Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | April 21, 2003

Part 2: The Intelligence Community and foreign policy

A Framework for Reform of the U.S. Intelligence Community

The major reason for the nation to mandate reform of the Intelligence Community is that for many years it has not performed well. The reason is not the demise of the Soviet regime. Taxpayers have not been and are not getting their money's worth from this part of government. And, if history is the good guide it usually is, some people in uniform will pay heavy prices in blood one day for the errors of the Intelligence Community and its elected masters in the Executive Branch and overseers in Congress unless major reforms are promulgated soon. The ravages of years of bad leadership will take years to undo under the best of circumstances.

This was written in 1996.

CIA's Directorate of Operations

The culture in CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) contains a streak of independence and contempt of accountability has become so strong that radical changes are needed to restore it to status of team player in the Intelligence Community. Perhaps only the United States Navy rivals it as an organization that collectively considers its interests to supercede those of the nation as a whole. A senior Congressional intelligence committee staff member told me in 1991 that the DO is the worst organization in the Intelligence Community at representing its interests on the Hill because it transparently regards Congressional personnel as targets to be recruited. In early 1995, senior DO managers directed their people to try to influence Capitol Hill, through "personal ties" or "working relationships."(39) While the DO claimed its effort was educational, David Holliday, special Assistant to SSCI Chairman Senator David Boren in 1986-91, called the effort "lobbying" and current SSCI Chairman Senator Arlen Specter said: The C.I.A.'s directorate of operations [sic] would be better advised to improve its reputation and standing by real performance, instead of attempting to rely on factors like personal, school or family ties (40).


CIA's Directorate of Intelligence

CIA's analysis directorate has become so dysfunctional that massive changes are needed. These reflect problems of leadership, management, ethics, integrity, and even the notion of what the DI's mission is. While many fine DI people often do very good work, their efforts have been overshadowed by the problems. Nothing less than thorough institutional change is required. The problems are so deeply ingrained that change will come slowly even if DCI Deutch acts vigorously.

Change in the DI is critical because it has the largest and, in aggregate, finest analytic capabilities in the Intelligence Community, as well as the broadest range of responsibilities and consumers. Analysis organizations filter and evaluate raw intelligence information for consumers. Thus, the overall performance of intelligence depends critically on good analysis. CIA has the largest, most diverse, and arguably best analytic unit in the whole Community--despite its many problems.


Perhaps no better tangible example of venal bureaucratic rivalry exists than a poster widely displayed on walls of the National Security Agency's headquarters complex at Ft. Meade, Maryland in early 1995. The 17 inch by 22 inch color poster features a frontal photo of Aldrich Ames in manacles (on the right) with (on the left) a quotation of a Russian intelligence officer: "There are friendly states, but no friendly intelligence services." (59) The poster is so transparently anti-CIA--it features Ames and not any of the several NSA personnel convicted of working for the Soviet Union--that some embarrassed NSA personnel apologized to visiting CIA people who saw it

NSA, an agency with a history of brutal intelligence problems mocks the CIA. Interesting, and typical.

The worst leaks in US espionage have not been at CIA, but with NSA. John Walker, Christopher Boyce.....our most critical losses have been in SIGINT and that is the NSA's job.

But the FBI is charging hard and fast. The most famous, Robert Hanssen was not the first FBI agent to betray his country, just the one who got the most agents in Russia killed.

The war between the CIA and the FBI began in 1940, when it was an embryonic agency led by Manhattan lawyer William Donovan, a WW I Medal of Honor winner and noted Republican. Donovan, who's name is still cherished in the halls of the CIA and among the veterans of Donovan's agency, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). It didn't gain that name until 1942, when Donovan was recommissioned a brigadier general (he had been promoted to colonel while in combat in WWI) and given full control of the OSS.

J. Edgar Hoover wanted control of all intelligence and Roosevelt didn't trust him to do so. He wanted someone less mercurial and prone to keeping secrets. As a leader, the US intelligence community has never had a man as inventive, clever and with such an eye for talent as Donovan.

The OSS's mission was divided into several branches, but the two most important were SI and SO. SI was the Intelligence branch and it sent spies into everywhere but Latin America, Hoover's domain, and the Soutwest Pacific, where MacArthur refused to use them.

SO was the paramilitary arm of the OSS and they did what is now called Direct Action. All those movies like Bridge on the River Kwai, Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen, all are about DA missions. The OSS found eager young men, some former communists who had fought with Republican Spain, to go into the boonies of France, Yugoslavia and the like and get weapons and train guerrillas.

The services supplied the talent for these missions, which ranged from pure espionage (sending former catcher Moe Berg to observe and possibly assassinate Werner Heisenberg) to working with Burmese tribesmen.

The OSS did one thing to protect it's future and it didn't happen on Omaha Beach or at Casino or Kohima, but a Washington hotel room. The legend goes that Donovan sent his best operators to get pictures of Hoover having sex with a bell boy. Those pictures, which were allegedly passed from OSS to CIA hands became the agency's way of controlling Hoover. They were an insurance policy which set the tone for a corrosive relationship which lasts to today.

The IC has two problems which affect foreign policy, one the overwhelming role of the military in handling intelligence product and the inefficiencies of the FBI.

What most people do not realize that the military, not the CIA is the largest creator and consumer of intelligence. Each service has their own intelligence agency and trains them seperately. This is not the organic, technical intelligence for combat units, but a seperate, agency-wide unit with the ability to analyze data and place agents in the field when needed. Most work closely with the CIA, but they also answer to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) .

There is a lot of competition and they all hate the CIA, which is supposed to be the lead agency of the IC. Instead, the DIA, NSA and FBI all seek to cut the CIA down whenever possible and vice versa.

This leads to conflicting intelligence options and analysis. It would hardly be surprising if the harshest estimates of Iraqi strength came from DIA, while CIA analysts tried to knock them down. Every agency tries to bolster its case while minizing the others.

However, the other problem is the FBI.

When the discussions of the IC take place, the role of the FBI is usually minimzed. However, much of the agency's budget and manpower is dedicated not to criminal investigations, but intelligence. For nearly 50 years, the image of the FBI is of a national police, the reality is that much of the FBI's effort is concentrated on intelligence matters. The duality of the agency, another legacy of Hoover, has never been successfully challenged.

Yet, in the last three years, two major failures of FBI intelligence matters have become public knowledge. One, the arrest and imprisonment of Robert Hanssen, who was able to direct both the CIA's Office of Security and FBI to a CIA officer instead of himself and the arrest of Katrina Leung, believed to be an agent of the Chinese People's Security Bureau as a double agent. She was allegedly having a sexual affair with her FBI handler as well. She was also paid $1.7m by the FBI for her "cooperation".

This kind of ineptitude has been reflected in the Department of Homeland Security or Insecurity as it should be called.

Any widespread reform of intelligence needs to involve DHS as well. Its current hamfisted methods also affect foreign policy, which is what we'll discuss next.

Steve Gilliard

Posted April 21, 2003 12:20 AM | Comments (7)


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