A Dagger To The CIA: How The CIA Has Been Neutered
The one thing all analysts shared was a disdain for the operatives and their cloak and-dagger pretensions. As far as they were concerned, the operatives’ “tradecraft” was a lot of hocus-pocus. Operatives were cowboys—and of questionable utility.
Analysts were convinced that most good information was right out in the open. All you needed was a good brain to make sense of it. And what you didn’t know from open sources, you could learn from intercepts and satellites.
It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when the operatives’ sun started to set, but many CIA insiders would point to John Deutch, the former MIT provost and Bill Clinton’s second CIA director. From the moment Deutch set foot in Langley, he made it plain that he hated the operatives, their swagger and arrogance. Deutch held them responsible for some of America’s worst foreignpolicy fiascoes, from the Bay of Pigs to the overthrow of Allende in Chile. In December 1995, he told The New York Times: “Compared to uniformed officers, [CIA operatives] are certainly not as competent, or as understanding of what their relative role is and what their responsibilities are.”
Deutch’s first shot at the operatives was his appointment of Dave Cohen as deputy director of operations, the CIA’s most senior operative. Cohen was an analyst who had never served overseas or run a foreign informant. Deutch’s message couldn’t be any clearer: Anyone can do an operative’s work.
The first thing Cohen did was order a “scrub” of every informant with dirty hands. Drug dealers, dictators’ minions, arms dealers, terrorists—Cohen ordered the operatives to sever ties with all of them. The only problem was, these were the people who mix well with our enemies—rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea and terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. Deutch and Cohen didn’t care; they had a mandate to clean up the CIA, and that’s what they were going to do.
Headquarters ofiicers started taking more and more of the important jobs in the field. For the first time in the CIA’s history, analysts, reports officers, and logistics officers were given stations and bases to run. (As a reports officer, Kathy technically belonged to the directorate of operations, but in spirit she was much closer to an analyst.) Field experience no longer mattered, either for assignments or promotions.
As the CIA purged informants, it leaned on allies to do our dirty work in the field. Friendly Muslim intelligence services, not CIA operatives, were asked to comb jihadi circles. All this only got worse after September 11. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sucked the CIA dry.
In 2006 there were nearly 750 officers assigned to Baghdad station, mostly staff officers on their first overseas assignment. That number may not sound like a lot, but throughout the ’90s there were at most 1,200 to 1,500 CIA employees assigned overseas at any one time.
The rest HERE
A more concise appraisal of what’s gone so so wrong with the CIA I have not seen in print I think. Scheuer, Baer, Bearden, have all said much the same things in their books and interviews, but this captures it with regard to a real event that made the recent news. In context you can see clearly just how piss poor the agency has been run for some time now.
What the article does not cover here is that at the same time this sentiment was being fomented by the DDO and moves were made to place analysts into field positions many of the working field operatives retired (or were forced out) because they saw the writing on the wall. Baer covers this where in the 90’s he was investigated by the FBI for working on an operation with “unsavory” types. He was accused of murder and other things from a sanctioned operation. *Somewhat depicted in Syrianna*
He left soon after. The PC attitude was too much.
Meanwhile, this left the CIA without any real access to the actual bad people that they were supposed to be fighting against. As the article points out, the CIA then began to rely more on foreign agencies for their “dirty laundry” collections. By doing this, the CIA became much more susceptible to getting bad intelligence as well as being manipulated by disinformation.
By using the ISI for example, the CIA was being led down the primrose path many a time because many in the ISI were sympathetic to AQ. In fact, some of the ISI personnel were in fact AQ operatives. So where’s the good in all this? Nothing good can come from friends like these in the intelligence business. Much like the lack of understanding in the case of meeting with Balawi might have been tempered by the wishes of the GID to win the day and present a mole who could get close to OBL.
There just wasn’t enough vetting and relying on a flipped agent is always a tricky thing. Even more so when that flipped agent was so briefly in custody of the GID and likely tortured.
The issue of relying on foreign intelligence sources close to the regions and not having real “experienced” people in the field to determine if someone is credible to work with caused this incident in Khost. It’s simply because of the factors talked about above and the drive to make a mark for yourself in the eyes of the boss. In this case over eagerness and lack of real experience led to the deaths of 8 CIA officers. Officers mind you, who were high level assets for the CIA in the region.. As much as that may seem unlikely.
Meanwhile, we have things like the tearing down of the AQ sites recently against what the CIA wanted. The players of the game are at each others throats and this serves us not.
Here’s some news.. We need HUMINT in the field. We need experienced officers, and we need to get our hands dirty.
Unless there are some big changes planned I should think we are doomed to further and more spectacular failures. One has to wonder what has happened to all those fresh faces who joined just after 9/11…. Probably all analysts like “Kathy” now.