10 Feb 2006

Abolish the CIA

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The Washington Post today reported on an article by Paul R. Pillar in Foreign Affairs which criticizes the Bush Administration for “politicizing intelligence.”

Pillar’s basic contention is that the Bush Administration didn’t listen to the mandarins at the CIA. They cherry-picked analysis to support their own policy decisions, which were made independently of the opinions and preferences of far-better-qualified people like himself.

In Pillar’s view, the intelligence community has interests and responsibilities of its own, which need to be pursued without being in thrall to the whims of temporarily elected amateurs:

The intelligence community should be repositioned to reflect the fact that influence and relevance flow not just from face time in the Oval Office, but also from credibility with Congress and, most of all, with the American public. The community needs to remain in the executive branch but be given greater independence and a greater ability to communicate with those other constituencies (fettered only by security considerations, rather than by policy agendas). An appropriate model is the Federal Reserve, which is structured as a quasi-autonomous body overseen by a board of governors with long fixed terms.

In a slightly more polite way than the noisiest and most arrogant of the pouting spooks, Pillar is saying exactly the same thing. American foreign policy, decisions of peace and war, belong to an internal government elite, connected with and mirroring a national elite, not to temporarily elected parvenus with unconventional views on these matters, representing a bunch of yahoos from fly-over states.

At the very least, the intelligence community, if mean-spiritedly denied its own liberum veto, should really be entitled to cross the aisles and start vigorously criticizing and actively opposing any elected Administration’s policies, while retaining complete job security. A position in the US intelligence community ought to be rather like a tenured professorship at Harvard. And the collective body of that community should be, in relation to the US government, much like the Harvard faculty. When embarassed by the statements, policies, or behavior of a Bush, (shudder!) a Cheney, they ought to be able to circulate petitions advocating his removal, and vote on motions of censure.

Frankly, the more I read of this sort of arrogance, the more I feel like I’m revisiting some of the earlier sections of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

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