Intelligence: February 22, 2002

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Did the CIA drop the ball in trying to stop the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks? This has yet to be agreed on, but it is apparent that there is a great deal of "politicized intelligence at work here. The CIA studies and reports on what its boss, the president orders it to go after. Thus the presidents political needs often drive what kinds of intelligence the CIA will look at. Everyone at the CIA works for the president. Usually, the head of the CIA is a political appointee. Different opinions are allowed in the CIA, but it was considered political suicide to let anything but what the White House wanted to leave Langley. During the Vietnam war, the dissidents did get their message out, and their careers at the agency suffered (usually with a quick career change and a job outside of government.) The current director of the CIA, George Tenet, was kept because he's a competent agency guy, will give you the straight story if you ask for it, and is the best person to fix three decades of damage to the CIAs capabilities. Another thing to keep in mind is that the CIA got into trouble in the first place because of the World War II OSS crew (with wartime experience in "anything goes" operations) and their high profile failures in the 1950s and 60s. In peacetime, "anything goes" doesn't make it. These guys, and their adoring protgs are gone now. But the damage is done as the agency shifted over to "technical intelligence." They won't be able to rebuild their street smarts overnight. However, that the agency has been hiring a lot of retired hot shots from places like the marines and special forces for the past decade. But it will take a while for these guys to learn how to operate without a government lawyer looking over their shoulder all the time. 


 


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