Intelligence shake-up: The story behind the story
The abrupt resignation of CIA Director, Porter Goss, raises the question: What is going on and who is at fault? The short answer is the Congress that insists on a funding and oversight system that causes 16 intelligence agencies to engage in turf and funding battles.
As a former field spook and still a dues-paying member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), I have seen turf battles first hand. The most pernicious form of turf-battling is when one agency develops a valuable human source or snares a highly important document and won’t share the intelligence gained with other intelligence agencies. Each intelligence activity would like to “stovepipe” its information right to the top consumer, along with a little, side “leak” to the Congresspersons who control intelligence funding.
The 9/11 Commission and Congress made the situation worse when it robbed the CIA Director of the more powerful title: Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). That title went to the newly formed Director of National Intelligence (DNI), creating, yet another, level of bureaucracy.
“Product,” and “consumer” are intelligence jargon. The goal is to produce a “product” so valuable that any President – the ultimate “consumer” -- can’t wait to get out of bed and receive his morning dose of “product.”
Both LBJ and Nixon were notoriously bad consumers. President Carter was a good consumer; however, his DCI, Admiral Stansfield Turner, dismissed hundreds of field operatives. So, Carter had very little product to consume. History will record Bush 41 and 43 as avid consumers. Unfortunately, on the subject of WMD, Bush 43 received some very bad product.
LBJ and Nixon distrusted the CIA because neither felt comfortable with the Eastern Establishment, Ivy League, “Georgetown Set,” backgrounds of so many Agency officials.
Moreover, when the CIA told Johnson our involvement in Vietnam was going badly, LBJ rephrased the essential elements of information (EEI) requested of the Agency so that the product he got back was limited to what LBJ wanted to hear.
Clinton, who refused to be briefed by the CIA, was the all-time worst consumer. That added to the “wall” built inside the FBI by Attorney General Janet Reno and her assistant, Jamie Gorelick, prevented the side of the FBI that was closing in on the 9/11 terrorist from sharing intelligence with the side of the FBI that could do something to stop them.
But, right or wrong, it is the role of elected officials to determine our foreign policy. Yet, all too often, when the Georgetown Set doesn’t get its way, Congress receives leaks designed to undermine White House policy. Then, the Sinistra Media leap on the leaks and the partisan politicians who are praying for an American defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular, and in the War on Terror, in general, use the leaks to beat the Administration over the head.
Yet, the Agency was brilliant in Afghanistan. The CIA sent some rough and ready field operatives in on horseback to guide the attacks of the Afghan tribes against the Taliban. They, combined with some Army Green Berets and Navy SEALS, got the U.S. Air Force and Navy to rain down a shocking amount of airpower on the awed Taliban. That was the true “shock and awe” of the Afghan War.
With the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as SecDef, Condoleezza Rice as SecState, and former CIA field operative, Porter Goss, as DCI, President Bush hoped to shake up those organizations and get them to re-focus their energies on the creation of lean, mean, highly-mobile military forces and intelligence agencies suited to the post-9/11 world.
Rumsfeld and Rice are making progress; however, Goss got a bum deal when he lost the title of DCI. Thus, his chances of diverting the Agency from the embassy cocktail circuit to spooking around in the down and dirty arm pits of the world became somewhere between slim and none. That is regrettable because Porter Goss gave his country many years of honorable service.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2006. William Hamilton.