I have to admit to needing more information before I ‘take sides’ in the ongoing CIA wars. Changing the culture of any institution is a complicated and messy process, but it looks like I will have an opportunity to meet more than one agent/analyst from the inside who will share some views with me.
Such meetings only provide snapshots, not grand landscapes of understanding. Some of you have posted that meeting covert agents and analysts who work on classified material may leave me vulnerable to their spin, and that is true. I just need to absorb as much public and anecdotal material as possible to write further about what may be going on in America’s intelligence bureaucracy.
David Kaplan and Kevin Whitelaw have more pieces of the puzzle, however, and provide some intriguing insights about the odd departure of super-spy Stephen Kappes. This just appeared in today’s issue of U.S. News & World Report.
Here is the enticing opening to a very interesting article:
To those who worked with him, Stephen Kappes seemed the perfect choice to lead the covert side of the CIA in the midst of the war on terrorism. Appointed in June, Kappes, a former marine, is a veteran CIA case officer who served in dangerous and difficult postings in Moscow and Pakistan. More recently, he reported directly to President Bush as the CIA’s point man in secret high-stakes negotiations with Libya that ended the rogue state’s weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.
So last week, many CIA insiders were astonished when Kappes became an early casualty under the rule of Porter Goss, the recently appointed director of central intelligence. Goss, himself a former CIA case officer who recently chaired the House Intelligence Committee, came into his job in September with a mandate to reform a troubled agency blamed for a series of grave lapses before the September 11 attacks and the Iraq war.
But while Goss was widely expected to shake the place up, the departure of Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, stunned intelligence veterans in Washington, who saw the pair as the most qualified team to lead the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in years. “The planets lined up,” says Milt Bearden, a 30-year CIA veteran who ran the agency’s arming of Afghan rebels in the Soviet war. “You had the right guys in the right job at the right time.” Ironically, the two men shared Goss’s critique of the CIA’s shortcomings.
Says a former top CIA official who worked with Kappes: “These guys weren’t in denial that 9/11 and Iraq were intelligence failures.”
How, then, could two such widely praised officers end up as casualties in an effort at reform? Accusations swirled around Washington last week of partisan vendettas and bureaucratic turf wars.
In reality, it’s a complex story of bitter personality clashes that quickly spun out of control, fueled by years of mutual distrust finally playing out in a highly charged political atmosphere. With CIA morale plunging to some of the lowest levels in 25 years, the stakes could not be higher.
As the nation fights wars on multiple fronts, the episode has left many questioning Goss’s weeks-old reign and his ability to manage the far-flung intelligence community on the front lines of the nation’s defense.
I leave this evening for Hamburg, Germany where I am delivering one of the Transatlantic Lectures at the Bucerius Law School there. The meeting is at 7 p.m., Wednesday, 24 November, and is open to the public for those who are tripping through Hamburg this week. I will be giving a talk titled, “”New Transatlantic Visions or a New Round of Nightmares? Considering the Impact of November’s U.S. Presidential Election.”
— Steve Clemons