The Setting: The Faculty Club of an Ivy League School
The Two Participants: A Legendary Professor, OSS Veteran and Friend of Bill Casey and a man entering adulthood.
We talked about alot of things over the years by this time, being very comfortable with each other and confident in each other’s commitment. For example, it went unremarked that the Professor would make a sudden unannounced visit to Bolivia. Or that a week later Klaus Barbie was given up. That’s the way the world worked.
The subject of this one lunch (out of many conversations) was the Agency and its uselessness. Inevitably, the topic of The Mole hung in mid air. The certitude of penetration was an article of High Faith. Casey even shared it. (You may not know this Dear Reader, but Casey may have been the only senior American national security official never to really need a scrambler phone — his normal conversations were so garbled and mumbled that a Cray would melt trying to keep up without training).
So what to do? The Agency was dead, killed by Church, Pike, Colby, weak Executives and fearful careerists. And that was in addition to the Mole.
Casey, being an SEC/transactional lawyer, devised what any Wall Street solution would demand — the perfect ‘go around’. Use the Agency as cover and route his intelligence priorities (and the President’s) elsewhere. The Sovs would think they had a peak in the cupboard shelf, the hated Congress could claim they were overseeing things (HA!) and the Agency drones would, well, continue droning. The Mole would still do damage of course, because of inter-agency sharing issues. (The Professor, the Stiftung and a then young John Lehman at the peak of his 600 ship Navy hey day — CBGs steaming into Vladivostok! talked about the Mole still later). But at that Faculty lunch, the conversation drifted on how useful the Agency as a dead horse carcass might actually be. Not only operationally to do the work needed doing. But even to help set up the Mole for a mistake. (Note this conversation happened years before Ames walked into the Embassy).
And to top it all off, the Professor, more used to lecturing and telling Cold War jokes drew a picture on a napkin ala Laffer. (One my favorites of his jokes was he used to say he could have ended the Cold War in 1955 if he had been a good Boy Scout and had a grenade with him when he walked by Khruschev’s car — well, Dear Reader, we’re talking about the hard core of the hard core. And know that the Stiftung still recalls him with deep fondness and warm memories).
The napkin diagram of course later turned out to be years later almost identical to the so-called famous ‘Enterprise’ Casey set up operationalizing the NSC to escape congressional oversight. David Addington was a close Casey assistant at the time of the lunch conversation and later went over to the House Committee to subvert it from within. The rest, as they say, is l’histoire.
Past as Prologue
This in many ways is the backdrop to what happened since 2001. Casey in his wildest dreams never contemplated using the Vice President’s office as a covert arm of government. Or having a unified government allow him to outsource untold billions upon billions of dollars to ‘Foundations’, Beltway Bandits, the usual Iron Triangle stooges, and God knows what else. In fact, Gates, Hayden, the hapless McConnell, Clapper (Cambone’s successor) et al. couldn’t unravel what’s been done, determine the cells activated, the cash cash buried or escrowed, even if they cared enough to try — and even if they really understood what Cheney and Addington wanted to and actually did do. These funded entities likely will outlast all of the current incumbents and their successors, too.
It is so much more than Blackwater. (The Stiftung isn’t even going to bother swinging by the hearings). Or CACI buying Athena Solutions/MZM or CACI/DYNCORP escaping Abu Ghraib, etc. or sole source non-compete contracting or the massive abuse of GSA contracting vehicles to cover improper contracts, etc. Or even which defense firm is helping draft the PDB, etc. All outrages. All small in the overall picture.
When we see people chase the kite string we don’t know whether to laugh or just turn on the football game. This is why the Stiftung ignores pablum in 2007 you see the media complaining about the CIA/Community’s ossification during and after the Cold War and what it needs to do now “to win the war on terrorism.” That Community, that structure is gone. Done. Visible parts and names remain. A silhouette here or there. Yet making comparisons then and now frankly borders on the willfully ignorant if not delusional.
Casey’s dream back in the day was to create a new kind of Operational Entity. It would be self-funded, completely operationally independent. An Entity that would and could escape any oversight (and law) and would remain on mission and loyal to the cause. And in fact, such an Entity likely would use and abuse the official U.S. Community as cover or scapegoat when necessary or expedient. His goal, and Addington/Cheney’s goal never had anything to do about empirical accuracy. Or all the other Ancien regime complaints Zegart and others make.
And until the Democrats, the Oppositionists and those careerists who have not yet switched badge colors in the Community absorb this fundamental, primal lesson, all of them, well they are simply boxing smoke rings. We don’t hold out much hope.