Journal: Loch Johnson on It’s Never a Quick Fix at the CIA

09 Justice, 10 Security, 11 Society, Ethics, Government, Methods & Process, Policy, Reform, Strategy
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Professor Loch Johnson is one of two people who have served on both the Church Committee and the Aspin-Brown Commission.  The other is Britt Snider, Esquire.

Today he examines the lack of integrity on the Hill, or totthless, inattentive oversight.  He does not address two factors that we comment on below the fold:

1.  There are five CIAs, and as long as the Wall Street and White House CIAs are doing what they are told to do, no one really cares about the integrity or the pathos of the other three.

2.  Leon Panetta could have been the greatest Director in history, just as Barack Obama could have been the George Washington of this century, but both sacrificed their integrity for partisan gain, deliberately ignoring the urgent calls for both reform at CIA and non-partisan reality-based policy-making in the White House.  Phi Beta Iota

By Loch K. Johnson

Sunday, August 30, 2009

skip sad story . . . . . . .

The Church Committee discovered that intelligence abuses ran far deeper than initially reported. The CIA had indeed spied on Vietnam War dissenters at home, but the FBI had gone further, disrupting the lives of antiwar protesters and civil rights activists. It was “a road map to the destruction of American democracy,” committee member Walter Mondale said during a public hearing.

Church was equally appalled by the overseas excesses of the CIA, including covert actions against democratic regimes — such as Chile’s — and assassination plots. He blasted the agency for “the fantasy that it lay within our power to control other countries through the covert manipulation of their affairs.”

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We can despair that misdeeds will continue to occur, or we can acknowledge human foibles and overreactions and take steps to lessen their impact. The starting place, of course, is to ensure that accountability is vigorously exercised — by true watchdogs who attend oversight hearings, ask tough questions, examine budgets closely and reject whispered briefings to a Gang of Eight or a Gang of Four when the law envisions briefings to the full intelligence committees. These bodies have demonstrated that they can be trusted with the nation’s secrets.

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As with the Church and the Aspin-Brown reforms, success will depend on the willingness of elected officials in the executive and legislative branches to maintain a closer watch over the secret agencies. As another wise president, Thomas Jefferson, understood, vigilance is the price of liberty — an axiom still valid today.

Phi Beta Iota: This contribution from Professor Loch Johnson, the dean of the external scholar-practitioners  (as Jack Davis is the dean of the internal analytic tradecraft scholar-practitioners), will stand the test of time.  It should be used in orientation and mid-career sessions within the secret community, and as a text-book entry-point for the twin pillars of ethics and integrity in any study of intelligence.

1.  There are five “CIA’s” that we know of.

First, is the White House CIA. That consists of the politically-appointed Director and his chosen henchmen (e.g. Dusty Foggo for Porter Goss).  Professional DCI’s like Bill Cobly and Dick Helms tend to have more integrity and withstand White House pressure better, one reason we believe all intelligence leaders should come from the professional ranks, while the political cronies go into the President’s Foreign Intelligene Advisory Board (PFIABB)

Second, the Wall Street CIA.  This is actually the senior service, since the White House works for Wall Street, but is more discreet.  In his time, Buzzy Krongaurd, the “dollar a year” Executive Director for George Tenet, probably fulfilled this function.  The move of George Tenet to Allen & Company, the top Wall Street firm, to join Bill Bradley, who sold democracy out to take the banking dollar, is telling.  Today Wall Street probably relies more on an indirect leader, someone based in NYC with immediate access to the highest levels of the Directorate of Operations, who is also able to mobilize retired intelligence chiefs worldwide on behalf of Wall Street.

Third, the Foreign Liaison CIA. The dirty little secret of CIA is that perhaps 80% of everything it claims to have collected actually comes from foreign intelligence services that hand it over, mis-information and all, for recycling.  We include in this CIA all the well-intentioned officers working under official cover, going in and out of official installations all day the way no diplomat does, throwing money around like no diplomat can afford.  Official cover is a joke.

Fourth, the Non-Official Cover CIA. There are some real success stories here, and some real tragedies.  There are also some bureaucratic examples of waste and idiocy that defy imagination.  CIA created 21 non-official cover companies with its post 9-11 bonanza (giving inept spies more money is like pouring gasoline on a fire), and recently had to shut 20 of them down.  CIA is a bureaucracy.  It does not know what it does not know.  It also has a real problem dealing with the reality that NOCs see their legitimate peers earching $500K to $1M a year, and wonder why they are wasting their time on silly assignments for CIA when they can be legally earning 4-5 times the money.

Fifth, there is the Safari Club, the Mossad Club, and other similar evil constallation of rendition & torture cabals. This is the “anything goes/see no evil” CIA that loves dictators (as does the White House) because there is nothing they won’t do and CIA can pretend its hands are clean when they are not.

2.  Leon Panetta, Opportunity Lost

If we were to agree to the ONE exception to our view that Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency should be from the ranks rather than politically appointed, Leon Panetta would be that exception.  As both former Chief of Staff of the White House, and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, a man of known intelligence and keen insight, there could have been no better appointment if the intent was to reform CIA so that it could provide “Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else.”

Perhaps we under-estimated his partisan bias.  Perhaps we under-estimated his independence of mind.  Perhaps we under-estimated his ability to insist on having iconoclasts and an outreach program  that could turn CIA right side in and right side up (see our Forbes ASAP piece on “Re-Inventing Intelligence“).

Leon Panetta, like three Directors of National Intelligence is a row, is turning out to be a ZERO.  No change, same as before.  That is so very sad, because that will be his epitaph.  Perhaps he can get a job at Allen & Company.  Perhaps that is what his appointment really is all about–keeping it together for Wall Street while they finish looting the Treasury, anticipating the end of the Federal Reserve and the end of the two-party tyranny by 2012.  Perhaps Leon Panetta is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing–nothing–and therein lies the death of CIA, for his tenure may mark the end of that Agency, and a call for three new agencies: a National Analysis Agency, a National Open Source Agency as called for by the 9-11 Commission on pages 23 and 413, and a Multinational Clandestine Service.

If all that sounds familiar, try ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000).