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Monday, May 09, 2005

And now for the Simple-minded non-spook point-of-view…

Government Executive Magazine has an interesting piece up today in the Daily Briefing. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has hit the ground running and is shaking up the hierarchy of reporting within the CIA. In short, the Station Chiefs abroad may have a wake up call coming.

The intelligence agencies (all of them) have been harmfully politicized. Senior officials (some of which have departed, not voluntarily, thanks to Porter Goss) had treated their senior level intelligence positions as a forum of ideology. George Tenet comes to mind in this regard. Just before he was shown the door….and he was shown the door. He decided to release a report on Iraq prepared by the National Intelligence Council. It was stated that the report reflected input from a number of different intelligence agencies inclusive of the CIA. According to the report, there would be civil war throughout Iraq by 2005. I would remind everyone that this release was timed just at the dawn of the 2004 Election Campaigns.

It was a parting shot by a Washington bureaucrat hold-over from the Clinton Administration. The only reason he remained in his role was to provide the illusion that the CIA was operating on all cylinders. It was not. It still isn't. And, unless an effort is made to make individual Station Managers responsible for the humint, technological intel, and analysis coming out of their respective ground level operations there would be little to no accountability.

More to the point, Negroponte wants (has ordered) direct communication from the street to his office. No whitewashing to protect hind ends inside the beltway is a good start in this simpleton's opinion. Who do you want telling you what's going on in downtown Jakarta? The Station Chief "glaring out his window on Bekasi Raya or some middle management hack in a Langley cubicle hoping the latest humint doesn't contradict a previous report. In simple words….it is what it is. Playing "pass it down the line" was a nice exercise at camp. It doesn't wash in today's intelligence community.

Here's another thought.

A consistent, accurate, and results oriented operation falls on the shoulders of the station manager. The safety net of spreading blame throughout a tied down bureaucracy (all the way back to Washington) is no longer an option. This appears to be an attempt to place accountability on the Station Chief. As a result, the CIA Station Chief will be more apt to cooperate with other agencies less something should be missed. Provided this same approach is applied to the other intelligence (and law enforcement) agencies under Negroponte's domain, we should expect a similar attitude.

A final thought…

Since the early to mid-90's certain high level congressmen (read: Senator Robert Torricelli- D) has lobbied to disallow the intelligence community from forging contact relationships with "shady" characters. As a result, a significant void was created in the field. No longer were the "feelers" out there scraping up something of potential significance. In other words, the exact type people you want out shaking the trees were no longer available as a tool in the intelligence network. The US had lost it's "Huggy Bear." However, added pressure on Station Chiefs to produce valued and timely intelligence in whatever form will easily outweigh the perception of having "clean hands." The policy, known by its critics as the "Torricelli principle," requires that a top CIA official -- not a field officer -- approve the hiring of such informants.

Now I'm just a simpleton…a babe in the proverbial woods…an amateur mind you. But, I don't want mid-level bureaucrats inside the beltway attending to the hiring practices of CIA representatives working in Hamâh, Syria. I'd like to see the guy whose marbles are on the chopping block deciding on the roster that is most effective and efficient.

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