Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Wreck that is the CIA

Reuel Marc Gerecht penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal today. I have access to the WSJ on a daily basis and read his piece

One popular theme he took on today is the changes brought by Porter Goss and whoever his replacement is going to be, is to punish the CIA for anti-Bush leaks and activism. Both Republicans and Democrats engage in this idea. Of course, my side typically dresses the theme up in the clothes the CIA has become politicized and its time to weed the polotical operatives from the CIA. Well, the CIA like any other agency subordinate to the President should not be political because they must serve both Republicans and Democrats and with the military we have seen what happens when there is political clashes between the C-in-C and the military.

However, Reuel's criticism is primarily directed at Democrats and two are named explicitly. The first is Democratic Representative Jane Harman:
"In the last year-and-a-half, more than 300 years of experience has either been pusehd out or walked out the door in frustration. This has left the agency in free-fall. I have visited these brave and committed women and men in nearly every corner of the globe, and urge the new director do so. They deserve maximum support and a clear vision of where their agency is headed."

Quite unintentionally, Democratic Reprentative Jane Harman's press release on the resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss is a decent guide to the debilitating problems afflicting the agency's clandestine service. Although the operations directorate has certainly been in free-fall, this condition has very little to do with Mr. Goss's tenure. The CIA is a dispirited organiztion. It should be: the end of the Cold War removed a sustaining sense of purpose and the broad indulgence of the agency's unenviable record of clandestine-initellignece collection, counterespionage and analytical forecasting.
Wall Street Journal May 9, 2006

The other Democrat mentioned is Howard Dean.
The current version of this theme, [of Administration persecution of a dissenting CIA] best articulated by Howard Dean of the Democratic National Committee, posits a completely apolitical, professional CIA–correctly analyzing Iraq (weapons of mass destruction excepted, of course)–being pounded by a particsan, bellicose, mendacious Republican administration, punishing those who speak truth to power.
Wall Street Journal May 9, 2006

Mr. Gerecht then goes onto to wonder if these two know anything about the intelligence community and doubts they do. He takes issue with Ms. Harman's visits with CIA personal and figures she was wowed by a dog and pony show with some smoke and mirrors.

The real problem is the CIA is not adapting to the new threats our nation (and indeed civilazation) faces. He notes any intelligence agency close to being worth the name is easily able to identify and track our CIA agents. Essentially, the CIA as it works now is not going to do its job in cracking terrorist networks and can not be expected to crack any hard target protected by a competent counterespionage service (for example, a Pakistani military officer with access to Pakistan's nuclear-weapons program). He also notes most intelligence is not the stuff of popular imagination but mostly sitting in the embassy office and waiting for the the intelligence officers of the host nation to come in and share.

It seems many take intelligence to be a cut and dry thing. That the answers are easy to obtain. They are not, especially when others are trying to deceive you, hide information, or are trying to manipulate your actions. All of this was going on prior to Iraq. Saddam didn't want the nature of his weapons programs out and of course there were those manipulating intelligence to get the US to act against Saddam.

Unfortunately all those factors make traditional "clandestine" intelligence an unreliable but necessary black art. Intelligence is never going to be evidence. Until that fact is understood we will not fix our intelligence.