When created in 1947, the CIA was meant to coordinate objective intelligence and thus avert some future Pearl Harbor attack, but its secondary role engaging in covert operations came to corrupt its independence, a problem that must now be addressed, says ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman.
By Melvin A. Goodman
In the wake of 9/11, a time of great fear and anxiety, the C.I.A. needed sound judgment and professionalism. Its six directors over the past 13 years gave it nothing of the sort.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the C.I.A.’s sadistic torture program demonstrates why the C.I.A. needs to be eliminated and replaced by two new agencies for conducting intelligence analysis and clandestine operations. A wall is needed between worlds of analysis and operations to ensure independent assessments.
The operational world is secretive and insular. Its mentality is oriented toward counterintelligence, emphasizing intrusive security clearances and the need-to-know. It has been excessively militarized, including the controversial drone program. Its direct involvement in policy implementation undermines any possibility of independence.
The analytic world must be open and accessible to outside experts who can offer substantive critiques. The C.I.A.’s “fusion centers,” which combine intelligence analysts and clandestine operatives, produced politicized intelligence to justify war against Iraq, and orchestrated torture and abuse in secret prisons. The focus of these centers is to support policy, which undermines the ability of analysts to provide objective analysis.
The directors of the new analytical and operational agencies would have to come from outside the intelligence community. Distinguished Foreign Service officers, who understand the support role of strategic intelligence, could lead an elite intelligence organization. The director of the National Clandestine Service should come from outside the operational arena, and a distinguished board should be created to review all covert actions, which should be minimal. Both agencies should have smaller budgets and fewer personnel than the bloated directorates of today’s C.I.A.
An intelligence reorganization will require rebuilding the oversight process, which is vital to the intelligence community. The Senate Intelligence Committee took too long to expose C.I.A. violations of law and morality, and its report represents only Democrats. Increased partisanship in the intelligence committees is worrisome. Oversight at the C.I.A. is essential, but will have to be rebuilt because President Barack Obama has weakened the role of the C.I.A.’s statutory inspector general.
With new agencies and distinguished leaders, as well as aggressive oversight, we can return to President Harry Truman’s idea of a C.I.A. as a “quiet arm of intelligence.”
Melvin A. Goodman is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: The Story of a CIA Whistleblower (City Lights Publishers, 2015). [This article first appeared as a commentary at the New York Times.]