Monday, May 08, 2006

Shake-Up at the CIA

Over the weekend, Porter Goss, the Director of Central Intelligence, stepped down. Today, President Bush named General Michael Hayden, USAF, as his replacement. The pick has not been without controversy. First, Hayden was oversaw the National Security Agency during, and remains a vocal defender of, the NSA domestic surveillance program. Second, as an active officer of the United States military, there are concerns about Hayden's independence from the Pentagon and SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, who runs his own Department of Defense intelligence operations with a tight grip. Finally, there is a concern about Hayden's impact on the on-going process of reorganizing the American intelligence agencies. In the words of Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-MI, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, "the debate in the Senate may end up being about the terrorist surveillance program and not about the future of the CIA or the intelligence community, which is exactly where the debate needs to be."

While I am on record opposing the NSA program, it should not be an issue that Hayden was a supporter. There certainly is a serious debate as to the legality and utility of the program; furthermore, the program was implemented in a belief that it was needed to protect the US. Therefore, supporting it should not a bar to further employment in the intelligence community, even as DCI.

On the third point, that Hayden would block or obstruct the reorganization of the intelligence community, that doesn't seem to jibe with this article in Time by Michael Duffy. According to Duffy:

Less than a year after Goss stepped into the Langley, Va., post, Bush named Negroponte director of national intelligence (DNI) and gave him the authority to oversee and direct 16 intelligence shops--among them the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the FBI. Armed with new powers created by Congress, Negroponte was supposed to make the hidebound agencies work together and share information, something they had largely failed to do before 9/11. Goss's departure was, above all, a signal that Negroponte was finally exercising his powers and trying to slip the stray agencies into harness. recent weeks, Negroponte and his deputy, the hard-charging Hayden, have driven deep into the CIA's backyard, chewing up its closely guarded turf and trying to bring the agency under their grip. In April Hayden let it be known that his office would be taking over the critical job of terrorism analysis--connecting the dots in all the raw data gathered on terrorists--a role the CIA had jealously guarded for decades. In an unusual public speech, Hayden likened the CIA's slow-to-change attitude about roles and missions to "crowding the ball." Negroponte also fought the agency's objections when he pushed to share more intelligence with spy chiefs of other countries--something the CIA had opposed for years because agents feared that wider distribution could compromise sources. And in March, Negroponte asked the CIA to provide him with a rundown of all its station chiefs worldwide. It was a natural inventory request, but agency officials took umbrage at it anyway. Negroponte, for his part, hinted last month in an interview with TIME that he believed CIA officials were being far too turf conscious. "Station chiefs are for Porter Goss to choose. I am not interested in directing operations ... Am I interested in what they are doing? You're darn right I am," he said.

All those setbacks, however inevitable, were wounding for Goss. The Yale graduate spent a decade after college as a clandestine CIA officer, mostly overseas. After serving nearly 16 years in Congress, much of it on the House Intelligence Committee, Goss eyed Negroponte's job. When the DNI began to take control of the agency that Goss had been named to run, Goss had nowhere to turn. The agency's normally loyal allies on Capitol Hill could not help him fight back because nearly all the lawmakers on the intelligence-oversight committees believed, if anything, that Negroponte wasn't moving fast enough with reform.

And when Goss resisted, Negroponte and Hayden fought back--and played for keeps: DNI officials began to speak critically of Goss to his subordinates, saying he simply wasn't engaged. U.S. officials told TIME that Hayden complained about Goss to members of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a group of private intelligence experts who report directly to the President. Hayden, said the officials, was highly critical of the agency's refusal to get with the DNI program.

If, as expected, Hayden takes over the CIA, the agency will more than ever become an extension of Negroponte's growing empire. A friendly and intense four-star, Hayden would be the first active-duty military man at the CIA's helm since Admiral Stansfield Turner ran the place for President Jimmy Carter. In the half-raw, half-coded patois some military men often favor, Hayden told TIME in a lengthy interview last month that only a strong central authority would make the intelligence agencies work together. "Let me tell you what we've learned," Hayden said. "There is no way to get a self-aware, self-synchronizing intelligence system without a kick-ass center because no one plays nice with each other voluntarily."

Duffy also provides a response to the second argument against Hayden, claiming that Hayden will support Negroponte when he inevitably moves to challenge Rumsfeld.

It's hard for civilians to get an accurate picture of the situation when intelligence is involved; we simply don't have access to sufficient information to make an fully informed judgment. But I'm not so sure that it's going to be a good idea to bring all of the intelligence agencies closer together. It may help solve some problems of coordination and commuication, but at the price of increased bureaucracy. And that can never be good. Also, there is a lot of a value-added in having agencies overlap and compete; it helps produce conflicting and critical analysis from different viewpoints. If the US intelligence agencies become more centralized, there is a real danger that analyses of the disparate agencies will converge. And that is a problem as well. Is the price worth the benefits to be gained from the increased coordination and communication? It's very hard for us to say. But I'd be wary of any plan pushed through by a government reacting in panic to a single intelligence failure, even one as large as 9/11.

No comments: