Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush’s UN ambassador and a straight-shooter if there ever was one, spoke the truth yesterday when he called the new National Intelligence Estimate of Iran’s suddenly non-existent nuclear-weapons program “a goal against ourselves.”
Why, after countless reforms, and so much handwringing, is U.S. intelligence in such sad shape? More importantly, what should be done about it?
On December 6, Donald Kerr, the PDDNI, that is, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, laid out his agency’s 500-day plan to set things right. “What is required, first and foremost,” he said in congressional testimony, “is integrating the foundational elements and removing the barriers — in the areas of policy, management/budgeting, technology and acquisition, information, collection and analysis, and culture.” To this end, we need “to promote and build an intelligence community (IC) identity or sense of ‘jointness’ by creating programs that provide for cross-agency work assignments and training.”
The 500-day plan enters almost immediately into a discussion of the vital importance of “Equal Opportunity and Diversity.” It offers high praise for the intelligence community’s Diversity Strategy Implementation Workshop, an event held this past October that was an “an important step in the accomplishment of the IC-wide EEO and Diversity Cross-Cutting Emphasis Area Plan (CCEAP) by providing each of the IC Agencies with the mechanisms and direction. . . .”
I won’t bore you with the rest, but it is an astonishing compendium of bureaucratic gibberish guaranteed either to put you to sleep if you simply read it, or to give you nightmares if you pause to think about its implications.
What do we really need to do about the CIA? The memoirs of Secretary of Defense (and former CIA director) Robert Gates, From the Shadows, a significant book for understanding our present dilemmas, has some passages about Bill Casey, Ronald Reagan’s first CIA director, that should hit a nerve in anyone thinking about what do about U.S. intelligence today:
What truly set Bill Casey apart from his predecessors and successors as DCI . . . was that he had not come to CIA with the purpose of making it better, managing it more effectively, reforming or improving the quality of intelligence. What I realized only years later was that Bill Casey came to CIA primarily to wage war against the Soviet Union.
Above all, Casey wanted information and analysis that informed or provoked action. Nor for him assessments that simply were “interesting” or educational. He wanted information that would help target clandestine operations better, or be useful for U.S. propaganda, or assist military operations, or put ammunition in the hands of negotiators. For Casey, the United States and CIA were at war . . . and speed and relevance were his benchmarks for effective analysis.
Casey had his undeniable and glaring faults as a CIA director. But how does he stack up against the current crew, who may more accurately be called moles from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission disguised as spies?
Gates has another passage in his memoir describing what he found in the CIA when he became chief of staff to Casey in 1981. This is what he wrote in a memo to his boss:
As a result of the lack of innovative and creative personnel management, I believe this agency is chock full of people simply awaiting retirement: some are only a year or two away and some are twenty-five years away, but there are far too many playing it safe, proceeding cautiously, not antagonizing management, and certainly not broadening their horizons, especially as long as their own senior management makes it clear that [risk-taking] is not career enhancing. How is the health of CIA? I would say that at the present time it has a case of advanced bureaucratic arteriosclerosis: the arteries are clogging up with careerist bureaucrats who have lost the spark. It is my opinion that it is this steadily increasing proportion of intelligence bureaucrats that has led to the decline in the quality of intelligence collection and analysis over the past fifteen years — more so than our declining resources . . . or congressional investigations or legal restrictions. CIA is slowly turning into the Department of Agriculture.
That was twenty-six years ago, and to judge by the intelligence-community’s 500-day plan to fix itself, things have only gotten worse in the interim.
If the United States gets clobbered again as we were on September 11, we are not going to even see it coming unless we toss out, or “re-educate,” Chinese style, our current PDDNI, Donald Kerr, and all the other bureau-technocrats who signed on to the preposterous “500 Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration,” which more appropriately might be called a “500-Day Plan to Turn the Entire Intelligence Community Into the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and Possibly Get A Lot of Americans Killed Along the Way.”