Politics and Intelligence Don’t Mix

14 Nov

The long history of CIA confusion, deception and straight up failure is well documented and heavily written about. That being said, the absolute best way to ensure this long tradition will continue is to allow the course of House Democrats to prevail.

Last week, the seven House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee wrote a letter to CIA Director Leon Paneta, which they then leaked to the Associated Press, calling on him to admit he was wrong when he told members of Central Intelligence that it is not their policy to mislead Congress. They would much rather admit to the fact that it is their policy to decive Congress.  This was just another salvo in the fight between CIA and the Speaker of the House that has preserved a Bush administration policy of effectively politicizing intelligence.

The problem with a President who is also in the majority is that they want intelligence to tell them what they want to know, so that they can act according to what they already think is the correct course of action. This was the trap that the Bush administration fell into prior to the Iraq war and with the existence, or lack there of, of weapons of mass destruction.

Now the Speaker, and some of her loyal members, are caught in a similar web; trying to get the CIA to admit that former Bush administration officials willfully and knowingly violated the laws against torture.  Over the last several months this issue has cost the Speaker significant political capital, as she became implicated in the torture briefings herself. But for some reason it didn’t end there and the House Democrats have continued to call for investigations of the CIA’s workings and how accurate their briefings have been to the Congressional oversight bodies.

Fair enough, if Congress is going to have oversight of the intelligence community then they should be well and correctly briefed about the goings-on of the spy agency, but that begs the question: should Congress have oversight of the CIA?

Unlike the NSA, Secret Service and the other fifteen members of the intelligence community, part of the CIA’s mandate involves a clandestine service, which has in the past directly enforced or carried out American foreign policy. This of course grew out of the CIA’s formation during the Cold War and US policy to halt the spread of Communism without engaging in a direct conflict, lest we all end up dead from a nuclear war that would make the First and Second World Wars look like an east Hampton clambake by comparison.

So the CIA, mostly of its own accord, began to fix elections and move money to support anti-communist forces and carry out the dirty little secrets that make foreign policy work. The problem is that the American people don’t like dirty little secrets,  as it’s not part of the principals this country was founded upon and in many ways it’s what we formed the country to fight against. But an effective intelligence agency is the very foundation upon which effective foreign policy is created and carried out, so we are at an ideological impasse.

Enter Congress, who can’t tie it’s shoes without calling a press conference to brag about it, to settle this small and generally inconsequential problem which will almost certainly determine the countries ability to remain a superpower. The result has been where intelligence is today, the ball in the most serious game of tennis ever being played.

Even when the CIA provides accurate information rooted in good sources and reliable backup data, politians will always want the conclusions to be what they have already concocted them to be. If House Democrats wanted a better functioning CIA, the issue then is holding hearing and working on policies. Not leaking inflamatory letters. That is politics.

The solution then, in my opinion, is to remove as many politicians from the CIA as possible. Make the CIA a more transparent agency to a select group of policy makers, experts and academics from both parties. The goal of this oversight group would be simple, to ensure that the CIA is acting in the best interests of the country and doing so within the acceptable limits of international law; in short handle the dirty secrets that Congress can’t handle, but the President and a group of advisers must for the good of the country and hopefully, the free world.


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