Valerie Plame should be the next Director of Central Intelligence, not Gen. Mike Hayden. Now that the CIA’s Praetorian Guard has — with the connivance of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte — rid itself of Porter Goss, the CIA is confidently preparing to march back into the intelligence dark ages that preceded 9/11.
Gen. Hayden — former head of the National Intelligence Agency and most famous for his strong defense of the NSA terrorist surveillance program — is slated to be nominated for the DCI post today. Hayden, now Negroponte’s deputy and choice for DCI, will face tough questioning in his confirmation hearing about the warrantless interception of phone calls and e-mail traffic between known terrorist connections in the United States with their pals overseas. Nevertheless he will be confirmed and take his place at CIA or, rather, the place that the CIA bureaucracy has prepared for him.
The entrenched CIA Praetorian Guard has announced its plan for Hayden’s tenure. In two Sunday Washington Post stories (here and here), another in the New York Times and a Times editorial, CIA sources got their media pals to argue that the greatest concern for the future of our primary intelligence agency is how Gen. Hayden will conduct their turf war against the Defense Department. In the two WaPo stories, the CIA’s turf battle against Donald Rumsfeld is mentioned five times. The NYT story is relatively mild in mentioning it only once, but the editorial makes up for that by making the attack on Rumsfeld’s partial control of intelligence its central theme. The CIA sources who pushed these stories care only about their power and privileges. The essential transformation of the intelligence agencies to make America safer is not on their minds. The CIA Praetorians prepare for Hayden’s arrival by questioning his ability, in the words of one Post story, “to be independent from Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.” Which means that the CIA leaker brigade will attack Hayden as a failure unless he allows the CIA bureaucrats to control what he does. If that is Hayden’s future at CIA, it would be better just to appoint one of the Praetorians to the job or to make Valerie Plame Wilson, their consort, the CIA chief.
The CIA remains a dysfunctional agency. That results from the failure to remove the Praetorians and from the Congressional rush to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. In August 2004, Loose Canons said, “We don’t need another layer of bureaucracy such as the ‘national intelligence director’ the 9/11 Commission recommended. We need — as Director of Central Intelligence — a real leader and reformer with the stature and vision to force jointness upon the intel community as it was forced upon DoD by the Goldwater-Nichols legislation of the 1980s.” What we got was precisely what I said we didn’t want.
The Director of National Intelligence, as Congress created him, is just another bureaucratic layer that disperses our national intelligence apparatus in precisely the manner that can most damage the gathering and analyzing of intelligence information. John Negroponte, the DNI, has tried to shift a large part of the CIA’s intelligence analysis staff to his own office, splitting the function that must be forced together and joined in a central organization. Porter Goss fought against it, and is now being blamed for resisting transformation and for stepping on too many toes. Against him were both Negroponte and the other agencies that were given new responsibility for intelligence analysis after 9/11. Goss quit when Negroponte won the battle to shift some analysis out of the CIA and into DNI.
What Negroponte should be doing is just the opposite. CIA intelligence analysis is inadequate and splitting it up is no answer. All the fuss about the Defense Department’s growing intel apparatus is misplaced. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon are fighting a war and to do that they need accurate intel and lots of it. The DoD is only trying to create what it must have because it doesn’t get it from CIA, DNI, or anywhere else. It’s the fastest solution to an urgent national security problem. The problem only grows worse outside DoD.
Creating the DNI, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts (chairman of the Intelligence Committee) wanted to give it real power. As one source told me, “The theory was a DCI or DNI on steroids with actual control so there would be no more negotiating” among the disparate intelligence agencies. Roberts wanted the DNI to have direct supervisory control as well as budgetary authority. But Congress didn’t adopt Roberts’s plan. Instead, it created a DNI that’s just another layer of bureaucracy. The NIC is independent, and a whole list of agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Treasury, the State Department’s INR and Defense Intelligence Agency’s analysis branch — are all semi-autonomous. It is precisely the opposite of the approach I advocated in August 2004, which would have forced the same kind of “jointness” on the intelligence community that the Goldwater-Nichols bill of 1986 forced on the Defense Department, making it ten times more effective and efficient as it was before. Intelligence reform, if it is ever to happen, has to begin with either eliminating the DNI altogether or going back to the Roberts plan.
It’s probably too late to save the CIA. Gen. Hayden is, in any event, the wrong guy to even attempt it. He’s a techie who has had little experience in the human intelligence game where the CIA’s failure is most important. But does he have the vision, guts and experience to brush past the CIA Praetorians and reform our spy apparatus while ignoring the bureaucratic battles that his boss — the DNI — will be mired in forever? Unfortunately the answer is — almost certainly — no.
Four months from now, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the President will give another speech about how much safer America is than it was before the airliners hit the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania. He’ll speak with confidence about how much better our intelligence agencies have become. If only it were true.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004) and, with Edward Timperlake, Showdown: Why China Wants War With the United States (Regnery, May 2006 — click here to obtain a free chapter).