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Toward a More Perfect CIA

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The appointment of General Hayden to run the Central Intelligence Agency is the ideal appointment to help reform the CIA at this critical point in time.

What many people don’t understand is the relationship between the military and the CIA. The military, quite obviously, is aligned with the Department of Defense, and the CIA is aligned with the Department of State. While this doesn’t seem to have much of a meaning, the two departments really have very different ways of looking at the world and looking at conflict.

The purpose of the Department of Defense is to kill people and break things. That’s what the military does best. When the military looks at the world, they look at ways to win wars. When they find threats, they eliminate them.

The Department of State, however, looks at the world very differently. They look at the world diplomatically and seek to maximize the amount of information on adversaries or potential adversaries. When the CIA finds threats, they seek to get as much information as possible, including who is supporting or financing those threats, what their intentions are, and with whom they are working.

To be perfectly clear, both are necessary. In order to adequately deal with threats, one needs to fully understand where those threats come from and shat is involved to eliminate them. Knowing everything you can about the enemy is useless without eventual action. Knowing who the 9/11 hijackers are doesn’t, by itself, prevent them from flying into buildings.

The situation, combined with typical inter-agency rivalry, has led both departments into a form of opposition. While the military (and Bush for that matter) have backed action into Iraq to end the conflict that has been going on for 12 years (at the time of the second invasion), State and the CIA was opposed because that conflict would end the information flow and diplomacy. That difference in world-view has been the source of much public contention on the Iraq War and the War on Terror in general.

By appointing Hayden to the CIA, it appears that the intent is to shift the viewpoint of the CIA to be more action-oriented. Hayden is in intelligence, so he obviously knows the value of information, however, as a soldier he also surely knows the value of action and that there comes a point to act on intelligence even if there is more information that could be gathered.

This change is a good thing, as it will help both Defense and State to moderate the poles that have been generated from the rivalry. This appointment is a good thing at a great time that will help both agencies to understand the values each provide and help them learn to work together in the future. The military will learn the value of diplomacy and information and the CIA will learn the value of action. Our national defense will be the clear winner.

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About John Doe

A political activist and security expert.
  • I’m not an academic, but my recollection is that the CIA was expressly created to give the US a reliable source of information that wasn’t affected by the inter-service quarrels of the various military intelligence services under OSS. The decision was made during World War 2 in the wake of evidence that FDR’s administration had not gotten available information that might have resulted in the US being prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor. In other words, there are some very strong historical reasons for the CIA to not havve any appearance of “military” control or influence especailly from a particular branch of the service.

    Second, the CIA’s history in the Middle East, particularly into the 70’s was that of a very action-oriented agaency to the point that it was seen by many as the shadow foreign policy wing of US elected administrations. Are you suggesting that it would be good to return to this?

    Third, I’d simply disagree about the role of intelligence in the decision to go to war in Iraq. Over the last three years, it looks like the decision to invade and decisions about the nature of the occupation were made despite the available information rather than because of any intelligence culture’s inability to act. It’s one reason so much of the senior professional staff of the agency left both just before and during Porter Goss’s tenure.

  • I think casting the reformation of the CIA as a simple schism between State and DOD is a bit simplistic and a misnomer. State does not control the CIA.

    The CIA has, for most of its history, operated in a Cold War environment, driven by the extingiencies of that environment. It has been focused on state players, namely the USSR and its allies. Non-state players, such as terrorism, were relegated to “back-of-the-room” status.

    At the same time the CIA was moving towards embracing the primacy of signals intelligence, satellites, remote sensing etc. over HUMINT (Human intelligence). In recent years the “paramilitary arm” of the CIA was steadily being eroded, often being replaced by members of the DOD Special Forces community.

    The intelligence environment has now shifted. The dangers inherent in non-state players is now a significant strategic threat and it is a threat that often requires social and cultural knowledge, not just signals intelligence and phone intercepts. It requires local officers, a human intelligence network of people on the ground, with local connections who understand the power structures…in short, the CIA needs to get out of the office and into the field.

    As for your contention “the CIA was opposed because that conflict would end the information flow and diplomacy” – I seriously doubt it. If anything, the CIA now has more solid information and contacts on the ground in the Middle East then they had prior to the Iraqi invasion. From an intelligence point of view you don’t oppose a strategic war on the basis of interrupting the information flow, at least not for a penny-ante theatre of operations like Iraq that doesn’t offer a realistic threat to the US in the short-term..

