Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2004 / 4 Kislev, 5765

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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CIA dysfunction | As the Marines mopped up in Fallujah, the Bush administration has moved swiftly to quell pockets of resistance behind the lines.

Since Saturday, Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank have been regaling us with tales of woe, misery, anger, and angst at the CIA:

"The deputy director of the CIA resigned yesterday after a series of confrontations over the past week after a series of confrontations between senior Operations officials and CIA Director Porter J. Goss' new chief of staff that have left the agency in turmoil, according to several current and former CIA officials," the Post's dynamic duo reported Saturday.

The resignation of John McLaughlin, who had been passed over when Bush selected Goss, then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to be CIA director, had been expected. But also resigning after a confrontation with an aide Goss had brought with him from the House were Steven Kappes, the deputy director of Operations, and his deputy, Michael Sulick, the Post reported Monday.

Pincus and Milbank made it sound as if the resignations were a tragedy, brought on by the "brusque" management style of Goss's aides, and by Goss' unwillingness to heed the advice proffered by wise old heads:

"Within the past month, four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications," the Post reported Sunday.

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There are two things to keep in mind when reading these stories. The first is that the CIA hasn't been very competent. Though the FBI was chiefly responsible for the intelligence failures which led to 9/11, the CIA didn't cover itself with glory. The CIA can be excused for believing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — every Western intelligence service and most of Saddam's generals thought he did, too — but the CIA failed to detect Saddam's plan for protracted guerrilla war (the sudden collapse of the Republican Guard ought to have been a clue), or that Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress was a spy for Iran.

The CIA has become dysfunctional and is not providing the president with the information he requires to wage the war on terror, Sen. John McCain said on ABC's "This Week" program Sunday. A shakeup is necessary, McCain said. My favorite example of the CIA's dysfunction comes from Robert Baer's memoir. He recounts that when he was the CIA station chief in Tajikstan in 1994, Baer requested Dari and Pashtun linguists so he could debrief refugees who were fleeing from Afghanistan. No linguists were available, Langley said, but headquarters would be happy to send out a briefing team to explain the CIA's new sexual harassment policy.

An institutional example of dysfunction is that only a third of the operations directorate's personnel is based overseas, where the spying is to be done. Two thirds are at headquarters.

No one is more aware of the CIA's dysfunction than Goss, a former case officer himself, who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee issued a report savagely critical of the Operations directorate. If those officials hadn't resigned, Goss almost certainly would have fired them. As serious a problem as dysfunction is disloyalty. "Over the past several months, as much of official Washington looked on wide-eyed and agog, many in the CIA bureaucracy have waged an unabashed effort to undermine the current administration," wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks.

The undermining was done through leaks to Pincus and Milbank and other friendly reporters. The then CIA brass even permitted a CIA officer — Michael Scheuer — to campaign publicly against his boss. The leaks were not merely brazenly unprofessional, they are a violation of the law. Those responsible for them are fortunate that their heads will roll only figuratively.

The retirement of Secretary of State Colin Powell will permit the Bush administration to get control over another agency where many senior officials are inclined to forget who it is they are working for. Powell was a great Secretary of State, but one inclined to represent State's views to the rest of the administration, rather than the administration's views to the State department. Condoleeza Rice surely will permit dissent, but will require it to be kept in house.

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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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