21 April, 2006

CIA in crisis; IC in disarray

Max Holland, in The American Spectator, is providing a glimpse of the bureaucratic fighting and mismanagement to be found one year after the formal reorganization of the American intelligence community. The good news, if you can call it that, is that so many resources are being turned to stopping another 9/11 that even the current state of disaray probably won't obstruct a warning abut that particular kind of threat.

(Of course, part of the price of shining a spotlight against one location is that everything else is in relative darkness. America has more enemies than Al Qaeda, and they are adaptable enough to use the dark. Whatever we do, there will always be the questions "where aren't we looking?" and "what aren't we recognizing?")

The bad news is the construction of yet another bloated bureaucracy around the Director for National Intelligence to sit above and attempt to manage the disfunctional bureaucracies that already exist.

Further bad news is that a lot of good people are being screwed for reasons that have more to do with politics than performance. For someone like me, an academic with an outsider's interest in intelligence, the fighting has (lesser) personal results: new categories of classification (as in "Unclassified but restricted"), the re-classification of formerly available materials, and the shipwreck at Studies in Intelligence, an in-house journal (classified and unclassified) with an excellent reputation. What is happening in and around that journal is instructive:

When Studies was initiated in 1955, the literature on intelligence was almost nonexistent. It was thought that the intelligence profession would not become a real discipline without a literature that could be shared and accumulated. Over the decades, several of the CIA's most esteemed minds served on the editorial board of Studies, which became a venue for wide-ranging and often self-critical articles. The only criterion for publication was whether the article made a "contribution to the literature of intelligence," in the editorial board's opinion (disclosure: this writer has had two articles published in Studies).

But at Goss's CIA, free expression and thoughtful criticism have been trumped by political correctness. The problem erupted in the fall of 2005, when Studies published an excerpt from a post-mortem on the intelligence community's failure to assess accurately Iraq's WMD capabilities. The post-mortem had been ordered by former DCI George Tenet, who wanted at least one inquest done by experienced officers, without a special ax to grind, and beyond the glare of publicity. Tenet contracted a group of outside consultants headed by Richard Kerr, a much decorated former deputy director of the agency, to conduct the review.

It is not apparent why Kerr's post-mortem incited Goss and the gosslings, since the published portion was far more critical of the intelligence community for feeding policy-makers erroneous estimates than it was of the policy-makers for allegedly cherry-picking the intelligence or pressuring analysts. Perhaps Kerr's major transgression was to point out that the other intelligence assessments about Iraq have proven to be right on the mark; the most important being the forecast of sectarian violence after Saddam Hussein's overthrow. Under the Goss regime it is apparently forbidden to depict the intelligence community as being anything other than in lockstep with the administration's rosy scenarios.

Seven months later, the offending issue still has not been posted on-line, even though unclassified articles in Studies are normally put up within weeks of publication. Paul Johnson, the director of the office that publishes Studies and chairman of the editorial board, has resigned, along with the editor, Barbara Pace. The most chilling aspect is that there are newly established editorial hurdles at the journal. Merit is no longer the sole criterion governing publication.

Yes, American intelligence had needed to change for years before 9/11. But these "reforms" have done little but create new problems.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

It may be time to look into outsourcing the intellignce community to the Wall Street Journal or Stratfor.