David Ignatius has written several spy-thrillers in addition to his day job. (He’s now a columnist for the Washington Post.) He has developed some good sources within the intelligence community and for good reason—he is generally a defender of the CIA against its multitude of critics. So it is significant when even Igantius suggests that the CIA’s day may have passed. In Sunday’s column, he writes:
When the next president thinks about fixing the CIA, he or she ought to consider the radical thought that it’s time to blow up the CIA and start over. That’s not to denigrate the thousands of professionals who work there; but they deserve a chance to do their jobs without having those three scarlet letters attached permanently to their work. It’s too late, unfortunately, to undo the reorganization that created the DNI [Director of National Intelligence]. So let those three initials cloak a new, elite corps of analysts drawn from the CIA cadre; let’s give the science and technology division to the DNI, too. The tech revolution hasn’t prospered in the past decade under CIA management.
Meanwhile, let’s float the clandestine service free from its barnacle-encrusted CIA anchor and let it find a new home — somewhere distant from Langley, where the old ghosts and myths are far away.
Ignatius’s comments suggest that the next president might have bipartisan support for a massive restructuring of the intelligence community. Of course the CIA can be expected to fight change with every bit of cunning it possesses. And while the agency has muffed many of its overseas assignments, it has shown a disconcerting aptitude for political infighting in Washington.