A Dagger to the CIA
On December 30, in one of the deadliest attacks in CIA history, an Al Qaeda double agent schemed his way onto a U.S. base in Afghanistan and blew himself into the next life, taking seven Americans with him. How could this have happened? Agency veteran Robert Baer explains, offering chilling new details about the attack and a plea to save the dying art of espionage
If we take Khost as a metaphor for what has happened to the CIA, the deprofessionalization of spying, it’s tempting to consider that the agency’s time has passed. “Khost was an indictment of an utterly failed system,” a former senior CIA officer told me. “It’s time to close Langley.”
I’m not prepared to go quite that far. The United States still needs a civilian intelligence agency. (The military cannot be trusted to oversee all intelligence-gathering on its own.) But the CIA—and especially the directorate of operations—must be stripped down to its studs and rebuilt with a renewed sense of mission and purpose. It should start by getting the amateurs out of the field. And then it should impose professional standards of training and experience—the kind it upheld with great success in the past. If it doesn’t, we’re going to see a lot more Khosts.
Phi Beta Iota: Robert Bear, a most-respected colleague, only scratches the surface. While we endorse his condemnation of Clinton and Deutch specifically, Robert misses the deeper history and the broader implications. CIA was “Flawed by Design” as Amy Zegart puts it so well, and has always been a loose-cannon shoot from the hip organization with what Tim Weiner now calls the “Legacy of Ashes”.
All internal incapacitation aside, the modern demise of the CIA started with Stansfield Turner’s destruction of the clandestine service and in particular his firing of mavericks that were street savvey non-Ivy League types such as Gus, the real father of the first Afghanistan campaign. Turner made the decisive turn, as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) away from Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and toward technical intelligence that today consumes 95% of the secret budget of $75 billion a year, 75% of which is given to contractors that do not know a damn thing that is useful in real-world terms.
The failure of CIA under Panetta, a sad repetitive example of wanna-be spymasters sucked into the wilderness of mirrors by unethical and largely incompetent “professionals” long over-due for retirement, is emblematic of the failure of all of the Cabinet departments and all of the White House executive offices. From James Jones, who screwed the Marine Corps by not going to mat on Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) and distributed amphibious lift as well as long-loiter close air support; to a director of OMB that knows nothing about Whole of Government management, to the clowns managing the Department of State as theater and the well-intentioned but sadly myopic chain of complacency from Bob Gates to Jim Clapper to Burgess squared to Alexander to the lovely Tish Long, the latest of the Clapper “harem” to be put into administrative “management” roles, the US Government is deaf, dumb, and blind–and lacks integrity at every level across every function. Daniel Elsberg captured it best when he lectured Henry Kissinger on Viet-Nam:
The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information].
Tthe US Government no longer appears to represent the people of the United STATES of America, and it no longer can claim any semblance of legitimacy on the basis of either superior information or a genuine commitment to the public interest. Obama is Dick Cheney in black-face, being led by a pogomist and a pollster, with Goldman Sachs having a firm grip on whatever is left of his balls.
We, the collective sponsors and commentators on Phi Beta Iota, continue to cherish the ideals of the Republic and the flag that represents those ideals, and we pray that our collective body of work will one day help an honest President, an honest Congress, and a restored Republic leverage public intelligence in the public interest to create a prosperous world at peace. We are disgusted–truly disgusted–by the failure of integrity across the board in the US executive and legislative branches and across the two-party tyranny whose corruption has led to the USA no longer being recognized as a viable democracy by international standards that call for open ballot access and other obvious democratic practices (Cf Electoral Reform Act of 2009).