Reining in the CIA

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    Reining in the CIA
    By Joseph Perkins, San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE
    November 19, 2004

    My cousin spent more than two decades working for the CIA. I cannot recall even one occasion when he disclosed anything having to do with his work for the spy agency. That's because he took his secrecy oath seriously.

    Nowadays, the culture is quite different at Langley. If inquiring minds want to find out what's going on inside the CIA, they need only consult the front page of The Washington Post or The New York Times. They need only visit the bookstore.

    That's because the CIA has become politicized. That's because far too many of the agency's officers and analysts have lost sight of their duty to, "support the President, the National Security Council, and all officials who make and execute the U.S. national security policy."

    Porter Goss, whom President Bush recently appointed to head the CIA, reminded the agency's employees of their duty in an internal memorandum this week. "We do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," he wrote.

    Of course, the memo was leaked to both the Post and the Times by some CIA dissident or another. The aim was to portray Goss as some sort of administration hack, tasked by Bush with getting CIA personnel to color their views to fit the president's.

    But that's a false insinuation against Goss. The spy chief issued a simple, reasonable dictate. "We provide the intelligence as we see it," he wrote, "and let the facts alone speak to the policy-maker."

    That has not been the case for much of the past two years as an unspoken anti-Bush insurgency has reared itself at the CIA. The CIA insurgents have gone out of their way to undermine Bush, to cast aspersions upon his policies.

    They pulled out all stops in an effort to deny the Republican a second term in the White House.

    Indeed, in July of last year, Joseph Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, now known to be a CIA analyst, touched off a firestorm after authoring a commentary in The New York Times contradicting Bush's statement that there was evidence Iraq had tried to buy uranium from an African country.

    Wilson disclosed that he had been dispatched to Niger by the CIA – at his wife's behest, it turned out – to ascertain whether Iraq actually attempted such a purchase. In his Times article, Wilson said the rumors were unfounded, that Bush's "conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."

    Later, we found out, from a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, Wilson lied about his findings in his Times commentary. For in his CIA report, Wilson related that Niger's former mining minister told him Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.

    Then there was CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, previously known as "Anonymous," author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror." The book scathingly deconstructs the Bush administration's prosecution of the war on terror.

    Not only did CIA officials allow Scheuer to write the book while still on the organization's staff, they also allowed him to give election-year interviews amplifying his criticisms of the president's policies. The criticisms included his view that the Iraq war is "a sham causing more instability than it prevents."

    Finally, there was Paul Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. He authored a classified National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, which was leaked to the Times in September, which, according to the newspaper, presented a "dark assessment of Iraq."

    A couple weeks after the NIE somehow got out in the open, Pillar made an appearance at a forum in San Diego sponsored by the Pacific Council on International Policy.

    The CIA officer acknowledged being author of the NIE, which he denied leaking to the Times. He told his audience that he and his agency colleagues had concluded that military action in Iraq would foment anti-American sentiments throughout the Islamic world.

    And he suggested that the Bush administration failed to heed the CIA's warnings, foolishly plunging the United States into the Iraq war.

    Wilson and Scheuer and Pillar should have kept their thoughts to themselves, and out of the newspapers, out of the bookstores, and off the speaking circuit. They have brought disrepute upon the CIA.

    Indeed, during a recent conversation with Goss, the new CIA director, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, told the spy chief to do "what whatever is necessary" to clean house at Langley. And Goss has taken that advice to heart.

    So far, a handful of CIA officials have tendered their resignations (much to the consternation of the Times and Post, which fear losing their unnamed sources). More are expected to follow.

    The shake-up at the CIA is long overdue. The agency has been so insular for so long, its officers and analysts have gotten the big-headed notion that they have no master. Not even the president of the United States.
     

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