Sunday, November 14, 2004

House Cleaning at the CIA: About Damn Time

Recent headlines talk about the voluntary retirement of Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin and the resignation of Stephen R. Kappes, chief of clandestine operations. In the article titled CIA veterans clash with new chief Senior officers fear Goss too isolated; resignations mount the author seems to sympathize with the "veteran" CIA officers who are complaining that their voices are not being heard:

The four former deputy directors of operations who have tried to offer Goss advice are Thomas Twetten, Jack Downing, Richard F. Stoltz and the recently retired James L. Pavitt.

They "wanted to save him from going through" what two other directors, Stansfield Turner and John M. Deutch, had experienced when they tried to make personnel changes quickly, one former senior official aware of their efforts said.

My take on this? Waaa-fucking-waaaa, excuse my rough language. If you read the 9/11 Commission report(pdf) and paid attention to any articles regarding the CIA in the Wall Street Journal, you'd understand that the CIA has a number of problems. The first, of course, was the reduction of funding and, ultimately, the reduction in assets on the ground in many foreign states. Mainly because, after the collapse of the USSR, the CIA and the government, turned it's focus on China as the next adversary and concentrated a large amount of it's resources there. The funding was not their fault, but the total lack of imagination for future threats by many at the top level and the reliance on technology instead of human asset's was the fault of the managers.

On to the inner sanctum for more discussion of the article and why it won't get any sympathy from this quarter.

Second, as anyone in business would recognize, too many chiefs and not enough indians. This place was full of "career" managers that had made their successful promotion, not by actual deeds of saving the US from some threat, but by some quota program that did not emphasize quality nor outcome. In business, that is a sure fire way to insure failure and the CIA, if it were a business, would be bankrupt today based on it's several massive failures: 1) intelligence on 9/11; and 2) intelligence about Saddam and WMD 3) Pakistan nukes surprising the hell out of us; 4) India testing nukes and surprising the hell out of us; 5) North Korea got nukes in an incredible (and not believable) eight months after the installation of the Bush administration.

Third, as a direct result of the first two issues, they went away from their successful model of "humint" or human intelligence, verified and re-verified, not just by informants with the same info, but by actual leg work of our own people and relied more on technology and cross referencing informant information. One does not have to be a devotee of Tom Clancy or Ian Fleming to know that disinformation can be put into the field and be regurgitated by more than one source. Technology is important in the game, but, as one of my favorite bosses used to say, "inspect what you expect" and you can't do that sitting on your ass behind a desk just listening to some people who may have questionable motives in supplying that info, much less the possibility of being purposefully sent or given info to misdirect. It's a basic tenet of Sun Tzu and these bonehead elites at the CIA have apparently forgotten that in their quest of turning their CIA job into a 9 to 5 path to a nice retirement package.

Third, internally, now that a new Director is in charge, just like changing management in a company and looking for "change agents", people who work against that change are not helpful, no matter how they couch their objections. They are obstacles and no amount of experience makes up for the pain, angst and disruption to as smooth a change as possible. Better they be gone than stand in the way. It will also give a chance for fresh and ambitious faces to start shining. They will take this more seriously and have many ideas that have been squashed because some previous manager didn't think it fit into the way the "company" should operate.

Fourth and by no means the last, the CIA has been acting like it's own country with a State Department, complete with it's own, separate foreign policy ideas and implementation, rather than a branch of the existing government of this country working towards the goals of the administration and the past administrations have been letting them get away with it, too. I think this branch of government has fallen victim to it's own press, so to speak. They were quite instrumental in bringing down the USSR and they know it. On the other hand, they never left that Cold War mentality and just switched gears to look at their idea of the next big player, China.

While China still needs to be monitored, in today's world, it is the small states and the non-state actors (terrorists) that pose an immediate threat. Inability to multi-task efficiently means the system needs new direction, new ideas and new people.

If you read the article, you'll note that the author seems to paint Goss as the boat rocker and these resignees and their potential followers as the wronged parties. It is simply not the case. You cannot have people nor an organization that works contrary to the goals of the administration.

"Each side doesn't understand the other's culture very well," one former senior operations officer said. "There is a way to do this elegantly. You don't have to humiliate people. You bring in people with really weak credentials, and everyone is going to rally around the flag."

