No more Pearl Harbors ... and 9/11s?
Former CIA agent and former Congressman, Porter Goss, is the right person to overhaul the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That some CIA bureaucrats are “leaking” their unhappiness with Director Goss to the New York Times is just more evidence of how far some CIA officials have strayed from the Agency’s original charter and its role as a “silent service.”
What was the CIA’s original charter? In 1947, President Harry S. Truman asked for an agency that would “prevent another Pearl Harbor.” Fifty-four years later, the CIA (and the FBI) failed to provide early warning of an even worse disaster, the 9/11 attacks.
Both the Congress and the Executive Branch have alternately coddled and abused the CIA. The CIA’s enabling legislation of 1947 and 1949 failed to spell out the Agency’s role, leaving too much room for foreign policy dilettantes like the Kennedy brothers to misuse the Agency in the kind of covert action that resulted in the Bay of Pigs disaster.
Several U.S. Presidents abused the CIA. President Lyndon B. Johnson illegally pressured the CIA to penetrate domestic anti-war student groups, a clear violation of the CIA’s charter. President Nixon tried (but failed) to get the CIA to provide some of its covert funds to bail out the Watergate burglars.
Presidents Ford and Carter crippled the CIA by ordering the dismissal of hundreds of its human intelligence assets (spies). All this happen in the wake of Watergate when the Congressional Church and Pike Commissions, with the connivance of former DCI William (the confessor) Colby, made a mockery of the idea that secrets shared by other nations with the CIA would remain secret.
President Clinton and then Attorney General, Janet Reno, became so “politically correct” that they ordered the Agency to avoid any spies with unsavory human rights records and then built an information-sharing obstacle between the law enforcement side of the FBI and the FBI’s counter-terrorism side. No wonder 19 Arab assassins were able to enter our country, train for their mission and then kill over 3,000 innocent Americans and other nationalities on 9/11.
Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike, have abused the Agency by choosing some DCI’s with little background in intelligence and understanding of the long lead times necessary to conduct effective espionage within cultures far different from our own. Resultantly, the Agency failed to predict: the North Korean invasion of South Korea and the Red Chinese intervention, the Sino-Soviet split, that Castro was actually a communist who would accept Soviet nuclear missiles 90 miles from our shores, failed to predict the demise of the Soviet Union, failed to predict 9/11, misinformed President Bush on WMD, and failed to predict the Al Qaeda/Iranian/Syrian plan to conduct a guerilla war after the fall of Saddam. Clearly, the Agency is in need of a major overall along with better Congressional support and that is what President Bush sent Porter Goss over to the CIA to arrange.
Here are important facts about the CIA: (1) The CIA has only one customer and that is the President of the United States. (2) The CIA is forbidden to operate inside the United States. (3) The CIA is not supposed to make or even suggest foreign or military policy. But some of CIA’s “old hands” think their role is to suggest policies the President must accept without question. Wrong.
The defense and foreign policy of the U.S. Government is decided by the President with input from the National Security Council and with advice of cabinet officers confirmed by the U.S. Senate and with the advice of the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not by the CIA.
DCI Porter Goss must rid the Agency of those senior CIA officials who think their role is to make policy. The CIA must get back to the role of Joe Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am.” The CIA must get back to its original mission: No more Pearl Harbors… or 9/11s.
In Porter Goss, President Bush has chosen wisely.
William Hamilton is a former intelligence officer, and now, a syndicated columnist, and featured commentator for USA Today. He is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy by William Penn – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2004. William Hamilton.