Abolish The CIA?
Although it’s not a new idea, Christopher Hitchens has seemingly united the blogosphere with his suggestion the it’s time to abolish the CIA and start over.
His argument, in a nutshell, is that the Agency is simultaneously incompetent and venal. Its turnaround on the Iran weapons program is just the latest instance of it proving spectacularly wrong and, worse yet (to Hitchens’ thinking) they’ve now given the incorrect impression that Iran is no longer in the market for nukes. Further, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it sees itself as above the law, with numerous instances of attempting to undermine the sitting administration through skulduggery and now, in destroying interrogation tapes, engaging in “mutiny and treason.” (The treason charge is simply laughable and is disappointing coming from a word smith such as Hitchens.)
Hitchens figures that there have been too many attempts to fix this via reform, so we should just “shut the whole thing down and start again.”
Most of the blogs commenting on this thus far that have been aggregated at Memorandum are on board.
- Ed Morrissey hopes the CIA has managed to unite the White House and Congress so that we can finally streamline intelligence, preferably under “the non-partisan world of the Pentagon.” Given the freshness of Don Rumsfeld’s tenure, though, that seems incredibly far-fetched; indeed, further consolidation under the Director of National Intelligence would seem the more likely outcome.
- Bruce McQuain focuses on the CIA’s penchant for cooking the books to suit its own interests — and conduct an internecine “war against DoD with no regard for ‘collateral damage'” — and thinks we need to build an “intelligence gathering agency which supports the best interests of the United States instead of subverting it.”
- Victor Davis Hanson sees the CIA as a “Three-Letter Menace,” citing the adventures of Joe Wilson and Michael Scheuer as prime examples.
- AJ Strata doesn’t much care about destroyed tapes but thinks providing a lifeline to Iran’s mullahs inexcusable. He does agree with the conclusion, though: “This cold war relic seems to have become too dysfunctional and laden with career egos willing to play political games as opposed to protect the nation from harm.”
- The lone dissenter, Cernig, believes it’s “not a good idea to entirely dismantle the main civilian intelligence gathering arm of the USA in favor of purely military intel” and dismisses the idea that the CIA is cooking the books on Iran.
I’ve long thought that a massive overhaul of our intelligence apparatus made sense, with taking counter-terrorism out of the hands of the FBI and separating the analysis and operations functions of CIA as the major components. But I’m not sure breaking up the CIA would have much impact on either the politicization or efficacy of intelligence.
For one thing, as a practical matter, we’re just going re-hire most of the same people and issue them new badges and stationery. We’re not going to waste billions of dollars and years and years of training, especially while in the midst of a multi-front war. Plus, since our security screening process is broken, anyone with a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance would be snapped up in an instant.
Moreover, while it’s easy to blame the CIA for all the problems, the fact of the matter is that Congress has done an abysmal job over the years of providing oversight. To the extent that CIA is a rogue agency that feels immune from consequences, it’s because there have been few consequences for failure. Indeed, we already know that the recent torture tape destruction scandal came with the foreknowledge of the leadership of the congressional intelligence committees, who did precisely nothing.
Correction: Re-edited the blog summary slightly to more accurately summarize Cernig’s argument.