If Ron Paul were president, he would get the ball rolling immediately to abolish the CIA. That’s because he strongly disapproves of most of what the CIA does and has done in the past. He’d expend the time, energy and political costs to see the process through. He’d fight this fight with his heart in it. He’d take the risk.
However, no president, including Trump, has decided to abolish the CIA or even broached the idea in public because each one has found the agency useful and/or each did not want to expend the political capital to abolish or drastically reshape the agency. If the CIA has at times been an antagonist to a president’s agenda or position, a president has found a workaround or tolerated the discomfort and problem. Presidents have calculated that the personal costs of abolishing the CIA exceeded the personal benefits of doing so.
Libertarians who are outside the presidency and speak with other interests and constituencies in mind can document the high costs to the public of having the CIA continue. Presidents do not make this calculation. They ignore costs that fall upon others whose votes do not matter. They wish to maintain and extend their power. They have other items and programs to push, and they don’t want to sacrifice them for the sake of a battle against the CIA, which is actually a battle against Congress.
The process of abolition is actually easy to understand in theory, but it is far from an easy matter in practice because it involves some serious changes in the status quo and the enlightenment of many people. The CIA depends strongly on legislation from Congress that created it in 1947. The CIA depends upon the funding by Congress, the amount being kept secret. Committees in Congress monitor the CIA. They’d stand up for it, by and large. Because the Congress brought forth the CIA and has funded it, a fight to abolish the CIA is primarily a fight against Congress. The way to fight that fight is to go over the heads of Congress to the American people; and the way to do that is by publicizing every possible fact about the CIA. This has to be done fairly and squarely, and that means undoing the secrecy in which the CIA hides its activities.
Secrecy sustains the CIA. To abolish it, it is essential that a president inform the public of every bad thing that the CIA has ever done, even as ordered by past presidents and endorsed by past Congressmen. Their connections have to be made known. Many documents need to be declassified. Many secrets have to be made public. This is going to ruffle a great many people who’ve been in power, because their reputations will undergo reappraisals. Certainly, all documents relating to the Kennedy assassination should be immediately declassified and so should documents relating to 9/11. But that’s only a very small part of what needs to be declassified. If all of this seems unlikely, it is. But suggesting it serves a purpose. It shows how far away from where we the people stand are those in power who purport to represent us.
Both parties would surely shout “NATIONAL SECURITY” as an argument against declassifying and revealing even very old secrets. This hypothetical shows that the fight against the CIA is a fight against the bogeyman of national security, and that’s a fight against 70 years of government rhetoric. Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan were not alone among presidents in worrying about foreign communists in Vietnam and Nicaragua, respectively, and in characterizing American allies, no matter how dastardly, as freedom-fighters. All their speeches have to be overcome and seen for mistaken rhetoric and ideas, at best.
The truth is the only thing that can provide a way of cleansing the rot. The public has to learn how their government has failed them in foreign policy. They have to learn about the murky undertakings that have been ordered by presidents, funded by Congresses and carried out in secret or with coverups by the CIA. They have to learn that the connection between the CIA and national security has never been what it was claimed to be. They have to learn which members of the House and Senate are invariably half-crazed supporters of any war, any extension of American armed military might, and any covert military operation. They have to learn which are intent on pushing Russia and China around and willing to risk major nuclear war.
The truth may contain incidents in which the CIA performed in exemplary fashion. So be it. The truth must come out and be widely made known if there is to be any hope of getting rid of the CIA.
There may be useful activities that the CIA engages in. That will be the main argument for retaining the agency, but it is not difficult to spin off such activities and personnel to other departments of government.
By now, there are many books, even some written by former CIA operatives, that provide information about the CIA’s operations. This material has a difficult path being crystallized into abolishing the CIA without the intervention of a president who reaches the public at large and who is willing to cut the ground from under 70 years of secrecy, myth-making and misguided foreign policies. Donald Trump is not this man, not unless he’s playing a convoluted game that’s hiding his real hand. He is on record for saying at Langley he supports the CIA “one thousand percent” and “I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more. We’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge.” He also said that he had no “feud” with the intelligence community and “it is exactly the opposite”.
This leaves the exposure of the CIA’s evils to a relatively small libertarian-oriented community, a few concerned Congressmen, a small number of progressives, some ex-military personnel and some ex-intelligence people, some limited government supporters, and a few media and entertainment figures, among others.
It is possible that someone will be elected who halts the CIA’s covert activities. Mostly, we hear very mild criticism, as by Rand Paul:
RAND PAUL: “I think the CIA needs more oversight. Our intelligence community has very little oversight. There are only eight members of Congress that truly know what is going on in the CIA. That truly know what is going on as far as covert war around the world.”
Not only should the relevant members of Congress learn these matters and the related activities of the U.S. special forces, but the public should learn of all such activities, past and present. The fact that we do not have these matters revealed to us is why we can say that in substance we have a national security state and not a republic.
Learning what’s going on is only step 1. Step 2 is halting the covert wars on their own demerits and as a matter of right principles. Step 3 is abolishing the CIA itself as an institution, the reasons being that it has proven to be far too capable of operating outside government oversight and outside the concept of a peaceful republic operating by fundamental principles of right oriented toward the goal of a peaceful world.