The problem is that the Brennan restructuring effort does just the opposite. It puts the politicization on steroids. Placing intelligence analysts and operations officers together fosters a quite different kind of atmosphere -- the kind that increases the likelihood of what Truman called the "most important thing" to guard against -- leading "the President into unwise decisions."
Truman saw the general problem and went even further, saying he "would like to see the CIA restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President " and its operational duties terminated or properly used elsewhere." We think Truman was right then; and he is right now.
Decades of experience show that Truman's fears were well founded. Indeed, from the outset, putting analysis and covert action operations together in the same agency was the first structural fault, so to speak, when it was created in 1947.
It was occasioned primarily by insistence that WWII OSS operatives who could match the KGB in what is now called "regime change" remain in government, and then a myopic choice to place them with the analysts in the newly created CIA. As Melvin Goodman points out in his The Failure of Intelligence: the Decline and Fall of the CIA, the early "CIA leadership itself was opposed to having responsibility for covert action, believing that the clandestine function would ultimately taint the intelligence product, a prescient observation."
During the 1980s, President Reagan's Secretary of State, George Shultz, correctly accused CIA Director William Casey and his deputy, Robert Gates, of slanting intelligence, charging that their operational involvement "colored" the Agency's analysis. Shultz openly charged William Casey with giving President Reagan "faulty intelligence" to bolster Casey's own policy preferences, including the ill-conceived arms-for-hostages-swap with Iran.
Shultz added that, because he had a sense of this analysis-operations toxic mix, he harbored "grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting." Shultz was a strong advocate of separating the analysis from operations, likening the need to that of separating investment from commercial banking.
"War on Terrorism" as Business Model
The business model chosen by Brennan is fashioned to the "War on Terrorism," and he holds up the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) as a model to emulate. There the analysts and operations officers sit side by side charged primarily with hunting, targeting, and killing in that war.
But truth, it has been pointed out, is the first casualty of war. This can be seen right off the bat in the exaggerated way the supposed "successes" of the Center are advertised. Some of us have worked in or closely with these CIA Centers, after which ten new "Mission Centers" are patterned. And we are taken aback by the hyperbolic plaudits being given them -- and especially to the CTC.
That a quintessential politicizer, and big Curve Ball promoter, like former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin is reported to have advised Brennan on the restructuring, and lauds the benefits of "putting analysts and operators together" adds to our concern.
Very much in step, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, for instance, claims that existing Centers have "proven to be a very powerful combination" and that the Counterterrorism Center is "the most successful agency component over the last decade."
Morell remains focused on the business model of war. Just days ago he conceded that he did not think he would live to see the end of al-Qaeda: "My children's generation and my grandchildren's generation will still be fighting this fight," said Morell.
Does it occur to Morell or others who have played senior intelligence roles that there ought to be a different kind of center, like what used to exist in parts of the Directorate of Intelligence, where analyst talent might be used not simply for targeting terrorists, but for figuring out what their grievances are, and whether there may be more promising ways to address them?
Do we really believe that terrorists slip out of the womb screaming "I hate America"? And is there a cost to drone-killing them as the preferred method of eliminating terrorists (together with others who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time)?
Brennan has announced that the new Centers will "bring the full range of operational, analytic, support, technical, and digital personnel and capabilities to bear on the nation's most pressing security issues and interests."
We need to learn more of the specifics, but the integrated Mission Centers sound very much like fertile field for politicization and centralized control under which subordinates will feel pressure to fall in line with prosecuting the war de jour and to sign on to politically correct solutions dictated from the 7th floor under guidance from your staff in the White House.
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