Loose Canons

How Dare They?

For the girlie men of Langley, a lesson on duty, honor and country.

By 11.14.04

Send to Kindle

Juxtapose two images in your mind's eye. First, the dirty-faced young Marine, taking a cigarette break between skirmishes in Fallujah last week. Second, a CIA bureaucrat, taking tiny sips of chardonnay in those delicate intervals when he takes time out from writing his resignation to whine to the Washington Post. There is no way to reconcile those images. And there is no excuse for what CIA girlie men are doing.

Porter Goss, new Director of Central Intelligence and most recently chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, brought a few of his top Hill staffers with him to Langley. Some of them, like Goss, are former CIA men themselves. In the brief time they've been there, they have been doing what Goss said he would in his confirmation hearing. Goss told the Senate that there was too much bureaucracy in CIA headquarters, and that his management style would be "tough love," his language strong and blunt, and that changes would be made. Now, through the Post, the CIA bureaucrats are doing everything they can to weaken Goss. And some of them are resigning.

First was Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who resigned -- according to the Post -- because Goss's top guy and former hill staffer Patrick Murray was "treating senior officials disrespectfully and risked widespread resignations." Next was Deputy Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, who also resigned after a confrontation with Murray. The Sunday Post told us that four more senior undercover officials may resign as early as today. This is only the latest round of CIA disloyalty.

FOR MANY MONTHS, the CIA bureaucrats have been conducting a rather noisy mutiny against the Bush administration. Leak followed leak, each timed and designed to embarrass the president. Portions of National Intelligence Estimates were leaked to bolster the idea that the administration corrupted intelligence reports to justify the Iraq war. Never mind that NIE's are some of the most sensitive documents we ever create. They did their best to leak things designed to give credence to Amb. Joe Wilson's attacks on the President. Wilson went to Niger, drank tea with a few cronies, and returned to claim that Mr. Bush lied when he said Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake uranium there.

The leaks and attacks grew to book length when one CIA officer -- Michael Scheuer -- anonymously penned Imperial Hubris, and then published it with permission of CIA bigs. Scheuer's book argues that we are losing the war against terrorists and that the Iraq war is "a sham causing more instability than it prevents."

In truth, most of these guys should be fired for poor performance. They didn't see that the Soviet Empire was about to fall before it did in 1989 and got pretty much everything that counted wrong ever since. They didn't uncover the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network or foresee 9/11. Then-DCI George Tenet told the president that the case against Saddam's WMD programs was a "slam dunk." And, thanks mainly to them, we have pretty much no damned clue about Islamic radicals' strength in Turkey, what Putin is going to do in Chechnya, or just how close the mullahs in Tehran are to having the ability to produce nuclear weapons. All they seem to do well is fight the Pentagon for control of the intel budget. Now they're leaking to the Post that Goss is a terrible boss, that his aides are "highly partisan," and that the new crew is wrecking the agency. Their answer is to this challenge is to resign. How dare they?

Let's assume everything these guys are saying is true. That they are all highly-skilled professionals whose lives have been dedicated to doing an important job for their country. That they are the best we have to do this job, and their failures are not their fault. That Porter Goss and his principal staffers are arrogant idiots from Congress who not only lack any clue about what they're doing, but are abusive and disrespectful to the pros. And let's toss in the assumption, as the Post quotes one former senior CIA official, that "[t]here's confusion throughout the ranks and an extraordinary loss of morale and incentive." So what should these troubled professionals do?

If they were as professional as they profess, if they were as dedicated as they declaim, if they were the leaders they would lead us to believe, they would do a whole bunch of things. But not resign. That's the selfish, unprofessional, and -- yes -- unpatriotic thing to do. What you do is tough it out, fight for what's right, and do everything you can to straighten your boss out and repair what damage he does while still following orders.

In the hope that some of those who are thinking of resigning may read this, I want to address you directly. Each of you should ask yourself the following questions. Do you think your job is important to the war against terrorists and the nations that support them? Do you believe you're good at it, and are making a significant contribution to the nation's defense? Do you think that, by your hard work and experience, you may save one American's life or give the president one more option in any decision he has to make? Do you believe that your subordinates rely on your leadership and mentoring? If you answered any of those questions with a "yes," and you still dare to resign, you should hang your head in shame for the rest of your born days. It's all about duty, honor and country. If you think your personal gripes are more important, then go ahead and resign. And good riddance to you.

CONGRESS IS RETURNING for its lame duck session. One of the many things it wants to finish is the intelligence "reform" bill that would put in place many of the things that the 9-11 Commission recommended. It would be better if Congress didn't finish this now.

That the CIA needs reform, and that the reform will necessitate the replacement of many career professionals, is all too clear. Those who led the CIA in its failures need to be replaced, and the CIA culture changed to deal with the new global threats. But this needs to be well managed, not done haphazardly leaving key posts vacant. What "reform" aims to accomplish and how it is managed are the keys.

Congress is acting too quickly without addressing the primary question: How should reform be accomplished in order to improve the product of the CIA and the whole intelligence community? Is the 9/11 Commission's plan better than Pat Roberts' plan in that regard? Does Sen. Susan Collins (RINO-Me.), chairman of the Government Affairs Committee in the Senate, responsible for the intel reform bill there, have any clue what she's doing? (Hint: no). No one, to my knowledge, has even made the analysis of the various proposals necessary for that comparison. Why hasn't there been, as suggested here nine months ago, a thorough scrub of the intelligence community by intel and military RSGs, to determine what must be done to improve the intelligence product that the president has to rely on? Just what reforms are necessary to improve that product? Before that question is answered, all this talk of budget control and rearranging responsibilities is just so much political stuff and nonsense.

TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.