    The reason the CIA failed to decisively back Bush & Co. in their little invasion had far more to do with the lack of decisive clear information of a relevant and active WMD threat from Iraq – in short – the CIA, to the best of their knowledge, didn’t have any credible evidence that Saddam had anymore effective quantities of WMD and no overt indication of linkages between Saddam and 9/11.

    You could probably make a strong case for the CIA’s myopia for various reasons but not, I think, for any type of State vs. DOD scenario.

  • JP

    I disagree wholeheartedly. Haven’t we seen enough bad decisions based upon the military policy a leader WANTS rather than based upon intelligence about the reality it faces?

  • I didn’t say the CIA was controlled by State, I said it was aligned with State. Think about it, the CIA doesn’t operate out of military bases, they operate out of embassies with diplomatic cover (when they have official cover).

    I’m not suggesting that we go back to a pure action-oriented CIA, I’m suggesting their be balance and that the action-adverse stance taken by the CIA since the 70s (more the 90s really) and the action-enthusiasm of Defense will help moderate both of those departments.

  • Blue Meanie

    OK, stop me before I snark again.

    John, might I humbly suggest you stop typing until you learn something about what you are allegedly writing about?

    John states:”I didn’t say the CIA was controlled by State, I said it was aligned with State. Think about it,”

    Actually, don’t think about it, check your facts. There is usually a station chief for the CIA in an embassy, and sometimes that is co-ordinated with the State department for specific projects. However, State has no say in what the CIA does.

    As for your assertion that the CIA has been “action-adverse” since the ’70s, might I remind you of Iran-Contra and the role both the CIA and Negroponte played in that fiasco?

    There are numerous reasons why the CIA is completely seperate from the Military Intel community, other commenters have touched on this. Now, add to all of this Hayden’s involvement with the NSA warrantless wire-tap and data-mining and you can see one of the reasons.

    The military does not operate inside of Constitutional law, the CIA operates only overseas and does not deal with domestic issues, for that you go to the FBI and Justice department.

  • BM-

    Might I suggest you check out a dictionary as to the difference between the words “aligned” and “controlled” are? Seriously.

    Also note the phrase I used, “more the 90s really”.

    I’ve seen the commentary on the gasping and freaking out of someone in the military being involved with the CIA (overlooking that the deputy director has almost always been military). I wasn’t addressing that.

    I’ve also seen the talk about the constitutional right of terrorists to plot to kill Americans in secret, and I’m less than convinced on that issue too.

    If you want to talk about the NSA’s actions, why don’t we start by describing them accurately, like by saying the targets weren’t Americans, but terrorists.

  • Blue Meanie

    John states: “why don’t we start by describing them accurately, like by saying the targets weren’t Americans, but terrorists.”

    Well John, it could be because we have no fucking clue as to who or what was monitored. We know what the White House has said was monitored, but since there were no warrants, there is no provable record of what was done, either way.

    We would not eve know about it at all if the press had not dug the story out, now would we?

    Your assignment is to go read the 4th Amendment 1000 times, try the 5th too. That’s one of the reasons the CIA is only supposed to operate on foreign soil, and the NSA stays out of domestic affairs. If a US citizen on home soil was involved, the legal thing would have been to either bring it to the FISA court, or refer it to the Justice department or the FBI.

    Checks and balances and legal protections under the Constitution. What’s so difficult here?

  • The Hayden appointment is anything but ideal. He is responsible for running Bush’s illegal spy program. He also is unfamiliar with the rights of Americans under a little thing called the Fourth Amendment. He is a criminal.

  • BM-

    We have a big fucking clue, starting with the NYT article that was published to pimp a book. There has been plenty made public about the system and no one has contradicted what the WH has said, namely it monitored calls originating from suspected or known terrorists from overseas. Some times an American was a party to the call. Just like when there is a domestic wiretap, people not in the warrant get monitored.

    I’ve read the 4th and 5th Amendments, I’m familiar with them. If you aren’t even familiar enough with the controversy to know the reported facts in the case and rely on MoveOn talking points, you’re hardly the person to be lecturing me about what is going on.

    Especially when a retired FISA court judge has said it was perfectly legal, 2 precedents say it was legal, and as of yet, there has been no court action saying it WAS illegal. At best, it’s a legally unclear situation and hardly the crisis of our times.

    Seriously, stop panting. Unless you were on the phone with Al Qaeda your phone call wasn’t monitored.

  • Blue Meanie

    John, no we may have a bit of a clue, but since there has been no independant or outside review of the program in question, we really only know what has been told us, and what has been alleged by leaks.

    Hardly reliable stuff, in reality.

