Thursday, May 11, 2006

Militarizing the CIA

Daytona Beach News-Journal/May 10, 2006

The majority of the nation's $44 billion intelligence and spying operations are controlled by the Pentagon, which numbers about a dozen intelligence agencies. The biggest and most secretive is the National Security Agency, ordered by President Bush to spy on Americans -- through phone and Internet taps -- since 2001.

The CIA is independent of the military's intelligence structure. Its $1 billion budget makes it seem like a bit player in intelligence. In fact, and until recently, the CIA director was in charge of the joint meetings of all intelligence agencies and of briefing the president about all intelligence matters every morning. The CIA's independence from other agencies was regarded as a necessity: Its role was to check and challenge information on its way to the president's ears to prevent politics from tainting judgments.

The 9/11 commission and reporting about Iraq intelligence on weapons of mass destruction revealed that CIA analysts lived up to their mission, providing quite precise warnings about 9/11 (such as the Aug. 6, 2001, memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US") and analysis discrediting reports of WMDs in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. It's their superiors, up to and including Bush, who redacted the analysts' information to fit political and military agendas. It was not a failure of intelligence in the ranks. It was a failure, at the top, of reacting to the intelligence intelligently. Read the full editorial...