If General William “Wild Bill” Donovan were alive today, as Yogi Berra might say, he’d be turning over in his grave. Not allow a military man to head CIA? How ridiculous, considering that a military man – Donovan himself – birthed Central Intelligence. Donovan, a transplanted New York City attorney originally from Buffalo, was a Medal of Honor winner from the Great War (World War I) who founded the outstanding legal firm of Donovan Leisure between the wars. Typical of the Northeast elite of the day – in contrast to present times – he was highly patriotic and fully committed to the success of the country in which he had total confidence and faith. Because he considered it his duty, Donovan volunteered to return to active service on outbreak of WWII. Having the ear of Franklin Roosevelt, he convinced the president to let him put together a behind the lines, covert unit that would take the war to the aggressors.
General Bill Donovan’s creation – the Office of Strategic Services – was legendary for the confusion and chaos that its operatives sowed behind the line of the Nazis in Occupied Europe and eventually inside the Reich itself. One of the highest accolades that a warrior possessed was to be part of the Jedburgh teams, small groups of two officers and a radio operator who parachuted at night from the belly of a bomber into France, Holland, and Yugoslavia. William Casey, himself later a Director of Central Intelligence, was a Jed case operator who managed a Who’s Who of agents including luminaries such as Major General Jack Singlaub.
Eventually the OSS spread to the Pacific where it tangled with the Japanese from Burma to Manchuria, conducting legendary missions such as the liberation of a Japanese prison camp in a far corner of Northeast Asia by Roger Hilsman, later part of President John F. Kennedy’s legendary advisory team. By the end of the war the OSS had clearly proven its worth. As the Cold War opened all agreed that American intelligence – so abysmally lacking and confused – needed to be overhauled. From the roots of the OSS came two organizations that came to play important roles in the six post-War decades: the US Army’s Special Forces and the CIA.
The Central Intelligence Agency was born in the same spirit of reform and lessons learned that produced the Department of Defense (bringing separate Services together). The motivation for the bureaucratic changes was the need to avoid the kinds of surprise that caught America short on December 7, 1941. In a Cold War, facing a nuclear-armed Soviet Union, the thinking was that we required a combined, shared agency that could process information from all sources and prevent a disaster. Given the attack on September 11, 2001 the CIA fell considerably short of that goal.
Time and the inevitable tendencies of bureaucracies and institutions to grow bloated and eventually stagnate contributed to the ineffectiveness of the Agency. So did a misguided Congressional oversight that led to the gutting of the sometimes messy human intelligence gathering arm in favor of increasingly higher technologically-based intelligence systems. Over time the senior management of the Agency grew incestuous, self-serving, xenophobic toward outside forces, and highly partisan and political. It was penetrated by Soviet moles, betrayed by agents whose bizarre behavior was somehow overlooked, and became enslaved by an intelligence ideology that rewarded group-think and punished those who strayed outside of the consensus box.
Recently resigned Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss, according to National Security Advisor Dr. Stephen Hadley, was intended from the start to be a transitional Director. His nominated replacement, Air Force General Michael Hayden, is now the focus of dark rumor and innuendo about Pentagon control of CIA, which Hadley dismisses as nonsense as does Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Goss had “spoken of leaving for some time,” Hadley said, and that wish “accelerated his plans” when President Bush decided to assemble a team that would stay with him till the end of his second term.
Hadley considers this changeover a quite normal stage in a series of anticipated events. “Porter started a process that will enable Mike Hayden to complete the [CIA] reform,” Hadley noted, indicating strongly that reform of the Agency, feared lost in this change of command, was still a primary administration objective. This is the key point in the entire discussion from which attention has been diverted – perhaps intentionally – with the red herring about Hayden’s active duty status. Is the long-overdue reform of the highly dysfunctional, anti-administration Central Intelligence Agency now stalled with Goss’ removal?
This question was raised by Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney as a great concern. “It would be troubling,” Gaffney observes, “if anything less than an energetic house cleaning of the CIA were to occur.” Other observers such as Kenneth Timmerman remain skeptical. Timmerman had a piece here about the danger of appointing fired CIA officer Steve Kappas as Deputy. Such an appointment, Timmerman considers, would have a chilling effect on the reform process initiated by Goss, if it did not flat repudiate it. Commentator and attorney Victoria Toensing “wants to be positive” about the new appointment, but is “concerned” about a possible cessation of overdue reforms.
Throughout the conservative, patriotic community it has long been recognized that two of the most critical Federal agencies, State and CIA, have been institutionally and morally corrupted. They have become incestuous in reporting, analysis, operations, and politics, and – despite professional ethics standards to the contrary – have become highly partisan and actively engaged in the political process. This subversion of the Bush administration (and previously the Regan administration) is often done in collusion with a friendly media contact who then releases classified information that could be interpreted as damaging to the administration. That it is also harmful to the country and at times to troops in harm’s way, is not considered sufficient reason to desist in the behavior.
For these reasons and many more the agencies have become useless as presently configured. Deep, long lasting, institutional reform is critical to the utility and vitality of these agencies and is in the best interests of the country, regardless of political viewpoint. What is now considered a gotcha by the fever swamp left could turn on them in the future to their dismay. It is an unhealthy state of affairs and needs correcting immediately.
Many of us are watching the appointment of Mike Hayden with hope that he will in fact arrive at Langley with a buzzing chain saw in his fist. Be must beware: any perceived timidity on his part will be attacked with open rebellion and contempt by entrenched bureaucratic interests. Kappas must be blocked as deputy right away. Hayden ought to be vocal in his opposition to this appointment. If the CIA is going to have a positive role in American foreign policy rather than that of an out of control, rogue element then it must be fixed. Is Mike Hayden the man for the challenge? We shall see.
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