blogenlust
11.17.2004

Institutionalizing Infallibilty


I am more than a little concerned about Bush's recent efforts to further insulate himself from dissenting opinions. When important decisions need to be made, it is prudent to carefully think about the consequences of acting one way or the other. With Colin Powell's departure, the President's ability to do this on important foreign policy issues has greatly diminished. To make matters worse, it appears that Porter Goss is turning the CIA into one big echo chamber:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work,'' a copy of an internal memorandum shows. "As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road." While his words could be construed as urging analysts to conform with administration policies, Mr. Goss also wrote, "We provide the intelligence as we see it - and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.'' The memorandum suggested an effort by Mr. Goss to spell out his thinking as he embarked on what he made clear would be a major overhaul at the agency, with further changes to come. The changes to date, including the ouster of the agency's clandestine service chief, have left current and former intelligence officials angry and unnerved. Some have been outspoken, including those who said Tuesday that they regarded Mr. Goss's warning as part of an effort to suppress dissent within the organization. In recent weeks, White House officials have complained that some C.I.A. officials have sought to undermine President Bush and his policies.
This is not good. I don't know if this is an overt attempt to purge the CIA of ideas and analysis contrary to the Bush White House, but it sure looks like it. I do know that this unnecessarily increases the pressure on the CIA to provide the White House with intelligence it wants, and not necessarily what it needs. This is a recipe for disaster because it raises the risk that we will be blind-sided by a terrorist attack or misled into a war by faulty intelligence. Again. I think that the CIA has gotten an unfair share of the blame for 9/11 and Iraq. Afterall, it was the CIA who gave the President the Presidential Daily Briefing headlined, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US". And with Iraq, much of the intelligence the Administration used was cherry picked to bolster the reality they wanted to produce. However, that doesn't mean that the CIA, and the intelligence community in general, should be immune to reform. Such reform, though, should be non-partisan, which is something that Goss does not seem capable of doing. If there is any Agency that should encourage outside-the-box thinking and a full consideration of opposing viewpoints it is the CIA. Unfortunately, our safety is now jeopardized because of this Administration's undying need to politicize everything.