Expensive Snoozers at the CIA

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Sorry
to say, there’s not much that’s new.

“The
CIA was asleep, the FBI was asleep, the FAA was asleep,” James
Woolsey told Chris Matthews on MSNBC on the night before the release
of the September 11 Commission’s final report.

“The
rubber never met the road,” explained Woolsey, CIA chief during
the first two years of the Clinton administration, referring to
how 19 hijackers could beat U.S. defenses from top to bottom in
the largest attack on American soil in the nation’s history.
Unfortunately, American intelligence has been asleep at the wheel
for a long time, for half a century, from Iran in 1953 to Manhattan
in 2001. More money and more power, the traditional recommendation,
have never worked in the past.

In
installing the repressive regime of the Shah of Iran in 1953, a
more or less fascist dictator with his own string of torture chambers,
the CIA was fully asleep as to how this assault on Iran’s sovereignty
would in due course advance the Islamic revolution that brought
the Ayatollah Khomeni to power in the 1970s, a revolution which
caught the CIA by surprise.

Coming
up short again, the CIA didn’t quite foresee how giving training,
weapons and financial support to Osama bin Laden to drive the Soviets
out of Afghanistan could lend a helping hand in inciting much of
the Arab world into a jihad against the entire “godless society
of the West,” Manhattan included.

In
1998, after 36 years of secrecy about exactly how the CIA bungled
the Bay of Pigs invasion, a Freedom of Information Act request by
the National Security Archive unearthed a report written by Lyman
Kirkpatrick, the CIA’s Inspector General. Kirkpatrick’s
conclusion after a six-month investigation: “The agency became
so wrapped up in the military operation that it failed to appraise
the chances of success realistically. Furthermore, it failed to
keep the national policymakers adequately informed.”

As
Stanford historian Roderick Kramer explains, President Kennedy “did
not have good reason to believe that the plan would fail.”
What Kennedy didn’t know is that the entire operation was,
in Kirkpatrick’s words, “sabotaged by bad intelligence,
incompetent staffing, illusionary planning and self-deception.”

With
the Soviet Union, Herbert E. Meyer, who served during the Reagan
administration as special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence
and vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council,
writes of the CIA’s “deep failure in the Cold War”
in a recent National Review column.

“For
several years during the Reagan administration, I had access to
many of our intelligence services’ most closely held secrets,”
explains Meyer. “In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the CIA
produced a stream of intelligence assessments whose key judgment
was that the Soviet economy was growing at an annual rate of more
than 3 percent. The implication of this steady growth was that the
Soviet Union had the economic wherewithal to continue fighting the
Cold War for as long as anyone could foresee. There was just one
problem with the agency’s key judgment: It couldn’t possibly
be right. If you understood how an economy works — or if you just
put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walked the streets of Moscow,
or Leningrad, or Minsk with your eyes wide open — it was obvious
that the Soviet economy wasn’t growing at 3 percent. It wasn’t
growing at all: It was starting to implode.”

And
there are, of course, the CIA’s exploding cigars, designed
to change the government in Cuba, and the poisons sent to the Congo
to kill Patrice Lumumba, the CIA-funded assassins of Rafael Trujillo
in the Dominican Republic, the CIA-supported coup against Ngo Dinh
Diem in South Vietnam, and the killing of Gen. Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief
of the Army, during a CIA-instigated coup to prevent Salvador Allende
from assuming the office of President of Chile, all officially documented
in the 1975 report of the Select Committee of the U.S. Senate to
Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.

Well,
Castro’s still there and Woolsey says the CIA was sleeping
on the morning of September 11, in spite of all the wake-up calls
at the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers barracks in
1996, the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,
and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

What’s
clear, at $40 billion per year for intelligence, is that we’re
paying a mighty steep price for a lot of heavy sleepers.

July
27, 2004

Ralph
R. Reiland [send him mail]
is a
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist and the B. Kenneth Simon
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University.

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