIA careerists = Competent = Anti-Bush = By Definition, Good must be discarded. Although Dear Reader, we have noted not without some statisfaction that the CIA has been very effective peddling this narrative. We are Oppositionists here, after all.
Thus, Cheney et al. were actually the Agency's best friend as well as lethal foe. Resisting Cheney et al. via their hamfisted minion Goss allow the Agency largely to deflect substantive crititical analysis or discussion of its real need for reform. Had the ODNI legislation not passed, the Agency may well have emerged the victor. Goss' ability to function within the Agency was limited by his own personal shortcomings of poor work ethic and managerial inexperience, the personalities of his Gosslings, and the ability of the Agency to simply out wait him.
But the ODNI legislation set in motion the bureaucratic reform impetus CIA could not stop. ODNI and OSD poaching of CIA capability and status overpowered the internal resistance to change. This meant that both CIA and Goss lost.
Hayden's arrival at the greatly diminished and demoralized CIA is in a way perfect timing. The battle is over. “Reform”, at least in its most crude and politically perverted bureaucratic terms of budget, status and headcount, won. The dismemberment is a fact. True, substantive, non-ideological reform as the Stiftung and others envisioned — beyond org chart re-alignment — really has not even been started. One can only shake the head at the precious time lost.
Bringing Kappes back not only sends the right signals, but the scope of repairs at CIA are now in alignment with the kind of reduced, diminished CIA and the NCS/DO re-thinking Kappes can offer. Managerial stability that Hayden can provide is the icing on the cake. Neocon calls for a continuing purge will be ignored.
(As we wrote in another post, one of the most prominent Neocons told the Stiftung directly that he is enraged that Kappes refused to follow up on Chalabi WMD leads. The Neocons believe that Kappes is “personally responsible for the WMD escaping to Syria!” Kappes' very presence back is a slap to the Neocons and a sign that the Great Purge is over).
But if Goss lost and the overt purges wind down, the same can not be said of the overall Cheney/Neocon agenda. A truism is if you shoot the King, you must bring the King down — a lesson forgotten at CIA. While they are not able to pour salt on the ground yet at Langlely ala Carthage, the vengeance wreaked on CIA has been fearsome.