April 6, 2009
Add to the list of President George W. Bush's failures his inability to straighten out what he regarded as one of the top national security needs, a more effective U.S. intelligence community.
Despite upping the U.S. intelligence budget to $45 billion from about $30 billion--and signing legislation in 2005 meant to end "turf" battles--Bush left behind an intelligence community suffering from poor communications among agencies and a flawed management structure, according to an inspector general's report finished in November and released last week.
Instead of creating a streamlined and efficient intelligence community, the changes that Bush oversaw appear simply to have added a new layer of bureaucracy--the Director of National Intelligence--on top of the earlier system whose shortcomings contributed to intelligence failures around the 9/11 attacks and the bogus assessments on Iraq's WMD stockpiles.
In a March 15 interview with CNN's John King, Cheney said Obama had made the country less safe by moving to close the Guantanamo prison, shuttering CIA "black sites" where detainees were interrogated, limiting CIA interrogators to tactics from the Army Field Manual, defining waterboarding as torture, suspending the military commissions, and junking the "war on terror" concept.
"I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," Cheney said. "President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
Cheney also criticized Obama for shifting back to the law-enforcement paradigm from the framework of waging a global "war," which President Bush embraced after 9/11.
"I think part of the difficulty here as I look at what the Obama administration is doing, we made a decision after 9/11 that I think was crucial. We said this is a war. It's not a law-enforcement problem. Up until 9/11, it was treated as a law-enforcement problem."
"Once you go into a wartime situation and it's a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy. You go after the state sponsors of terror, places where they've got sanctuary. You use your intelligence resources, your military resources, your financial resources, everything you can in order to shut down that terrorist threat against you.
"When you go back to the law-enforcement mode, which I sense is what they're doing, closing Guantanamo and so forth, that they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required, and that concept of military threat that is essential if you're going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks."
Cheney also insisted that there exists a classified report listing all the planned terrorist attacks that were supposedly thwarted by extracting information from al-Qaeda and other "war on terror" suspects through "enhanced interrogation techniques" and from other intelligence gathering.
"John, I've seen a report that was written based upon the intelligence that we collected then that itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs." Cheney said. "It's still classified. I can't give you the details of it without violating classification, but I can say there were a great many of them."
Nuts and Bolts
However, the November 2008 inspector general's report to the Director of National Intelligence indicates that while the Bush-Cheney administration pursued its aggressive tactics--torturing suspects, putting warrantless wiretaps on Americans, invading Iraq and creating an imperial presidency--it was ignoring the nuts and bolts of improving U.S. intelligence.
For instance, the IG report found that computer systems supposedly connecting the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies remain "largely disconnected and incompatible." The "turf" battles also continue, with "few, if any, consequences for failure to collaborate," the report said.