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I’m with Hitchens - Abolish the CIA
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

And start over. Whatever we come up with couldn't be any worse. Some excerpts from Hitchens. On the recent NIE - a point Dale has made:
It is completely false for anybody to claim, on the basis of this admitted "estimate," that Iran has ceased to be a candidate member of the fatuously named nuclear "club." It has the desire to acquire the weaponry, it retains the means to do so, and it has been caught lying and cheating about the process. If it suspended some overtly military elements of the project out of a justifiable apprehension in 2003, it has energetically persisted in the implicit aspects—most notably the installation of gas centrifuges at the plant in Natanz and the building of a heavy water reactor at Arak. All that the estimate has done is to define weaponry down and to suggest a distinction without much difference between a "civilian" and a "military" dimension of the same program. The acquisition of enriched uranium and of plutonium, for any purpose, is identical with the acquisition of a thermonuclear weapons capacity. Iran continues to strive to produce both, neither of which, as it happens, are required for its ostensible civilian energy needs.
To reiterate the point, the NIE has so narrowly defined "nuclear bomb making" that almost nothing they do qualifies. Meanwhile dual purpose and single purpose programs continue apace and, as Hitchens notes, some of it can be for nothing else but weaponry no matter how hard to try to deny the fact.

The effect?
Why, then, have our intelligence agencies helped to give the lying Iranian theocracy the appearance of a clean bill, while simultaneously and publicly (and with barely concealed relish) embarrassing the president and crippling his policy? It is not just a hypothetical strike on Iran that is rendered near-impossible by this estimate, but also the likelihood of any concerted diplomatic or economic pressure, as well. The policy of getting the United Nations to adopt sanctions on the regime, which was about to garner the crucial votes, can now be regarded as clinically dead. A fine day's work by those who claim to guard us while we sleep.
It can't be said any better than that. What they did, if what everyone seems to believe is really true, is inexcusable and not the function of a 1st tier intelligence agency. But since we're talking about the CIA, "1st tier" isn't in play.

Hitchens then gets to precisely the point I've made about the agency's awful performance:
Interagency hostility in Washington, D.C., between the CIA and the Department of Defense has never been so damaging to any administration, let alone to any administration in time of war, as it has been to this one.
And it really doesn't matter who runs the next administration, the same substandard intelligence product, if it can be called that, is likely to be what they produce for them as well, not to mention continuing their war against DoD with no regard for 'collateral damage' - such as our foreign policy.

Hitchens then whacks the agency for it's latest bit of outright arrogance:
And now we have further confirmation of the astonishing culture of lawlessness and insubordination that continues to prevail at the highest levels in Langley. At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence.
The agency seems to think it is above the law and can, in the name of "necessity" do pretty much whatever it wants whenever it wants and the devil take the hindmost. Simply a manifestation of the philosophy that they 'need' to be able to "cross those lines" in order to "keep us safe".

Hitchens concludes:
Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again.
I can only add heartfelt agreement that while abolishing the CIA would, in the long-run, end up being the best choice, in the short-run something must be done and done quickly to reign in what is becoming a rogue agency, and to put us on the road to building an intelligence gathering agency which supports the best interests of the United States instead of subverting it.
 
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Comments
#1 reason the CIA wont go away anytime soon.

To many skeletons in the closet of those who have the power to do that.

Anyone who thinks the CIA doesn’t keep a dossier on US political figures, please raise their hand.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
"It can’t be said any better than that."

He does have a way with words. I don’t recall anyone here citing him or using his arguments in support of the Iraq war. They seem to make sense to me.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Interagency hostility in Washington, D.C., between the CIA and the Department of Defense has never been so damaging to any administration, let alone to any administration in time of war, as it has been to this one.
You reap what you sow. If you go the the CIA and tell them to bring you reasons to invade Iraq, and that if they won’t, DoD will, you will get what you asked for. But you won’t get good intel. Reap it!
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Everything that might have been valuable about the CIA in the past fifty years or so should rightly have been conducted within the War Department.

