September 29, 2004


The CIA's Insurgency: The agency's political disinformation campaign. (Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2004)

Congratulations to Porter Goss for being confirmed last week as the new Director of Central Intelligence. We hope he appreciates that he now has two insurgencies to defeat: the one that the CIA is struggling to help put down in Iraq, and the other inside Langley against the Bush Administration.

We wish we were exaggerating. It's become obvious over the past couple of years that large swaths of the CIA oppose U.S. anti-terror policy, especially toward Iraq. But rather than keep this dispute in-house, the dissenters have taken their objections to the public, albeit usually through calculated and anonymous leaks that are always spun to make the agency look good and the Bush Administration look bad.

Their latest improvised explosive political device blew up yesterday on the front page of the New York Times, in a story proclaiming that the agency had warned back in January 2003 of a possible insurgency in Iraq. This highly selective leak (more on that below) was conveniently timed for two days before the first Presidential debate.

This follows Joe Wilson, whose CIA-employee wife nominated the anti-Bush partisan to assess intelligence on Iraq. Then there's the book by "Anonymous," a current CIA employee who has been appearing everywhere to trash U.S. policy, with the approval of agency higher-ups. And now we have one Paul R. Pillar, who has broken his own cover as the author of a classified National Intelligence Estimate this summer outlining pessimistic possibilities for the future of Iraq.

That document was also leaked to the New York Times earlier this month, and on Monday columnist Robert Novak reported that it had been prepared at the direction of Mr. Pillar, the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia.

One sphere in which it does seem fair to question the Administration's competence and its commitment to Reforming the Middle East is its failure to anticipate the counterinsurgencies from CIA and State and to put them down ruthlessly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2004 7:02 PM

How to do it, though? Especially since the CIA, State, and Media are a near impenetrable iron triangle.

Posted by: Melissa at September 29, 2004 7:29 PM

State is harder to reform, but the CIA is not. Bush should have fired Tenet immediately after 9/11. His failure to reform the CIA (or even fail to attempt to) is a major black mark on his record.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 29, 2004 7:35 PM

Tenet wasn't the problem--it's the careerists. You need to shut it down completely.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 7:55 PM

He needs both (a) the right to fire federal employees at will and (b) a national sense of wartime urgency which would justify wholesale dismissal of uncooperative political partisans. I don't expect to see these conditions met in my lifetime. Maybe the slow approach, starting to hire Republicans and/or starving the budget, will happen.

Posted by: pj at September 29, 2004 10:42 PM


Expect to see Democrats filibuster the Intelligence reform bill precisely because it allows him to fire them.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 10:50 PM

I suspect that after Nov. 2, the filibuster will be shelved for about 15 months.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 29, 2004 10:53 PM

From everything I've seen, the memory of the Homeland Security bill and Cleland's loss are seared -- seared -- in the Democrats' memories. So much so that they don't even understand that it wasn't simply opposing DHS that mattered, it was opposing DHS to prevent merit firing.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2004 10:54 PM

You have Scheur,"Mr. Anonymous" who forgets his job is not to agree with Bin Laden, but to under stand him; Pillar, who was deputy in the CTC in the pre 9-11 era; and showed an orange, not just rosy outlook on terrorism, who like Kerry; seems afflicked by his Army Intel posting in Vietnam.
Neither has any actual field experience,much
less any Middle East postings unlike the current
operations chief. On the outside, you have Ray
McGovern; the 'bill Burkett' of the analyst crew
Bearden, who seems to rely to much on the British
experience in Afghanistan, and is to cavalier
about his responsibility for keeping track on
Bin Laden;was a Sudan lobbyist at the time of the August '98 crisis.Cannistraro, whose blundering pressure tactics prevented any oversight on the
Afghan Arabs; Johnson, re his June 2001 op ed and
flacking for his Camp Peary colleague; Mrs. Plame

Posted by: narciso at September 30, 2004 12:02 AM

The CIA should quite simply be disbanded, and all of its employees down to the janitorial staff jailed in Gitmo with the other terrorists. I can't see how we would be worse off without an intelligence service than with the one we spend tens of billions of dollars. Of course, it might be more difficult to find drugs on American street corners if CIA were disbanded and its agents jailed but that is a small price to pay.

Posted by: Bart at September 30, 2004 7:53 AM

It's also hilarious to see the argument that the President should have known that CIA's prewar assessment of Saddam's WMDs was nonsense, but must now treat the NIE as Holy Writ.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2004 9:27 AM

Patience, patience my friends. All is well. Palms are damp in all the right places. First the victory, then the defenestrations.

Posted by: luciferous at September 30, 2004 11:06 AM

Well, I know of one source that predicted that Iraq would be ungovernable and that Bush would need more infantry than he had.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 4:21 PM


But that source was wrong on both counts. It's being governed fine and we have had too many troops there--they're a provocation.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 6:21 PM