Friday, May 12, 2006

Killing the CIA

Killing the CIA

In Goss, Bush found the perfect hatchet man to take vengeance on a despised agency. Now Goss is gone, scandal looms -- and the CIA is ruined.

By Sidney Blumenthal

...After the brief interim appointment of CIA professional John McLaughlin, on Aug. 10, 2004, almost three years to the day after the Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing on bin Laden, Bush named Porter Goss the new director of central intelligence. The president was looking for someone to rid him of the troublesome agency. In Goss, he thought he had discovered the perfect man for the bloody job, but the nature of the task undid Goss, and in his unraveling another scandal unfolded.

In the absence of any reliable evidence, CIA analysts had refused to put their stamp of approval on the administration's reasons for the Iraq war. Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, personally came to Langley to intimidate analysts on several occasions. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his then deputy secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, constructed their own intelligence bureau, called the Office of Special Plans, to sidestep the CIA and shunt disinformation corroborating the administration's arguments directly to the White House. "The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made," Paul Pillar, then the chief Middle East analyst for the CIA, writes in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs. "The process did not involve intelligence work designed to find dangers not yet discovered or to inform decisions not yet made. Instead, it involved research to find evidence in support of a specific line of argument -- that Saddam was cooperating with al Qaeda -- which in turn was being used to justify a specific policy decision."

But despite urgent pressures to report to the contrary, the CIA never reported that Saddam presented an imminent national security threat to the United States, that he was near to developing nuclear weapons, or that he had any ties to al-Qaida. Moreover, analysts predicted a protracted insurgency after an invasion of Iraq. Tenet, despite the lack of cooperation from the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, acted as backslapper for the administration's policy.

The White House was in a fury. The CIA's professionalism was perceived as political warfare, and the agency apparently was seen as the center of a conspiracy to overthrow the administration.....

....The militarization of intelligence under Bush is likely to guarantee military solutions above other options. Uniformed officers trained to identity military threats and trends will take over economic and political intelligence for which they are untrained and often incapable, and their priorities will skew analysis. But the bias toward the military option will be one that the military in the end will dislike. It will find itself increasingly bearing the brunt of foreign policy and stretched beyond endurance. The vicious cycle leads to a downward spiral. And Hayden's story will be like a dull shadow of Powell's -- a tale of a "good soldier" who salutes, gets promoted, is used and abused, and is finally discarded.

No president has ever before ruined an agency at the heart of national security out of pique and vengeance. The manipulation of intelligence by political leadership demands ever tightened control. But political purges provide only temporary relief from the widening crisis of policy failure.