John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.
Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”
Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.
John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.
The 9/11 commission was certainly correct that the old order was profoundly flawed. Indeed a long line of CIA directors recognized the contradictory limitations of their position, which seemed to grant them control over the entire U.S. intelligence effort but actually did not. James Schlesinger, who ran the agency for a spell, noted way back in 1971, in a top-secret memo to Richard Nixon, that a series of Presidents had exhorted directors of the CIA “to play the role of [intelligence] community leader and coordinator, but [their] authority over the community has remained minimal.”
But the 9/11 commission’s remedy may well prove to be worse than the disease it was meant to cure. The staff of 1,500 or so employees who now report to the DNI are no doubt among the best and the brightest in the intelligence community. But is this a virtue or a vice? Top talent has been drawn away from the task of actually collecting and interpreting intelligence and into the job of bureaucratic coordination.
What is more, the office of the Director of National Intelligence—the ODNI—is inexorably taking on many of the dysfunctional characteristics of the agencies beneath it, including a seemingly ineradicable preoccupation with affirmative action. As DNI, Negroponte certainly had his hands full with this issue. Even while working tirelessly to avert a second 9/11, he also felt compelled to toil hand in glove with an interagency body called the Diversity Senior Advisory Panel for the Intelligence Community (DSAPIC) to understand “the causes of the under-representation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities” in the intelligence community. This body came up with a plan, Diversity: A National Security Imperative for the Intelligence Community, that made Negroponte confident that the intelligence community would reach its “goal of a work force that looks like America.”
Never mind that a far more urgent “national-security imperative” would be to have an intelligence community that looks not like America but like our key intelligence targets, including Iran or North Korea or Lebanon, where we are flailing around in the dark. Under John McConnell the mindless commitment to diversity evidently persists. It could not be an accident that on the ODNI’s organizational chart the “Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Officer” occupies one of the most prominent spots, positioned on the same line as the director himself.
One would have hoped that the top of the chart would have been occupied by a benignly titled slot like “director of special projects,” whose real job would be to think through how to identify and apprehend home-grown jihadists. A most important fact to bear in mind is that it was not the ODNI or the CIA or the FBI that broke the plot now brought to an end in New Jersey, but a sharp-eyed video-rental clerk.
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