It’s past time to dig up Harry Truman and throw his body in the Potomac.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
So we disband the CIA. All those people will seek employment in one of the other 15 intelligence agencies, and most of them will be hired. They will continue to talk to each other and the virus that infects the CIA will only spread.

A better decision is to isolate it, pretend it has influence, discourage recruitment, and let it die of old age and infirmity.
 
Written By: Rich
URL: http://
While I sympathize with your point, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The problem is not the CIA per se, the problem is that the CIA is full of and run by people who act contrary to the way we’d like them to act. As Rich says above, eliminating the CIA doesn’t do any good if these people are allowed to populate whatever group is formed to replace the CIA.

What is needed is a purge of those at the CIA who are incompetent or so partisan that they won’t and can’t get it right. Unfortunately, since these people are acting in furtherance of the Democrats who want to kneecap Bush, who will scream bloody murder at any attempt to ’politicize’ intelligence gathering and interpretation, getting rid of them is pretty much a non-starter. The same holds true for getting rid of the agency itself.

We should use their numerous past failures to orchestrate a de-emphasis on formulating policy based on intelligence gathering and interpretation, and not just from the CIA but from all of our intelligence agencies. In its place ought to be an approach of assuming the worst unless and until proven otherwise. In the case of Iran, we assume they’re building nukes and act accordingly unless and until Iran opens up their facilities to American inspection.
 
Written By: Steve Sturm
URL: http://
I’ve always said fire them all and ban them from future employment in US intelligence. Simple. Keeping the CIA around as an organization bears the more serious risk of it being reactivated vs. the risk of other intelligence agencies hiring ex-CIA bureaucrats.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
While I sympathize with your point, you’re missing the forest for the trees.
Not really ... it’s a rant, a cry unto the night, a venting, an indication of how broken I think our intel apparatus is.

Nothing is going to happen and I know that - but that said, it had to be said, so I said it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I’m not sure why you think the CIA is broken or a "rogue" agency — just because its conclusion doesn’t fit with what your bias leads you to believe? That seems to be the response of a lot of neo-conservatives, but I think less of a knee jerk reaction to one NIE and a bipartisan analysis of the intelligence process makes more sense then, "what, they made this conclusion that goes against my political bias, well, abolish the damn thing!"
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Erb, you can be such an amateur sometimes, it’s almost cute.

When every other agency in the world, including those who actually HAVE intel gathering capabilities in the region, tell you ’you’re wrong’ and when the actual estimate sounds something like this:

’the situation is 55% certain that they stopped the program to create nuclear weapons, but they are still 65% into getting a nuclear weapon should they restart their program, oh, and we really don’t know for certain whether or not they stopped their program in the first place, but there’s an 80% likelihood that we’re not 100% wrong (or right) about this assessment."

then it’s not about bias but about general competence of the CIA.

In 2003, the argument was never about whether or not Saddam had WMD’s: everyone thought he had them, including the democrats. They were wrong. They were wrong about where Bin Laden was, missed him on his way out, and wrong about countless other things, whereas the entire world intel base was only wrong about WMD’s.

The CIA is like the Miami Dolphins of the Intel Community right now. When your team sucks that badly, its time you fire the coach, get rid of the crappy players and rebuild your franchise.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
but I think less of a knee jerk reaction to one NIE...
What Hitchens said:
but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Remember when India went nuclear? Erb, check your scroll wheel-I think you went right past that page.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
I’m not sure why you think the CIA is broken or a "rogue" agency — just because its conclusion doesn’t fit with what your bias leads you to believe?
And your response if their conclusions were just the opposite? As you stated in an earlier entry that "the realists have taken over from the neo-conservatives" within the adminstration. Again, you attack those who question an obvious flip-flop that apparently does not jive with any other intelligence agency around the world because you claim they have a bias. What if there were no bias but a genuine desire to understand why an intelligence service would step out of it’s analytical mandate and take on the mantle of policy.

