Jewish World Review June 15, 2004 / 26 Sivan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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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.

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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 Hill.

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 Giuliani.

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 administration. Comment by clicking here.

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