Darwin and the Agency-Disasters Game

Portergoss_1Career professionals are bailing out at the CIA in droves since Porter Goss became Director, claiming he was committed to “restructuring an American spy network tarnished by 9/11 failings and the inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” Robert Grenier, who spent most of his career undercover overseas and took charge of the Counterterrorism Center about a year ago is Goss’ latest firing.

This whole ‘restructuring’ game in the intelligence business has put our national security in a dark room with a blanket thrown over its head. Goss is merely one guy, screwing up one agency, but since 9-11 the current administration has panicked itself into

  • Goss’ messing with the clandestine structure at CIA
  • The nearly total demolition of a once orderly FBI
  • Creation of something called the Homeland Security Agency, that made paper-chains of command and further compounded the confusion surrounding a blizzard of cross-purposed agencies, including
    • Director of National Intelligence
    • National Intelligence Council [NIC]
    • National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
    • National Counterintelligence Executive [NCIX]
    • Central Intelligence Agency      
    • National Security Agency      
    • National Reconnaissance Office      
    • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (formerly NIMA)      
    • Defense Intelligence Agency 
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation
    • Assistant to the Defense Secretary for Intelligence Oversight    
    • Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
    • Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
    • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration    
    • Defense Information Systems Agency
    • Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence
    • Intelligence and Security Command
    • Office of Naval Intelligence
    • Air Intelligence Agency
    • National Security Council
    • President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
    • Office of Intelligence 
    • Justice Intelligence Coordinating Council
    • OIPR – Office of Intelligence Policy and Review
    • DEA – Drug Enforcement Administration
    • NDIC – National Drug Intelligence Center
    • INR – Bureau of Intelligence & Research
    • INL – Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
    • CT – Counterterrorism Office
    • DS – Bureau of Diplomatic Security    
    • Office of Intelligence Support
    • FINCEN – Financial Crimes Enforcement
    • Information Security Oversight Office    

A random peek at just one of these 33 duplicative fiefdoms, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (under the direction of the Counsel for Intelligence Policy), if you’re not already confused, is

“responsible for advising the Attorney General on all matters relating to the national security activities of the United States. The Office prepares and files all applications for electronic surveillance and physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, assists Government agencies by providing legal advice on matters of national security law and policy, and represents the Department of Justice on variety of interagency committees such as the National Counterintelligence Policy Board. The Office also comments on and coordinates other agencies’ views regarding proposed legislation affecting intelligence matters. The Office serves as adviser to the Attorney General and various client agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Defense and State Departments, concerning questions of law, regulation, and guidelines as well as the legality of domestic and overseas intelligence operations.”

Uh, huh. I thought that was what the National Intelligence Council did. Well, they do, but they also provide the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community. You see they report to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review reports to the Counsel for Intelligence Policy. Are you clear on that? Good.

Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.

BushnegroponteJohn Negroponte has the whole ball of wax under his steady hand, plus he has to show up in front of this or that Senate committee whose chairman may feel the need of a little press. One of John’s Senate confirmation-hearing requirements was to be able to recite all the thirty-plus agencies under his aegis in order and in one breath.

So, it’s small wonder career professionals are bailing in record numbers.  The director of FEMA, who couldn’t get the director of Homeland Security on the phone during Katrina is but one example of too many numbers on speed-dial.

Enough already. Congress would have much more time to spend our money and agencies and embassies could do some serious work if only presidents would stop appointing.

Organizations charged with the responsibility for collecting information and then acting on it in a meaningful way are organic, their growth far more a result of Darwinian principles than political whim. The same is perhaps even more true of Embassies. And whim it’s been, from Mel Sembler (Ambassador to Italy) to Mike Brown (FEMA).

Confusing activity for progress and mistaking proliferation for security, the neocons have savaged agency after agency. Hoover’s iron-fisted FBI, problematic as it may have been, is a shambles compared to its old, honorable, tommy-gun self after the revolving-door directorships of Gray, Ruckleshaus, Kelley, Adams, Webster, Otto, Sessions, Clarke, Freeh, Pickard and the current Bob Mueller. How can an agency possibly have a contiguous vision of its duties and responsibilities with eleven directors politically thrust upon it in 34 years?

Back at CIA, Porter Goss has demoralized that agency, accelerating the losses of clandestine personnel that began with a misguided reliance on satellite spying at the end of the Cold War. Of his eighteen predecessors since ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan’s OSS, none has so thoroughly wrecked what took decades to build. It smells of Dick Cheney and political payback for the Iraq disaster but, smelly or not, CIA is being busted up at a time we desperately need coherence.

Let Darwin prevail. Ambassadors selected from within the State Department, who speak the language and know the history and territory; agency directors who rise to the top of their agencies on merit. If we insist upon Senatorial ‘advice and consent,’ then let the agencies and State Department propose and the Senate confirm or deny.

For more comments on Washington at work, see my personal web site.

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