October 13, 2005



SUBJECT: Therapy as Policy: CIA and Clandestine Ops

In today’s Washington Post, Walter Pincus reports (“CIA to Remain Coordinator of Overseas Spying”) that the Agency’s operations directorate will continue in its senior intelligence community role for coordinating and overseeing all other clandestine human intelligence collection activities of the U.S. Government. This will include the overseas activities of both the FBI and various Defense Department Agencies. As Pincus notes, this “keeps the CIA’s traditional position as leader” of U.S. human collection intact.

Approved by the White House, the plan ignores the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s recommendation that – given the CIA’s failures to penetrate Saddam’s Iraq or Bin Laden’s al Qaeda – the task of coordinating the overall management of human intelligence be moved to the office of the director of national intelligence, now headed by Amb. John Negroponte. Instead, according to the Post, key arguments within the administration were that “If the coordinating ‘role had not remained in CIA, it would have been bad for agency morale, which already is down,’” and despite its record of failures, the CIA is “more disciplined and sophisticated on human intelligence than elsewhere” in the intelligence community.

Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to make the folks at CIA any less happy. And, certainly, we wouldn’t want to lose all that “discipline” and “sophistication” in light of all the “success” the CIA had in not recruiting a single useful spy in the Soviet Union or Iraq, and having all its agents rolled up or doubled in places like Iran, Cuba, and East Germany. No, apparently we would rather have the Agency control efforts by others to take new and imaginative measures to collect needed human intelligence.

Here’s a contrary suggestion: Perhaps the CIA operations directorate should concentrate on doing its own job overseas before worrying about losing one of its long-standing prerogatives within the beltway. And, by the way, if we are going to have a director of national intelligence, shouldn’t he at least have the responsibility for directing this key activity?