Monday, May 15, 2006


CIA Victories

Stephen Hayes serves as correspondent in reporting on the Bush Administration’s war against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), published in the Weekly Standard.

There is, no doubt, much Democratic Party rejoicing on the many travails and precipitously declining popularity of President Bush.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, indeed.

I came of age politically with the many revelations about covert CIA and seemingly rogue criminal operations, in South East Asia, South and Central America, and elsewhere. I’m sure many in my generation, those who didn’t mature out of their early liberalism and anti-authority chic, had an almost universal dislike and distrust of the covert operational side of the American Intelligence community (if not Intelligence activities altogether). The CIA was bad.

The CIA proved largely ineffective against Al Qaeda operations and other fundamental Islamic terrorism in the years leading up to 9/11. They were hampered by prejudices and preconceptions, a stultifying bureaucracy, politically involved careerists, and warlike attitude about anything to do with beltway or government turf. Largesse. Budget.

That major players at the CIA preferred one particular Presidential candidate and party to persevere in National elections is unavoidable. These people are citizens, and they work in a political hothouse. But it is apparent to outside observers that these people stepped outside the bounds in recent years, allowing their political preferences and intra-agency turf squabbles to interfere with their oaths to secrecy, their obligations to their employers, and ultimately to the American people, to whom they owed a responsibility for their loyal service. They were disloyal, they broke the law, and they attempted to influence an election (or two or three or many).

Consider it a given that Opposition Party luminaries will continue to lionize and glorify those who would sell their duties for a few pieces of silver (or some as-yet-unspecified appointment in the hoped for transfer of authority).

If those on the Administration’s side had overstepped their authority, and labored on behalf of their political preferences, you wouldn’t just be hearing about impeachment. Why those same partisans can’t see the utter hypocrisy of celebrating the very spy agency miscreants they have excoriated for the past 30 years, is beyond my power to explain.

You’d think they’d want to wash their hands after all the handshakes and backslapping.

Political parties and honest analysts may yet disagree with the right prescription for such an ailing institution. But rewarding dishonesty and illegal behavior, excusing disclosure of classified information, ignoring attempts to manipulate domestic politics, will be an absolute disaster for the US.

We were woefully unprepared for 9/11, and a Federal Agency arguably most responsible for the fight against our enemies fails us, and favors petty political intrigues over the preservation of National Security.

We cannot afford to have intelligence agencies take partisan stands. We cannot afford or excuse incompetence in our intelligence and security services. We have too much at stake.

UPDATE: I came across this excellent essay by Dean Barnett over at SoxBlog. Dean describes (correctly in my view) why Bush Administration critics so strongly oppose the nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to run the CIA:
But certain parties have grown quite attached to the roguish nature of the 21st century CIA. Anything that promises to make the Agency a loyal member of the government when that government is being run by George W. Bush will displease the Bush bashers out there.
His other observations about the CIA seem spot on to me. He faults the NY Times Editorial Board for their disingenuous criticism of Hayden, that “he’s just not a true believer when it comes to HUMINT like the New York Times editorial board is.” (That’s pretty funny.)

Barnett confronts the Times, and in doing so, offers something of an apology for the Agency:
This view betrays such a shocking ignorance of history, you’d have to be an editor for the New York Times to buy it. Even when the CIA was at its James Bond best, we still had very limited insight into the Soviet Union. Careful students of history will recall that the crumbling of the Soviet Union caught our intelligence agencies as much by surprise as did 9/11. So, for that matter, did the USSR’s foray into Afghanistan. The sad fact is, gathering intelligence on closed societies is pretty damn difficult. The difficulty is even greater when those closed societies refuse to communicate in English or to even have the common decency to look like us.
That the NY Times could even put in print that it had any desire for the CIA to be effective, let alone continue to exist, strikes some as implausible.

Barnett describes the “childish conceit” that the US could somehow penetrate the inner workings of terror organizations and their operational cells with just a little more “elbow grease.” To expect that kind of James Bond fictionalized spy-work to resolve all our National Security challenges is not just naïve, but grossly ignorant. That only works in Hollywood, a place where even NSA has a super-secret covert operations arm that only Robert Redford and George Clooney know about.

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