Open Season on CIA? – Are The Days of Living Immunity Instead of Cover Over?
I had occasion to reflect today on the past twenty years, recollecting how easily in 1992 a new path could have been taken, one that reconnected the US intelligence community to “ground truth” using open sources and methods, as well as “full spectrum” HUMINT, a term I coined. It gives me pause to recollect that 1993 was also the year in which CIA was attacked by a lone gunman at its front gate, killing two and wounding three others., an attack inspired by and stemming directly from CIA operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Although I have been an intelligence reformer since first realizing how little CIA actually knows about the business of intelligence (for example, writing the first ever Standard Operating Procedures for a (Clandestine) Field Station in 1985, along with the first ever Guide to Managing the Support Account, I have never sought to harm CIA, nor have I wished for harm to befall those that work for CIA.
Today, in the aftermath of Benghazi, a quick tour of the horizon suggests to me that CIA’s days of living immunity instead of cover are over. Although my first book, ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000) addressed the urgency of getting serious about cover — official “cover” as practiced by CIA is a global joke — and I had a foreword from Senator David Boren (D-OK), past Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) — CIA has chosen to ignore all the signals of its looming demise as a global intelligence service.
In recent times, I have been struck by the lack of professionalism and lack of integrity that has characterized CIA’s rush into renditions and torture in secret prisons, to the point that CIA officers alive and well in the USA today have been convicted in an Italian court and the way is now open for a formal extradition request. Even if they are not extradited, I would certainly recommend to those officers a complete change of name, location, and even profession. It is a certainty that one day, some angry Italian is going to be moved to hunt them down and kill them and their families–I hope without success. Other countries, other relatives, are going to start coming after CIA, not only from Iraq and Afghanistan, but from the many other countries where CIA has been both amatuerish and cavalier in its covert operations.
Today I am informed by Intelligence Online out of Paris, the one newsletter that is a “must read” for anyone in the intelligence business, that Syria’s leaders successfully executed a key CIA and Saudi Arabian ally in Lebanon on October 19th, a man who was a linch pin in the rather overt and poorly managed CIA effort to arm the Syrian rabble-rebels. This causes me to believe that the attack in Benghazi may have been sponsored by the legitimate Syrian government, or its allies who continue to be alarmed by the extrajudicial activities of the US Government. In my view, the forthcoming Congressional hearings on Benghazi need to focus on the degree to which CIA incompetence and noncholance brought another Khost Kathy moment into being.
Today I also learn from Intelligence Online that a new committee is being established in Geneva, working alongside the United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudiciary, summary, or arbitrary executions. This committee will focus on CIA drone attacks that are easily classified as extrajudiciary, summary and more often than not arbitrary as well, and will set the stage for numerous legal attacks on the CIA in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. This committee will also support legal actions against UK intelligence organizations such as GCHQ, that provide information leading to an extrajudiciary action by CIA. We are a long way from a My Lai trial in relation to drone attacks, but that day is, in my view, coming.
Harry Truman, writing in 1963 in the Washington Post, made it quite clear that he never intended to create a covert or clandestine operations monster, but rather a central intellectual and ethical means of processing information from all sources so as to present to the President what one author has called the “best truth.” Today CIA is incompetent at analysis, mediocre at science & techology, and downright dangerous, morally disengaged, and flat out stupid in relation to clandestine and covert operations. Worse, CIA is quite good at lying to Congress and lying to the Executive and lying to the Court, dishonoring at every turn its motto from the Bible, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). CIA not only cannot discern the truth, it fears the truth.
Paul Pillar has been professional in pointing out that reform of the intelligence community is irrelevant so long as the policy, acquisition, and operations communities could care less about the facts, the truth, or contextual reality as they go about their largely fraudulent Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System / Execution (PPBS/E), none of which is evidence-based. I dare to believe that a revitalized, restored, and redirected national intelligence community could be a foundation for a national political, socio-economic, and ideo-cultural renaissance, and that this is precisely what the US Government needs now.
There are many reasons to close down the CIA, beginning with its global clandestine and covert operations, but today I believe I have found one more reason: Syria marks the end of the road for those who believe that the USA can make its own reality, consort with the dictators its loves (e.g. Saudi Arabia) while betraying the dictators it and it alone decides are expendable (e.g. Syria). As we move further away from conventional organized warfare — something General Al Gray and I wrote about in the late 1980’s — the USA is less and less capable of defending its principals and its common personnel here at home at the same time that every CIA officer serving under official cover overseas is a known target. The day will come when a series of car bombs, close-in direct kills, and even child rendition and torture for online posting, here in the Washington DC area as well as at various locations around the world, add emphasis to this, my gentle warning.
I continue to believe that the creation of the Open Source Agency (OSA), as recommended on pages 23 and 413 of the 9/11 Commission Report, but under diplomatic and commercial or even presidential auspices, is the fastest way to both create actionable decision support for the President AND everyone else (not just policy but acquisition and Whole of Government operations down to the desk level, and also the fastest way to benchmark the failure of all of the secret elements of national intelligence to provide a return on investment. Adoption of the Automated Payment Transaction Tax as the only tax in America (this can generate $4 trillion a year); and a Deputy Director for Management in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), one actually empowered to manage; could, in combination with the OSA, be a foundation for a national renaissance.
I continue to believe that we need a national all-source collection management capability; a national all-source processing capability, a natonal all-source analytic capability, and a Whole of Government ultra secret counter-intelligence capability. Neither the CIA nor the FBI nor any of the various agencies ostensibly managed by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) satisfy those needs, nor are they producing intelligence compelling enough to demand the attention of policy, acquisition, and operations managers. And for the record, I continue to believe we need both a global clandestine service and a broad national counterintelligence service — they must be built from scratch, far from Washington.
The time has come to decide whether we want intelligence with integrity in this country, or not. The answer to that question will determine the future not just of CIA, but of all of the bits and pieces that produce less than 4% “at best” of what any major commander needs to know, and nothing at all for everyone else. We do not lack for money — we are not facing a fiscal cliff. It troubles me greatly that OMB appears unable to gets its arms around and then to bring to the President’s attention the obvious solution that is equally attractive to the Speaker of the House: the Automated Payment Transaction Tax that can generate $4 trillion a year, without borrowing, while also allowing for the immediate elimination of all other taxes starting with personal income taxes.
NOTE: I have an OPM SSBI completed 15 March 2012 and an SF-50 that documents my being an Excepted Permanent Veteran eligible for immediate non-competitive placement. I am actively seeking employment, ideally employment focused on creating 21st Century full-spectrum intelligence in support of a 450-ship Navy, a long-haul Air Force, and an air-liftable Army. I have 18 years of government service on the books, and would like to work another fifteen to seventeen years toward creating a Smart Nation.