Or do you like it when civil servants step outside their purview and force their agenda onto elected officials. Seems like a swell idea when you are faced with an adminstration you do not like and do not trust. What would be your response to such an agency had the roles been completely reversed - a liberal administration that you trust trying desperately to diplomatically quell a hypersensitive issue and have it’s agenda stabbed in the back by the release of an intelligence report that was a complete reversal of what had been offered in the past - with no explanation.

Take a look at the CIA’s record of failure and tell me there is not cause to at least contemplate their replacement. We do it with adminstrations, senators and congressmen. Those who have failed are replaced. Why not agencies?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
The CIA used to have a consultancy operation that provided information about energy sectors in the Middle East, including nuclear activities. They were called Brewster & Jennings. What became of them?

Retief is right, the problem with bad intel is not isolated within the CIA. It spreads throughout the intelligence community and up into the executive branch.
 
Written By: persimmon
URL: http://
You reap what you sow. If you go the the CIA and tell them to bring you reasons to invade Iraq, and that if they won’t, DoD will, you will get what you asked for. But you won’t get good intel. Reap it!

From the unanimous bipartisan findings in the SSCI report:

Conclusion 83. The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities.


Conclusion 84. The Committee found no evidence that the Vice President’s visits to the Central Intelligence Agency were attempts to pressure analysts, were perceived as intended to pressure analysts by those who participated in the briefings on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, or did pressure analysts to change their assessments.
 
Written By: anonymous
URL: http://
Another CIA plot revealed or not ?
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
The problem is not the CIA per se, the problem is that the CIA is full of and run by people who act contrary to the way we’d like them to act.

This is a good sentence for clarity’s sake. In other words, the problem is, "The CIA keeps coming up with analysis that doesn’t fit our agenda". By "our agenda", "our" refers to "right-wing extremists", not the President’s agenda. This is a given, since the CIA is run by someone appointed by the President, who controls the tenure and promotion of everyone else, and staffed by people that sacrifice their normal lives forever for the explicit purpose of serving the country’s defense, with the career goal of earning the approval of people appointed by the President.

I decided I’d come up with a polite rebuttal to this post, which may take a few days. In the meantime, Chris Hitchens and some other people should contemplate a few things - off the top of my head:

A) Sixteen intelligence agencies signed off on the 2007 NIE. They could have had caveats included if they’d wanted them, but they didn’t.

B)At least half of those agencies are controlled by the DoD, which gets well over half of IC budgets and staff. When you diss the NIE, you’re dissing the Pentagon... run by... Bob Gates. A CIA veteran! And a very competent SecDef.

C)Meanwhile, the CIA-bashing campaign was started by the last DoD, who mismanaged every armed conflict he landed in. Oh, and John Bolton who was really good at insulting people on his own team but not so good at his job.

D) The guy who put the 2007 NIE together are the people who made the dissents to the 2002 NIE regarding the Iraq’s nuke program - caveats that were right. These are the people being called out by name by The American Thinker. The people that were consistently wrong in the 2002 NIE - read that SSCI report quoted up there in full - were the DoD agencies run by... wait for it.. the aforementioned SecDef.

E) What the people behind this report are really mad about are pessimistic reports about Iraq in 2004-6 - accurate reports - while White House officials were giving Vietnam-era spin, and the leak of an illegal surveillance program on US citizens.

F) What this actually demonstrates is that the CIA allowed itself to get rolled by DoD and the White House into painting an overhyped picture on their behalf in 2002. They were then used as scapegoats and stripped of some authority by Congress as the President looked on - although his partner in fudge, George Tenet, got the Medal Of Freedom. Since then, they’ve tried to do better. Not in ’making policy’ (when you see some policy made, please point it out), but in answering the questions they are asked by the leaders of government.
Now, it’s the nature of accurate information to interfere with old policy. The solution is to change the policy. Don Rumsfeld, on the other hand, preffered to have people fired for pointing out accurate information (like, "someone’s going to need to fix Iraq’s electric grid!). But the CIA’s job is to do its job, not to make life easier for anyone’s talking points.

