TCS Daily


Intelligent Intelligence

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - May 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Surprising everyone unaware of the trials and tribulations that have been ongoing at the Central Intelligence Agency -- but coming as no shock to those in the know -- Porter Goss, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) flies after a little less than two years on the job. A day later, Michael Hayden steps into the breech.

While there were micro-reasons associated with the Goss resignation -- as this story reveals -- there were larger issues concerning the CIA's future role that made Director Goss leave, and are likely to confront General Hayden. According to the NY Times:

"A former agency official said Mr. Goss had hoped to preserve the agency's traditional role as the government's main source of intelligence analysis as well as its center of human spying, even though the lead analytical role is now played by [National Intelligence Director John] Negroponte's office. The prestige of the C.I.A. has suffered multiple blows in recent years, beginning with the failure to detect the Sept. 11 attacks followed by the faulty assessments about the status of Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

"It was those failures that in part led to the resignation in 2004 of Mr. Goss's predecessor, George J. Tenet.

"Mr. Goss started at the agency just as it was about to lose its status as the premier spy agency. The bipartisan panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks had recommended creating a cabinet-level post to take control over the disparate intelligence agencies and replace the C.I.A. director as the president's principal adviser on intelligence."

I hate to say "I told you so," but when I wrote in response to the decision to create the post of National Intelligence Director (NID), one of the chief concerns I cited was the likely increase in the intelligence and national security bureaucracy.

Now that this increase has come to pass, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing turf wars like the one that occurred between Goss and Negroponte. It should be expected that if the next DCI is even remotely independent-minded, he/she too will clash with Negroponte, or any other strong-willed NID. And let's not even get into the conflicts the NID will get into -- or has gotten into -- with other members of the Administration. The intelligence reforms that took place nearly two years ago only seems to have served, thus far, to institutionalize needless and unproductive bureaucratic conflict.

The ideal solution to this newfound chaos is to eliminate the office of the NID and restore the CIA's authority. And if an intelligence czar is needed, make the DCI that czar. Still, given the way things work in Washington, a bureaucracy like the one now commanded by the NID is not likely to go away anytime soon. As such, it is necessary to get used to the bureaucracy's existence and figure out a way to make it work in the intelligence context.

For one thing, if the NID really is meant to serve as some kind of intelligence czar, then it should be natural to give him the power and authority the current NID, John Negroponte, seeks. If we agree that further turf wars within the intelligence community are debilitating, then they must be resolved by leaving no question as to where the ultimate decision-making authority lies. Future Directors of Central Intelligence and heads of the National Security Agency should be made answerable to the NID and the chain-of-command within the intelligence community should run through the NID. This necessarily means that the office of the NID will have to assemble and process intelligence reports from other agencies and that the NID will continue to brief the President -- replacing the DCI, who used to be responsible for that function.

For another, in order to resolve the looming bureaucratic war between the NID's office and the Pentagon, a strict line must be drawn between intelligence the Pentagon has a right to collect, analyze and filter down to troops on the ground, and that which will be the responsibility of the NID's office to gather and disseminate to appropriate recipients. At the same time, if the Pentagon would consent to cooperate with the NID in providing needed information for the President's Daily Brief and institutionalizing a collaborative arrangement regarding the sharing of information, such an effort would go a long way towards resolving much of the internecine warfare that seems ready to erupt between the NID and the Pentagon.

Naturally, in considering the future direction of American intelligence services, a great deal of attention will be paid to Michael Hayden, Porter Goss's successor at the CIA. But beyond questions of personality, questions of policy and the shape of the intelligence structure should be addressed as the intelligence community continues to get used to the presence and influence of a National Intelligence Director. Chief among the policy challenges is the need to avoid unnecessary and unproductive turf fights. Streamlining the chain of command within the community and fostering the institutionalization of a cooperative working atmosphere will help the American intelligence community work out the existing bureaucratic kinks in the system and better serve the country in the process.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is a lawyer and TCS contributing writer.

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2 Comments

Sad to see Porter go
Porter Goss had his work cut out for him. The CIA had been notable for its ineptness in intelligence matters for years. Lately, selective leaks to the news media by disgruntled CIA employees [I thought that had only been postal employees!] made a mockery of professionalism in the CIA.

It was important for Goss to dis-employ such counter-
productive CIA employees who wouldn't/couldn't do the job of gathering and interpreting intelligence.

Who will carry on the needed house cleaning at the CIA?

Does the Administration want intelligent intelligence? or more freedom from Congress?
Pejman, this is well-argued, but it seems to me that the Bush-Cheney administration has been trying to wreck the CIA (as it has obstructed the Administration) and to rely increasingly on Defense intelligence, for the simple reason that they feel they have more freedom to act without Congressional oversight with respect to Defense intelligence and operations.

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