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One "Spy Czar" Too Many?

By       Message R.H. Smith     Permalink
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Nearly as inevitable as Death and Taxes is the perpetuation of a Government mistake - especially when that mistake is an ill-conceived bureaucracy connected by an umbilical cord to a presidential appointment of exalted title.

History has been forgotten. The bright idea of appointing an Intelligence "czar" who would rank above the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and chiefs of other American intelligence agencies was first bruited about in the 1960s by greybeards of the Dean Acheson-Clark Clifford gentlemen's club.

The original thought stemmed from one small personal failing of the most powerful Director in CIA history. Long before Mr. Panetta, who, though a very influential and powerful man in Washington, is not, after all, Hillary Clinton's brother. Whereas CIA's Allen Dulles, a Wall Street-Washington icon, was indeed brother of the Secretary of State.

For all his shrewdness and urbane ruthlessness, Dulles hated personal confrontation, and he was unwilling to do battle with the heads of other Intelligence agencies - unless his own Agency was directly threatened.

Yet that was exactly what the DCI was originally intended to do, A cliche' of the day was "first among equals", but that poetic phrase is an oxymoron; it presupposes that there is a Top Dog to whom all the other pedigreed hounds in the kennel, bark and preen as they may, are subordinate.

Allen Dulles had the power and influence and presidential support to act as Top Dog of the Intelligence Community, but when that required doing battle with his cuffs rolled up, he chose to absent himself. And, so went the thinking of Cold War days, if Dulles, with all his clout, couldn't take charge, how could any of his less endowed successors possibly do so?

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Smith is an historian and public policy consultant.

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