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More ‘Bad Intel’?


The recent near miss on Christmas Day in Detroit, has sparked a presidentially-mandated reappraisal of the failures of American intelligence which made this disaster so possible.
 
Essentially, more sharing across agencies, sharper analysis, and more attention to detail will fix the thing. Or will it?
 
Wasn’t this precisely the reason the behemoth of a mega agency, the Homeland Security Dept. was organized?  Wasn’t it supposed to coordinate the enormous work-product of the plethora of intelligence organizations, which have historically been antagonistic to one another?
 
Essentially, the agencies were ordered to behave differently than they have for generations.
 
Many administrations ago, Pres. Harry Truman wrote to a friend, complaining about the very nature of the CIA. "When I took over," Truman wrote, "the President had no means of coordinating the intelligence from around the world."
 
What arose first as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under Roosevelt, later becoming the CIA, quickly became a force that no president could control, and few could trust.  Although Truman wanted a global information service, the agency had other ideas.
 
"It was not intended as a ‘cloak & dagger’ outfit," Truman wrote.  "It was intended merely as a center for keeping the president informed on what was going on in the world."
 
President Truman insisted that he never wanted CIA "to act as a spy organization." *
 
But, ultimately, it didn’t matter what the president wanted.  Presidents don’t run the CIA, they are run by the CIA.
 
After the gross intelligence failures that led to 9/11, and the intelligence screw ups that led to the Iraq War, why should it surprise  us that almost a decade later, the nation is once again on the brink of a mini 9/11?
 
Any agency that controls a president’s information, also controls his options.
 
And like Roman emperors, the illusion of the office’s power is so seductive that the agency becomes a tool to try to control and change the world.
 
A leader you don’t like?  Order a hit.  A government you oppose? Buy off their opponents
 
This is the stuff the CIA is made of.
 
If you doubt this, read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007).  You’ll find an agency that played its presidents like yoyos.  They committed  crimes at home and abroad; they did everything but protect the community.
 
For a brief moment, after 9/11, it appeared the CIA might be abolished following it’s failures.  That moment came and went.
 
Now, as the number of intelligence agencies has grown exponentially, as well as the sheer weight of intelligence data, it has become too much to collate, to sift, to make sense of and to act upon.
 
Now, new rules….until next time.
 
 
 
[Source: Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (N.Y.: Doubleday, 2007).]

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