    Nice try at a smear with the MoveOn.org bit, but I’ve never even been to the website, or the Dem or Rep sites either.

    Now, as for no Court stating that bypassing FISA was illegal, simple answer really. The current Attorney General, having been one of the ones who wrote the original legal bit justifying bypassing existing Federal Law, has chosen not to prosecute. And since the Dems don’t have any control, they can’t even begin any investigation.

    The good news is that at least Arlen Spector appears to have a tiny bit of spine left, and will question the new nominee about just this topic, since as head of the Judicial committee, he has some interest in stopping our own government from breaking our laws.

    For precedent on just this kind of thing (a White HOuse bypassing congressional, duly created and signed as per the Constitution, laws), see Iran-Contra.

    NOw, you try again to say I shoudl know the “reported facts”. Yet you seem to miss the point, we have no idea what the actual facts are, merely what has been told us or reported via leaks.

    Learn the difference, and maybe someday you might get taken a bit more seriously.

  • Which is it, do we have no idea or do we have some idea? They are mutually exclusive statements.

    The NYT based their reporting on insiders information. The White House has briefed the Confressional leadership long before this splashed in the press. And people are calling for impeachment.

    If you want to say that we have no idea at what is going on, then do you repudiate impeachment talk based on the program? If we have no idea what the program was, why are you casting it as the most invidious possibility instead of withholding judgement for the facts?

    Also, courts ARE hearing arguments on the matter. You know we do have civil courts.

  • Blue Meanie

    We have some idea of what we have been told due to leaks, and what the WH has stated, as I said previously but you so deviously seem to skirt.

    We have no idea, because none of said information has been verified by any independant source.

    Do I repudiate impeachment? Sure, right after you tell us how long ago you stopped beating your wife and shooting heroin. Save those kind of bullshit tactics for your gaming forums.

    As for those on the Hill who were theoretically briefed: you do know those are only 8 people, no notes, no staff, no questions allowed, and even then the briefings are less than complete?

    As to why I am considerably worried abou tthis and other action staken by this Administration, it’s because of the cavalier attitude they take in breaking the law. FISA and the signing statements are the immediate examples I can toss out there.

    In both cases, you have what appears to be clear violations of the Constitution itself. Yes, I am aware that Bush is not the first to do either one.

    That doesn’t mean it’s right or legal, ask your Mother about “but Johnny does it all the time” excuse.

    It also doesn’t automatically make me froth at the mouth wqith the idea of impeachment. All of this needs to be properly investigated, then an informed decision can be made.

    Can you at least admit that either of these issues, if found to be factual and deliberate, are much more crucial to our republic than the ones brought out in the last impeachment attempt?

  • You’re playing both sides of the fence, either we know or we don’t.

    You are saying we don’t know in response to anything I say to nullify any criticism of your position.

    You are saying we do know to justify your cries for impeachment and to defeat a party that your people can’t manage to beat come election day.

    I’m not going to play this game with you anymore, you can’t even be consistent within your comments long enough to have a discussion.

    Go back to the fever swamp.

  • Blue Meanie

    Now you are reaching. First you can’t even answer my question, or admit the obvious. Then you misrepresent what I’ve stated. Nice try.

    Now, go ahead and look over the entire thread, where did I state my position on impeachment and what was it? Turn off Fox for a second and actually try reading.

    As for my consistency, I have been consistent, I just want the problems looked into, I think the consequences could be severe. If an investigation is done and all is fine, then good, no problems. If not, then prosecute those found culpable according to the law.

    Not too difficult, is it?

    Where you and I seem to be clashing is over my assertion that we don’t know everything there is to know yet, and none of what we think we know has been confirmed by any outside sources. You, on the other hand, seem to think everything is just fine because Bush said so.

    So feel free to run away because you can’t discuss your irrational opinions in a coherent manner.

  • Every post you change your position. Every post you include personal attacks.

    Thank you for helping the GOP pick up seats in 06.

    Enjoy the children’s table.

  • Blue Meanie

    Now now John, a bit petulant are we?

    Read it again, I’m pretty consistent, and no personal attacks made by me. I attacked your positions and opinions as well as your seeming inability to comprehend and communicate simple concepts coherently.

    But, then again, you already said you were done here, and yet you come back again for more whine to go with the cheese of your ludicrous post.

    So, who is consistent?

  • Blue Meanie

    Update for John and those other cult members who think we have been told everything about the NSA wiretapping, a nice article in Reuters.

    A database of all calls made via the largest 3 carriers. Read it and weep, all those who value liberty and our Constitution.