G) Oh, and who came up with the interrogation procedures that Chris Hitchens - and me - are so angry about? Hmmm. Was it - the Pentagon? In the 2002-2006 era?

I don’t really like defending the CIA, but I have no choice when the proposed solutions are literally designed to make the problem worse. The CIA has made some strides in not allowing other people to lie with their name on it.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
G) When you examine the intelligence record of other countries, you find .. this is an odd coincidence.. a long list of intelligence failures. I hope to expound on this a little later. Some might suggest this as evidence that the problem is misdiagnosed here.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The problem with this latest NIE is that there seems to be little CIA imput; and what there is seems suspect; the suddenly available unencrypted laptop,the communications intercepts; (didn’t we have a similar situation, with Iraqi troops discussing chemical weapons, broadcast at the UN) No real verification;by an agent network on the ground. There are many reasons for this
due to the revelation of recruiting of such persons in L.A. by the L.A times,
the likelyhood of Ahmadinejad’s purge, of reformist elements which were likely to provide to such information he fired and charged Mousavian, who told Ayatollah Khamenei of the success of the ’deception program’ to the IAEA. Etc.
One is reminded that the CIA Board of Estimates, missed the likelyhood of Soviet missiles in Cuba; in September 1962!Maybe it’s time for an agency along the lines portrayed by Charles McCarry in the futuristic "Better Angels" (set in a world of nihilistic suicide bombers, oil sheiks and nuclear weapons and the sequel "Shelley’s Heart". The Foreign Intelligence Service, which he saw as succeeding the CIA after another series of Watergate/Vietnam type debacles A real network of NOCs who don’t operate from Langley, and list a dead end mail drop in a Boston highrise as their place of business. McCarry, illustrates the problems doesn’t end their as the FIS came to feel it had better instinct and policies than the people they served; going as far as to ’fix’ an election electronically to prevent an opponent from taking power
 
Written By: narciso
URL: http://
The CIA keeps coming up with analysis that doesn’t fit our agenda.
The CIA is blatantly political and wants to defeat the current admin. If you are on the left you say Yay. However, the cuts in ways you might not want. So the CIA has now become the same as the 3rd world intel agencies it supports. So much for making real decisions based on real evidence.

Hey McQ, Glassy Eye is calling you names
right-wing extremists
As I have said before, kill it, and ship the employees where they ship the telephone sanitizers.



 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
The CIA is blatantly political and wants to defeat the current admin.
LOL! You know you’ve reached rock bottom when your conspiracy theories have the CIA being the traitors. You guys are hilarious. Seriously. I don’t think you realize just how whacky and bizarre some of these comments are. I think you’re so lost in the blogsophere rhetoric that you’ve lost any semblance of understanding reality. Oh well, marginalize yourselves, please! Thank you!

Alas, good intelligence is important, and there are real problems in the intelligence community. It isn’t the silly conspiracy theories thrown out by the lunatic fringe, but it is a result of some bad policies and a shift towards relying primarily on technology rather than human intelligence. These can and should be addressed. But shrill attacks when one dislikes one NIE are easily laughed off.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
and simply avoiding all the valid points by pointing to the one or two wacky ones is also easily laughed off, Erb.

Come back when you’d like to admit you were wrong here.
 
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
conspiracy theories have the CIA being the traitors.
Pardon me for waking you up. :)

Leaving the argument of treachery aside, they seem more concerned with petty stupid politics than doing their job. That is my point (and it is on your head).

 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Leaving the argument of treachery aside, they seem more concerned with petty stupid politics than doing their job.
The CIA has weaknesses and there are internal politics, but this report is not that different than the 2005 report, nor does it contain anything that is not credible. Whether or not it is accurate of course is always in question — intelligence agencies world wide are often wrong because the nature of the business at hand has a lot of uncertainty.

