Monday, March 29, 2004

A warning of intelligence problems - 4 days before 9/11

by J. Michael Waller
Insight magazine, March 29, 2004

Four days before the 9/11 attack, on Sept. 7, 2001, Insight magazine's online edition ran this writer's story titled "Ground Down CIA Still in the Pit." Excerpts follow:

"Why are Bill Clinton's political appointees still running the CIA?" The question is nagging preparedness-minded supporters of President George W. Bush who are worried that the holdover intelligence community, like the rank upon rank of social-policy holdovers at the Pentagon, at best may be naïve and at worst poorly prepared to serve the country's needs in the 21st century. These are those, say critics, who were advanced to ever higher levels during the eight years in which Clinton politicized national security.

"While Donald Rumsfeld and his team are shaking up the Department of Defense (DoD) to ensure that U.S. war-fighting abilities are adapted to post-Cold War realities, almost nothing of the kind is being done in the intelligence community that keeps decisionmakers informed about international developments and threats. For some reason, Clinton holdovers continue to run the show. ..."

Current and former intelligence officers have described to Insight a litany of unremedied problems within the CIA during the Deutch-Tenet years, including:

  • bloated management staffs at the expense of solid analysts, linguists and officers in the field who can accurately and quickly collect and assess raw intelligence from world trouble spots;
  • deteriorated human-intelligence capability that makes it almost impossible to penetrate key targets such as terrorist organizations and cripples U.S. efforts to detect and prevent terrorist attacks such as the bombings that destroyed two U.S. embassies in Africa and a Navy warship in Yemen;
  • a bureaucratic culture that penalizes intelligence personnel for thinking creatively;
  • politicization of the CIA by controversial Clinton appointees who had served under [George] Tenet in the previous administration ...
  • major flaws in quality control of intelligence coming in from the field, with an inordinate reliance on information from security services of other countries ...
  • no serious penalties for high-level security lapses, including Tenet's predecessor and former boss, [John] Deutch, who for years e-mailed highly classified documents from his office through America Online to his house;
  • a reported high-level CIA cover-up on Tenet's watch of Deutch's alleged wrongdoing."

(For link to "Ground down CIA still in the pit" story framed in this blog, click here.)