Also implicit in the report is vindication for critics of the 9/11 Commission who questioned whether the creation of the new DNI post--as the commission recommended--would do much to address the politicization of the U.S. intelligence community, which lost its old commitment to objective analysis under the ideological and political pressures of the 1980s and 1990s.
In earlier days, the U.S. intelligence ethos was to provide objective information to the policymakers with "the bark on." However, during Ronald Reagan's presidency--and especially under the reign of CIA Director Bill Casey and his deputy Robert Gates--that traditional ethos was broken down, replaced by a more compliant, finger-to-the-wind style of analysis.
For instance, when the Reagan administration wanted to justify major increases in military spending in the 1980s, Casey and Gates purged the CIA's Moscow specialists who were detecting dramatic signs of Soviet decline and promoted more malleable analysts who were willing to issue alarmist projections about Soviet capabilities and intent.
A New Culture
In 1993, when President Bill Clinton ignored this cultural change at the CIA--indeed he deepened it by treating the CIA directorship as something of a patronage plum to be awarded to Democratic neoconservatives who wanted the job for their favorite James Woolsey--the Casey-Gates politicization became institutionalized.
Though Tenet did press on President Bush the growing threat from al-Qaeda--especially in the President's Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"--the CIA director also was careful not to wear out his welcome by confronting Bush too directly.
After failing to thwart the 9/11 attacks, Tenet was so thankful to Bush for not firing him that Tenet helpfully promoted false and dubious intelligence to justify Bush's desire to invade Iraq, famously telling Bush that the Iraq-WMD case was a "slam dunk."
Despite these two intelligence disasters, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission operated within its own narrow concept of what was politically acceptable, meaning that it couldn't very easily decry the politicization that Ronald Reagan molded and Bill Clinton hardened.
Instead, the commission recommended putting a new bureaucratic box on top of the old flow chart. After all, addressing an institutional culture--in this case, politicization--is much tougher. It would have required rehabilitating many old CIA hands who refused to go with the flow and removing the younger generation which had learned how to play ball.
So, the post of DNI was born, essentially replacing the CIA director as the head of the U.S. intelligence community. But the quality of U.S. intelligence will improve only if analysts are committed to telling the truth rather than saying what politicians want to hear.
And the first major attempt by President Obama's DNI, Dennis Blair, to select a top analyst who didn't fear speaking truth to power ended up with that choice, former U.S. Ambassador Charles "Chas" Freeman, effectively being blackballed by the Israel Lobby and its many supporters in the Washington press corps and on Capitol Hill.
However, as the inspector general's report makes clear, the U.S. intelligence community needs more than just a bureaucratic reshuffling--or reliance on dubious Bush-Cheney methods--to protect the nation. There must be a serious commitment to doing the job right.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.