I find no reason to doubt the conclusions reached, and the President himself seems to agree, as does the Secretary of Defense. The report is not a total whitewashing of Iran — quite the opposite. I think there is a knee jerk reaction by some neo-conservatives who really want to bomb Iran before Bush leaves office to the report, which a few bloggers take too seriously. My suspicion is that not only is this report welcomed by the White House, but it also signals a shift in diplomatic policy towards Iran, something the White House wants to pursue carefully and slowly. I would not be surprised to read in memoirs in a few years that the top levels of the White House helped plan how the report was worded to gain improvement in tone with Iran while maintaining pressure, that the wording was meant to strike a balance. I also would not be surprised if Rice and Gates have convinced the President to ditch the neo-conservative approach that has done so poorly in Iraq, and this in part is meant to politically shift the dialogue away from their discussion of Iran as an imminent threat.

IOW, any politics behind this report was likely from the Administration, not the intelligence community. Note that the administration is not using the same kind of rhetoric about the report as the neo-conservatives are using.

We’ll see. It’s always fun when the first batch of memoirs come out after an Administration leaves office.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I find no reason to doubt the conclusions reached,
Off course not since it totally supports "The Narrative"

An example of the sort of cognitive dissonance that goes in your mind.
My suspicion is that not only is this report welcomed by the White House, but it also signals a shift in diplomatic policy towards Iran, something the White House wants to pursue carefully and slowly.
IOW, any politics behind this report was likely from the Administration, not the intelligence community.
At least these are in different paragraphs.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
While I agree with much of what you said Scott, the conclusion by to many people is that all is well, and we should not put any pressure on Iran.

I don’t think the NIE supports that conclusion, any more than it supports a conclusion that we should bomb Iran.

I don’t recall the President saying that Iran was an imminent threat. ’Course, he never said that about Iraq either, and plenty of people were convinced that he did.

But as far as the CIA goes, I think it is a deeply flawed agency with to many cold-war hold-outs. Our whole foreign intelligence community could probably use an overhaul.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
My suspicion is that not only is this report welcomed by the White House, but it also signals a shift in diplomatic policy towards Iran, something the White House wants to pursue carefully and slowly.

IOW, any politics behind this report was likely from the Administration, not the intelligence community.
Actually this would indicate that the intel community is still highly influenced by the administration, and still producing reports that suit the policy that is desired.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
The problem with bipartisan reports is that they have to be so anodyne to get everyone to sign off on them. Here’s what some analysts themselves said. The committee may not have found it, but that may be related more to what the committee was looking for than the existence of the evidence.

Keith Indy, if you’re going to be complaining about cold-war hold-outs, Condi has to be at the top of that list. BTW, how imminent is a threat if the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Didn’t know that Condi was in the intel community... ;)

Don’t think she’s doing that good of a job anyway. Unless, of course, the redirection of rhetoric on Iran is coming from her corner of the cabinet.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
"...the CIA’s Ombudsman for Politicization conducted a formal
inquiry in November 2003 into the possibility of “politicization” with
respect to assessments of Iraqi WMD. That inquiry involved the (perceived)
delay in CIA’s reassessment of its position on WMD in Iraq. The Ombudsman
also found no evidence, based on numerous confidential interviews
with the analysts involved, that political pressure had caused any analyst to
change any judgments.834"
http://www.wmd.gov/report/report.html
 
Written By: anonymous
URL: http://
Actually this would indicate that the intel community is still highly influenced by the administration, and still producing reports that suit the policy that is desired.
That’s always my working assumption.

I agree that the NIE is being misread by a lot of people, it’s not fundamentally different from the earlier reports in most aspects. That’s why I think the attacks on it from some quarters are misguided — and in fact oddly reinforce the idea that the report exonerates Iran.

My own view on Iran is that pressure alone will likely be counter productive, international pressure actually serves the interests of the religious conservatives. I think (and this is speculation) that the Bush administration is coming around to that view, and recognizing that pressure must be combined with some kind of diplomatic openness. In other words, like with North Korea, there is really no viable military option and continuing pressure that doesn’t work only creates a more dangerous situation in the future. So the policy has to shift to confront the difficult strategic realities. (Also, I think there might be a sense that Iran has proven itself reasonable by stopping or significantly decreasing attempts to disrupt Iraq).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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