Jewish World Review June 15, 2004 / 26 Sivan, 5764
About that next CIA director
There was joy on both Left and Right when the resignation of CIA Director
George Tenet was announced June 3rd. Leftists were pleased that a supporter
of the war in Iraq had bitten the dust. Many on the Right were delighted
that a Clinton administration holdover had finally gone over the side.
As is customary with that job and the catty nature of Washington, there was
much speculation that Tenet's resignation was not for the reason he gave:
that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
The timing of the resignation was convenient in one sense. The Senate
Intelligence Committee is expected soon to release a lengthy report that
will be savagely critical of the CIA. The 9/11 Commission is expected to
take shots at the Agency, too. With Tenet's resignation already announced,
those criticisms will lose some of their sting.
George Tenet is the second longest serving CIA director, after Allen Dulles.
He presided over the Agency during its most prominent intelligence failure
since the Bay of Pigs (which cost Dulles his job). But while it's clear
there is a lot that's wrong with the CIA, the Agency's flaws predated
Tenet's arrival, and he may have done much to ameliorate them.
The difficulty outsiders have in judging an intelligence agency is that it's
successes are kept secret, while its failures sprawl across the front pages.
We are only beginning to learn the bare outlines of the clever and daring
things the CIA did to defeat the Soviet Union.
Much of the CIA's problem today is that it was geared to defeating the
Soviet Union, and was sluggish in changing gears. Shifting gears was made
all the more difficult because Congress drastically reduced intelligence
budgets at the end of the Cold War (though not thank G-d! by as much
as John Kerry sought). Intelligence networks in Moscow aren't of much use
in finding out what's going on in Tehran or Damascus. And we can't replace
Russian linguists with Arabic and Farsi linguists unless there is money to
recruit and train them.
These problems were compounded by political correctness. John Deutch,
Clinton's second CIA director, forbade field operatives from recruiting as
informants anyone who had committed a criminal offense. This directive made
it all but impossible to penetrate Islamic terror networks.
Robert Baer recalls that when he was the CIA station chief in Tajikstan in
1994, he asked Langley for a couple of officers who spoke Dari and Pashto so
he could debrief the refugees flowing in from Afghanistan. No linguists
were available, Baer was told. But Langley offered to send a mobile
training team to brief on the CIA's new sexual harassment policy.
George Tenet has two qualities greatly to be desired in a director of
Central Intelligence: he had a close personal working relationship with the
president, and an understanding of, and good relations with, Congress.
This is important, because as Mark Riebling, author of a first rate book on
rivalries between the CIA and the FBI, noted: "Most intelligence failures
occur not within the CIA, but when links between the Agency and policy
makers break down. The typical postmortem is not that we didn't have the
intelligence, but that it wasn't believed and acted upon at the time."
The next CIA director should be someone who understands the world situation
and the intelligence business. But he ought not to come from within the CIA
itself, where old bonds of loyalty could impede him from making necessary
reforms. He must have skill in managing a large enterprise. And, like
Tenet, he should have the ear of the president and good ties on Capitol
A number of worthies have been suggested, among them Porter Goss, a
Republican congressman from Florida who once was a CIA officer; R. James
Woolsey, Clinton's first CIA director, and former New York Mayor Rudy
My candidate would be Dick Cheney. He fits all the specifications above.
And if he were to agree to serve at CIA, Cheney would free up the vice
presidential nomination for someone like, say, Giuliani, whose presence on
the ticket would make it more likely that it will be George W. Bush who
appoints the next director of Central Intelligence.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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