Saturday, October 02, 2004

The CIA and the White House -- an uneasy alliance

The New York Times > Washington > DOUGLAS JEHL > Intelligence: C.I.A.-White House Tensions Are Being Made Public to Rare Degree

I recently heard a US Senator claim that the Senate receives better briefings from Slate and the New York Times than they get from the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency. I'd always had the naive idea that the Senate was an important part of the US government. I guess I was reading the wrong constitution.

In the meantime the CIA and the White House are barely talking to one another. Our President evidently receives his intelligence from a supernatural source. Given the results to date, I suspect the president's unwordly advisor does not mean us well.

I can only wonder how bad things will be after four more years of Bush. Here's the CIA/White House story:
October 2, 2004

... James L. Pavitt spent 31 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, the last five as head of the clandestine service, before retiring in August. But never, Mr. Pavitt said Friday, does he recall anything like "the viciousness and vindictiveness" now playing out in a battle between the White House and the C.I.A.

... Already, the contents of classified intelligence estimates about Iraq have been leaked by people sympathetic to the C.I.A., to the considerable embarrassment of the White House...

... In a telephone conversation on Friday, Mr. Pavitt made an argument that echoed that others have sounded in recent weeks. "There was nothing in the intelligence that was a casus belli," Mr. Pavitt said. The C.I.A. may have been wrong about Iraq and its weapons, he acknowledged, but it was on the mark in issuing prewar warnings about the obstacles that an American occupying force would face in postwar Iraq.

Mr. Pavitt's career whose spanned the Church Committee revelations, in the mid-1970s, of C.I.A. improprieties, the sharp downsizing of the C.I.A. under President Jimmy Carter, the Iran-Contra scandal, and the repeated intelligence failures of recent years, including those related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

As deputy director of operations, Mr. Pavitt headed human spying operations, and was the day-to-day tactical commander of the clandestine war on terrorism. He worked closely with the White House, and said he has no sympathy with those in the government who may have leaked the contents of classified documents to make a political point. "The agency is not out to undermine this president," Mr. Pavitt said.

,,, But Mr. Pavitt was not alone among former intelligence officials in describing what is now unfolding as extraordinary. In interviews, several other former high-ranking officials, including those from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, said that while C.I.A. and White House were continuing to work closely and professionally together, they had rarely seen tensions so high among their allies and other partisans on both sides.

... Whatever the motivation, the steps taken by people sympathetic to the C.I.A. allies to call attention to intelligence successes on Iraq have been notable. They included the disclosure in mid-September by government officials to The New York Times of details of a classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in July 2004 and distributed in late August. Its gloomy assessment of the challenges facing Iraq said that an environment of tenuous stability was the best-case outcome the country could expect through the end of 2005.

Other disclosures by government officials early this week have included specific new details contained in two other classified documents, prewar assessments on Iraq that were issued by the National Intelligence Council in January 2003... The intelligence warnings appeared to have been much sharper than was acknowledged in the more upbeat forecasts provided before the war by Mr. Bush and top deputies including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary.

Is an agents primary responsibility to the government or to the nation? What if they know the president is incompetent and leading the nation into disaster? I don't know the answer. I'm sure I don't trust the Wall Street Journal however.

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