Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yet Another Turf War in the Making

While browsing through some items at War and Piece, this stuck out

Executive Order 12333. LAT:

A Bush administration plan to issue new orders realigning the chain of command over U.S. spy services has triggered turf-related skirmishes across the intelligence community.

The changes could erode the CIA's standing as the nation's lead spy service abroad by requiring agency station chiefs in certain countries to cede authority to officials from other U.S. spy agencies, officials said. ...

Is this just an "updating" of the document or a real attempt at speeding along the wholesale destruction of the CIA? The basis for the changes was the virtually unnecessary creation of yet another bureaucratic strata called the Director of National Intelligence. The director, of course, has no control over national intelligence and can't hire or fire anyone or make significant changes in the budget without being told to do so by the Secretary of Defense. The DNI is supposed to guide the intelligence community, but precious little guiding can be done without any power.

Instead of dealing with anything significant, the update has a controversial provision:

The most controversial component of the new order would reshape the roles of the CIA's station chiefs, the agency's top representatives in other countries.

Station chiefs have traditionally operated with significant autonomy, serving as the main intelligence advisors to U.S. ambassadors, controlling clandestine operations in their countries, and acting as the main point of contact for foreign intelligence services.

Under the proposed plan, the station chiefs would remain in position but could be required to cede some of their authority to officials from other agencies, including the NSA or the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"There will always be a station chief," said a second U.S. intelligence official familiar with the proposal. But the director of national intelligence "may choose a different representative."

That's a recipe for disaster. In effect, the change would allow the DNI to swoop in, make a change as to who is calling the shots, and nothing can be done about it. What would cause that to happen? Say, for example, a CIA station chief refuses to allow some aspect of what he or she controls to be politicized. The DNI can walk straight out of a meeting at the White House and make a change that would sideline the station chief and put "someone else" in charge.

Well, would that someone else be the "best person for the job" or would that person be "a sycophantic yes man who will go along with anything?"

Which answer gets to the part about who is doing the job of defending this country against its enemies? Because that question never comes up when the Bush Administration starts issuing orders and changing things. The first and only consideration is--what's the best way to defend this country. Not "what can we do to make sure we get our way?"

Can we get back to the days of defending this country?

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