The CIA Needs to Get Rid of the Empty Suits, Political Hacks and '60s Retreads
by Jim Kouri, CPP
An anti-war heckler on Thursday amply illustrates what passes for an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency these days. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, during a speech, was confronted by a former CIA analyst who accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about Iraq prewar intelligence.
"Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" asked Ray McGovern, the former analyst.
"I did not lie," shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards who were ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.
Three other protesters were escorted away by security as each interrupted Rumsfeld's speech by jumping up and shouting anti-war messages. Throughout the speech, a fourth protester stood up in the middle of the room with his back to Rumsfeld in silent protest.
Rumsfeld has been interrupted by anti-war demonstrators in congressional hearing rooms as he has delivered testimony to lawmakers in recent months. However, reports indicate that these "protesters" have been allowed into the hearing rooms by Democrat staffers.
When security guards attempted to remove McGovern, the CIA analyst, during his persistent questions of Rumsfeld, the defense secretary told them to let him stay and the two continued to spar.
"You're getting plenty of play," Rumsfeld told McGovern, who is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
Once upon a time, the CIA recruited men and women from the US military or law enforcement, at least for covert or clandestine operations; now they recruit on university campuses where students have been deluged with Marxist-Stalinist propaganda for four or five years -- perhaps more if they have advanced degrees. Catch terrorists? These fools couldn't catch a bus without help, let alone a terrorist or terrorist conspiracy. In a nutshell: They got no street smarts.
One complaint often heard privately within law enforcement circles is that the Central Intelligence Agency over the years has morphed into a Liberal think-tank rather than maintaining its role as a strategic and tactical intelligence agency. Police commanders, who've always dreaded dealing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, find the FBI preferable to dealing with over-educated policy wonks who've forgotten what they're supposed be doing.
An even bigger concern is that the agency has become overly politicized and prone to leaking information to the mainstream news media in order to have an impact upon the political climate within the Beltway.
For instance, it was the CIA hierarchy who, with the help of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), demanded a special prosecutor investigate the so-called Valerie Plame-CIA leak case. It's widely accepted that the law regarding divulging a covert operative's identity did not apply in the Plame case. Even the writers of the statute are quoted as saying such. Yet here we are: still in the midst of a far-reaching investigation into the alleged leak.
In another case, a key member of the CIA was discovered leaking classified information to the news media because she believed it would hurt President Bush's terrorism war strategy. Turns out she worked in the Clinton White House with the other self-aggrandizing empty-suits such as Richard Clark and Sandy "Socks" Berger.
When Congress created the CIA, it specifically legislated that the agency be barred from "police, subpoena, law-enforcement powers or internal security functions" in the United States. This was to be a foreign intelligence agency, not a still more powerful version of the FBI. Most Americans, including the members of the congressional watchdog committees responsible for oversight of CIA operations, have long contended that this provision banned the agency from involvement in political activities inside this country. This included supporting or opposing political parties, officeholders and candidates.
The need to insulate intelligence from political pressure is a powerful argument for maintaining a strong, centralized capability and not leaving intelligence bearing on national concern up to individual policymaking departments.
Competitive analysis of controversial questions can also help guard against politicization, as can Congress and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Competitive or redundant analysis needs to be carried out and conveyed to policymakers in those areas where being wrong can have major consequences.
The best way to ensure high-quality analysis is to bring high quality analysts into the process. Analysis would be improved by increasing the flow of talented people into the intelligence community from outside the government. Greater provision should be made for lateral and mid-career entry of such analysts as well as for their short-term involvement in specific projects. Closer ties between universities and the intelligence community is not desirable in this regard.
The most important function for the clandestine services is the collection of human intelligence, that is, espionage. Such intelligence can complement other sources and, especially in closed societies, be the principal or sole source of information. In so doing, it will at times prove necessary to associate the United States with unsavory individuals, including some who have committed crimes. This is acceptable so long as the likely benefits for policy outweigh the moral and political costs of the association.
The capability to undertake covert action is an important national security tool, one that can provide policymakers a valuable alternative or complement to other policies, including diplomacy, sanctions, and military intervention. Building a capacity for both espionage and covert action takes time and resources; nurturing such a clandestine capability ought to be one of the highest priorities of the intelligence community.
Constraints on clandestine activity need to be reviewed periodically to ensure that they do not unduly limit the effectiveness of this tool. Unfortunately, when officers and high-ranking officials decide that they know more than their colleagues or that their opinions are being disregarded by those holding opposing positions on an issue, that doesn't give them the right to leak classified information to the news media. Compromising secrecy reduces the effectiveness of any organization that thrives on secrecy.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.