THIS CIA STUFF REALLY DOES MATTER. Intelligence is by definition a complicated business, but applying a political litmus test to those engaged in intelligence estimates and operations is extremely dangerous for the country.
Newsday‘s Knut Royce writes about the purge underway:
The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.
A Chevy Chase pensioner friend who has phenomenal relations among those who thrive in clandestine operations shared this with me:
The core view of the clandestine service guys is that they DO need some reorganization and redirection, but that most of the effort needs to go into quality not quantity.
It is not a matter of adding 1000 additional case officers, in their view. It is a matter of building better case officers, more in the mold of the case officers of the 1950s-70s when derring-do and serious individual risk-taking were encouraged and rewarded. New skills, new languages, new colors-of-faces, but a return to old values.
One guy told me that one of the best younger case officers in his section is a head-scarf-wearing Muslim Arab American woman with perfect Arabic fluency who has the courage, the grit and the tradecraft skills to do virtually anything, but whose potential is not well exploited because the prevailing cautious culture of the Agency keeps her (and others) largely out of harm’s way.
From Walter Pincus & Dana Priest:
Within the past month, four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications.
The four senior officials represent nearly two decades of experience leading the Directorate of Operations under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The officials were dismayed by the reaction and were concerned that Goss has isolated himself from the agency’s senior staff, said former clandestine service officers aware of the offers.
My father worked in intelligence — and back when he was alive, I learned from him and a bunch of great John LeCarre books that what we read in the papers or what we thought was going on was rarely, in fact, the case.
So, we have to use our intellect and open sources, as well as rumor and gossip, to understand what is happening in the world’s most secret bureaucracy.
I don’t have good answers, but if Goss is, in fact, purging the agency of those who did good work but were considered disloyal to Bush, then they will hire yes men who make Douglas Feith’s crimes of intelligence-twisting and cherry-picking look trivial.
For any of those disaffected intel guys out there who are reading this, I would appreciate some time with you — no names, no attribution. Contact me through email or show up at my office. Let’s talk — because I’d really like to know what is ‘really’ going on over there in The Agency.
— Steve Clemons