Military History | How To Make War | Wars Around the World Rules of Use How to Behave on an Internet Forum
The Estimate Discussion Board
   Return to Topic Page
Subject: The CIA Gets a Bum Rap
Harold C. Hutchison    10/4/2004 10:27:49 PM

The CIA has been in the headlines lately, and not for the right reasons. It got the blame for failing to prevent 9/11. The assessments of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were also way off-base (even though the mistake was a prudent one that erred on the wide of a worst-case scenario, and evidence exists that at least some WMD may have moved to Syria). Now, CIA officers are leaking their criticism of the President’s foreign policy to the press, most notably, the Washington Post. This is giving the CIA a black eye in the eyes of just about everyone, and it’s grossly unfair to the many patriotic Americans working there, and this has not happened overnight.

The problems started in the 1970s with the Church and Pike Committees. CIA got a lot of heat, often for doing things (trying to kill Fidel Castro) they were told to do (by John F. Kennedy, among others). Even a success like Project Jennifer (the retrieval of a Soviet Golf-class SSB by the Glomar Explorer) resulted in flak from Congressman Otis Pike. The CIA very quickly became very risk-averse as a result of the beatings.

What capabilities in the areas of covert operations and human intelligence Frank Church and Otis Pike didn’t take out were halted by DCI Stansfield Turner. CIA got back into the covert operations business under Bill Casey, but again Congressional meddling (specifically, a series of leaks) led to the Iran-Contra scandal. A series of scandals involving CIA sources in the 1990s led to a new round of scrubbing.

The press coverage of the scandals, including one instance where Robert Torricelli revealed a CIA source, caused other sources to stop cooperating. The CIA is now facing a new problem. Some career employees, used to the more risk-averse culture, have begun to take their disagreements to sympathetic reporters. This has led to a different type of distrust. Much like an attorney and his client, the CIA and the President used to have confidentiality when it came to the advice. Today, books like Imperial Hubris and the recent leak of a National Intelligence Estimate traced to CIA Operative Paul R. Pillar are undermining the trust even more. This is placing the country at risk. If the President of the United States cannot trust the CIA, vital warnings could be ignored. The President and policy makers need to listen when CIA presents worst-case estimates. That said, there will be times when inaction is riskier than inaction – like Iraq, for instance. At the same time, the people who are in CIA have three obligations: First, they need to look at the situation honestly, and to give their best assessment. Second, they need to listen to criticism – particularly if others have a different take on the same evidence. Third, if the policy of an Administration is something they cannot stand, rather than undermining the President and the agency they serve, they should resign rather than undermine not only the Agency they work for, but also the national security of the country they are paid to protect. While I have disagreed with the assessment of General Anthony Zinni on Iraq, I have nothing but respect for his conduct as it pertained to his opposition to liberating Iraq.

It is my opinion that Pillar and others like him are not representative of all the people who work with the CIA. Far from it. Many of them are dedicated. It is, as they say, a few bad apples who get the press that makes CIA look bad, with ample help from Hollywood – which jumps at an excuse to paint CIA in a bad light when they can get away with it. That said, things do go wrong. CIA Director Porter Goss hopefully will be able to turn things around. If he fails, this country will be in danger. That said, he is not the only person on the hot spot. Congress needs to back off and let CIA do its thing – and when the heat comes form human rights groups and the media, Congress ought to stick up for CIA instead of piling on for political points. Congress shares a lot of the blame – for failing to back up the CIA when the CIA takes chances to protect this country, even when feathers get ruffled, hands get dirty, and things go wrong. The CIA has been operating with a lack of political support – and this is the biggest problem that they face. This lack of political support is, in my opinion, a direct cause for incidents like Iran-contra and the Pillar flap. Once CIA gets the sense that they will be backed up, healing the breaches will be easier.

Quote    Reply

Show Only Poster Name and Title     Newest to Oldest
TimV    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   1/26/2005 10:57:14 PM
CIA has certainly been abused and misued by the Congress BUT, that does not excuse the low competence level (missed the India nuclear tests, Aldrich Ames, Iraq WMD, 9/11, etc. -and these are just a few of the ones we KNOW about). For all the money they suck up, we get damned little back of value. I read "Imperial Hubris"; it is badly -written, often contradictory and generally a low quality document. If it is a sample of the garbage used by the President in making critical decisions, then CIA should be shut down before it does any more damage. Give them their pensions; thats what they are all about anyway.
Quote    Reply

seatofpants    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   1/26/2005 11:39:25 PM
I would have to agree with TimV- the CIA is an oxymoronic term these days. As far as Congressional meddling in the Iran-Contra fiasco, that's what they are supposed to do in our goverment, it's called "oversight". Maybe instead of illegally trading our weapons to known enemies of the U.S. (Iran) in order to prop up another right-wing insurgency in Central America (Take your pick- we did it to all of them), we followed the law and just tried to obtain intelligence for the security and safety of the U.S.- the CIA would not be in the position their in now. One more thing...How come no one got fired at the CIA for 9/11? If you screw the pooch in the real world, you get fired, period. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the head admiral was relieved of command. The poor slob who just grounded a USN sub off Guam- fired. CIA...what, did the lunch hour get shortened to only two hours now??? Really pisses me off that these guys give all these excuses for why we didn't know anything and didn't do anything about jack....! No more excuses, get off your asses and do your damn jobs, find an answer.
Quote    Reply

reefdiver    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   2/25/2005 10:30:11 AM
Sometimes you rather wonder if the CIA has just become yet another bloated government administration where a few people do the real work and the rest suck up a lot of the budget and efforts with excessive "kingdom" building, pet projects, and politics.
Quote    Reply

Ashley-the-man    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   8/20/2005 11:50:46 PM
One more thing...How come no one got fired at the CIA for 9/11? If you screw the pooch in the real world, you get fired, period. Bill Clinton had left office, Janet Reno went with him, Gorofilo insulated herself from testimony by being a member of the 911 commission, Sandy Berger - see Bill Clinton, Richard Clark wrote a self serving book, George Tenent finally succumbed to pressure and quit, the lawyers for the CIA and Clinton who nixed any attempt to kill bin Laden in Afghanistan in the late 90's - well they are still anoymous and giving council to the same people. The CIA didn't do its job? On the contrary, they pointed out bin Laden as a dire threat to the US and warned of an attack, only to have their efforts frittered away by Clinton. The CIA is a creature of the congress and the President. What they were asked to do in the 90's they accomplished admirably. If it was perceived as inadequate, well then go back to who had oversight. 911 and the war in Iraq demands a scapegoat - the CIA fits the bill.
Quote    Reply

PARATROOP    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   5/8/2006 8:49:59 PM
The CIA never said Saddam had WMD's. It was a foreign intel service that gave Bush or U.S. papers that information.The CIA only supplemented that info saying it was POSSIBLE that Saddam had a stock pile.
Quote    Reply

Heorot    RE:The CIA Gets a Bum Rap   8/7/2006 3:48:35 PM
Well, It looks as if the CIA was right for once.
Quote    Reply