As I was saying, "waaaa-fucking-waaaa". You might also recall the two recent books by one Matt Shauer, an active duty CIA officer, who, in his books, complains about the Bush administration and what he felt was ignoring the advice of the CIA. Frankly, the CIA has lost a lot of credibility either through ignorance or purposeful attempts to obstruct the administration. Neither puts a good light on the agency, whatever Mr. Shauer's complaints. I think Porter Goss has it just right:

At his Senate confirmation hearing Sept. 14, Goss said, "There is too much management at headquarters," which he said was "too bureaucratic" and had "stifled some of the innovation, some of the creativity and, frankly some of the risk-taking in the field."(...)

He also offered a glimpse of his management style. "I believe it takes, sometimes, very blunt, strong language" to get changes made. "I don't like doing it — I call it tough love — but I think occasionally you have to do that."

And let me tell you, it is better to have ten people who want to be part of the team and will work like hell to make it happen than 20 people who are hands and brains, but working contrary to the company goals.

So, whine away, but they won't be getting any sympathy or commiseration from this quarter and anyone that falls for it hasn't been paying attention for the last decade and a half. Right now, it's time for name taking and ass kicking. Commiseration can come when we don't have to worry about Islamofascist terrorists and the explosion of the mid-east waiting to be tossed in our laps like a hot coal, or the existence of nukes in Iran or North Korea.

House cleaning at the CIA? It's about damn time.


Jason Rubenstein said...

Amen, sister. I posted on this as well, though much less elowuently or in detail.

The MSM is clueless yet again - attempting to garner sympathy for the buros at the CIA in order to paint Bush as a meddling incompetent. After two years of media complaints about CIA problems, now that Bush has sent Goss to shake up the organization and get the place back into shape - they complain!!!

Never happy, those J-school babies, are they?

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

I think it would be unfortunate for the FBI to be spared the same necessary house-cleaning the CIA is currently getting. Without it, it's about like wiping mud off of only one shoe and expecting not to dirty your carpet.

Tom said...

Yes, this house cleaning is way overdue.

You hit the nail on the head in your paragraph about "humint."

However, I think you have to go back to the Church Commission to find the roots of the problem. The CIA went a bit too far with some of their activities in the late 50's early '60s. Frank Church wanted to reign them in, but went way overboard. The result of the new restrictions was that the CIA started to rely on technology more and more.

Also, from what I recall, there was a Clinton Admin era rule that the CIA could not recruit foreigners with "shady backgrounds." This resulted in a purge of valuable sources.

So my understanding (and maybe I'm wrong) is these are the reasons they moved from humint to technology as their means of gathering information.

Kat said... is a bizarre paradox, isn't it? But smart people will sit back and watch the precedings and all of the whiners as they go by.

Ciggy, I agree, the FBI has been doing it's own thing separate from the Justice department for too long. JE Hoover might have been good at keeping the communists out but, in the end, he might have done the service and injustice by giving them their own sense of power.

I find it very interesting how the CIA, FBI, IRS and the Judicial system have seemingly become powers unto themselves. They all need to be reeled in a bit. The judicial system can only be reeled in one way, at it isn't necessarily appointing more conservative judges to the post. As a matter of fact, i don't mind liberal judges. What I do mind is when they try to make constitutional law from the bench. Congress actually has the power to put a kaibosh on these efforts and they have either been just as liberal as the courts or unwilling to do so for fear of rocking the boat they've made.

The judicial system or the supreme court may make certain rulings, but in the end, an act of congress can over turn it. I think that congress should do this once every decade or so to remind the court of it's place. Sometime soon would be good by me.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

I beg to differ on how effective J. Edgar Hoover was at keeping Communists out of America. If he put so much as 1/10th the effort he used on political rivals, toward Soviet assets and the groups they formed in the U.S. instead, the '60s and '70s would have been a very different time, and we may have even won the Vietnam war.

All that time McCarthy had the goods on the enemy and was being vilified by the Soviet moles to protect the KGB's operations, and what did Hoover do? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... for the most part. COINTELPRO was sloppy because by then everybody knew it was too little, too late. The '50s was the time to nip the problem in the bud, and it remained notoriously un-nipped. COINTELPRO 'cure' was ineffective since no prevention had been done.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

On reflection, I think William F. Buckley did 1,000 times more damage to American Communism than J.E. Hoover ever did.