CIA Under Goss: Train Wreck in the Making

In Deputy Chief Resigns From CIA, the Washington Post gives us a peek at the train wreck in the making at the CIA.

It's obvious that Bush has nominated a partisan hack. He brought with him four aides, people I don't know much about, but whom the CIA people depict as having much to be modest about.

I wish I could stop there, and just pen another Bush-administration-incompetence story (which this seems to be), but it's more complicated than that. I actually think that a significant fraction of what Goss says is wrong with the CIA is likely to be right.

The problems at the CIA are pervasive. They start with a general lack of brilliance among the people who've been promoted in the agency. They run through bloat and hide-bound ways of work. The agency never recovered from the last purge, so it lacks 'assets' in key parts of the world, and is still shaking off its cold-war-centered focus. The CIA tortures people, which is no trivial matter.

Thus, even though it was politically expedient I have not been real comfortable with the war between the spooks at the Agency and their nominal political masters. It's never good when the secret police or the get into politics.

The agency is a serious mess and nowhere more than the dark side, the clandestine service. It needs a cleanup; it's just not at all likely that the ham-handed methods being used by Goss and his merry henchmen are likely to improve matters much. They might even make things worse.

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5 Responses to CIA Under Goss: Train Wreck in the Making

  1. Mojo says:

    I completely disagree that the clandestine side is the part of the CIA that most needs correction. All of the really aggregious errors that led us to war in Iraq came from the analysis side, not Ops. Even the source information for that bad analysis came mostly from outside the CIA. Ops didn’t report that the aluminum tubes were for use in a nuclear program, they didn’t start the Niger uranium hoax (and, in fact, the only info they did produce tended to debunk the story), they didn’t originate the mobile bio-lab story, and they didn’t report close ties between Iraq and terrorists. In fact, much of that information originated with Iraqi opposition groups that the Ops side distrusted. Most of the complaints about the ops side revolve around a “lack of clandestine assets”, but that’s a red herring. The CIA did have assets in Iraq, but nobody believed what they reported about WMDs and ties to terrorists (nothing). Some of the places where they didn’t have assets are those where it’s really unrealistic to expect them. How do you get someone to the top half a dozen people in the Iraqi regime when they were mostly relatives and still were regularly purged? Especially when you ignore those assets you do have because they don’t report what you expect to hear. How do you get assets in the hundreds of loosely connected, distributed terrorist cells, most of whom are related or childhood friends? Even when we do manage to get someone with at least some insight, the administration outs them. The executive branch told the CIA clandestine side to forment rebellions in Iraq. When the CIA proceeded but the administration provided no support and those rebellions were crushed, we lost quality assets in those groups and the credibility that could have given us more. (Can you say Bay of Pigs?)
    The analysis side has been systematically dismantled, starting in the Casey era, where promotions came mostly to those who reported what the administration wanted to hear and dissenters were shunted aside or forced out. Now we’re doing the same to the Ops side. I think our country can handle it (we’re big enough to absorb a lot of damage), but I think we’ll pay a heavy price down the line.

  2. Mojo says:

    A clarification. I’m not saying there aren’t problems on the Ops side of the CIA that need to be addressed. I’m just saying that they’re not as bad as in other parts of the Agency, that much of the criticism is misguided and motivated by politics rather than a desire to really improve things, and that tactics like those being used by Goss are going to make things worse rather than better.

  3. disenchanted says:

    From Common Dreams

    “The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House,” said a former senior CIA official
    who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. “Goss was given
    instructions … to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats.
    The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people
    who have been obstructing the president’s agenda.”

    This was also the complaint of the neocons when Bush Sr. started “Team B” to analyse the Soviet threat.
    Team B, of course, was even more wrong headed about the strength of the USSR than the “traditional” agents
    were. And the OSP, which fabricated evidence to invade Iraq, was just another “Team B,” with many of the
    same people.

    Goss has admitted that he was part paramilitary operations during the Bay of Pigs, and has stated
    he worked in Latin America and wants to ease the restrictions on assassinations now, no doubt a desire partly
    tinged by nostalgia.

    And now he’s purging the CIA of any agent not loyal to Bush’s “faith-based” administration?

    The attempt to create a totalitarian one party state in America continues unabated, down to nothing
    but “yes men” in the intelligence services. All we need is Lysenko to tell us that global warming is
    a myth. Oh wait…

  4. Michael says:

    Light side: caving to political pressure, issuing poor analysis.
    Dark side: torture, contra-like ops, and who knows.

    I think the dark side is more of a mess, although I agree there is much mess to around.

  5. Mojo says:

    Unfortunately Goss’s position is that the dark side isn’t dark enough.

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