Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Questioning the CIA

This may be the most important item to come out of the entire Plame affair:

While the Bush administration hunkers down on indictment watch, Congress should take a look at political — and possibly illegal — activity by agenda-driven intelligence operatives.

Whatever fate befalls White House adviser Karl Rove, Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis Libby and any other administration official caught up in the prosecution over the leaked name of a CIA officer, there's a back story to this case that should not be ignored.

It's about the CIA itself.

This is a story that most of the media will be trying hard not to cover. They share former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's stated desire to see Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "frog-march" Rove out of the White House in handcuffs.

So Congress should leave the media no choice. Hold hearings. Put the CIA on the spot and blow the lid off any politically motivated funny business. Bring some transparency to what has become a very murky issue.

We believe that someone needs to answer the questions raised recently by Joseph F. DiGenova, a former federal prosecutor and independent counsel:

Was there a covert operation against the president?

If so, who was behind it?

These aren't the musings of the tinfoil-hat brigade. A sober-minded case can be made that at least some people in the CIA may have acted inappropriately to discredit the administration as a way of salvaging their own reputations after the intelligence debacles of 9-11 and Iraqi WMD.

As the IBD article points out, this is the same CIA that abjectly failed at least two presidents and the entire American public. If there is a rotten core in at the center of this outfit then we must excise it, precisely because the work that they should be doing is so absolutely critical to the safety of our country.

I know all about CYA government politics and the lengths the "career" people in government positions of trust will go to in order to protect their positions and undermine the very job their agency is asked to do. I saw this kind of behavior at NASA--particularly after the Challenger accident. I witnessed, in disbelief, as the innocent were punished and the guilty promoted. That strategy, is the essence intellectual and moral rot that exists in many of our government agencies.

For the most part, organizations like the CIA and NASA (and many others, I'm sure)have layers of managers and bureaucrats that have over their careers finely honed their skill at taking credit for anything good and blaming someone else in the food chain for anything bad that happens. The many capable, honest, and hard-working grunts are considered disposable assets manipulated by the bureaucrats for the purpose of accumulating their own power in the system. These bureaucrats create the groupthink culture and live happily in their own little echo chambers--refusing any new ideas or thinking if it disturbs the soundwaves in the chamber. Anything that reflects well on them is good and anything that threatens their power is aggressively attacked.

I have no doubt that what I saw at NASA was a mere bagatelle compared to the capability for mischief that would be possible by one narcissist who had an agenda at the CIA.

Presidents come and go. But the personnel in the CIA --especially the bureaucrats--stay in place for an entire career. They have a lot of entrenched reasons to maintain the status quo.

The CIA badly needs to clean house, but how to do it when civil service makes it next to impossible to alter the culture?

UPDATE: Michael Barone has something interesting to say about all this:

Well, I think that whoever those people were, what they were involved in here was trying to discredit what they took to be the president's policy. I mean, there seems to be a thinking in some parts of the foreign policy establishment that an elected president, and the subordinates that he chooses as persuant to law, are not entitled to follow a policy that the career people at the CIA think is a bad policy. I had the sort of thought American government works the other way. That is to say civil servants, government employees, follow the policy of the elected officials. But this case, clearly there were people at the CIA that were trying to discredit Bush's policy of military action in Iraq. And clearly, Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson were part of that. And in addition, we also know that Joseph Wilson told numerous lies about this situation. He characterized his report, which was not a written report to the CIA, as disclosing no evidence that there was attempts by Iraq to buy uranium in Niger. But the CIA people that took a look at what he reported, or heard what he reported, concluded that he actually found some evidence that Iraq had made an attempt to obtain uranium in Niger.
[emphasis mine)

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