A book that purports to be a memoir by a 25-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service paints a picture of a bureaucracy without any focus or capability in human intelligence. This suggests intelligence reform requires a thorough refounding rather than rewiring at the top.
“Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture” is the subtitle of a book published in 2008 that purports to be a memoir by a 25-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine service who served as a case-officer overseas under non-official cover.
The book paints a picture of a bureaucracy without any focus or capability in human intelligence. This suggests intelligence reform requires a thorough refounding rather than rewiring at the top.
“Jones” paints a picture of a risk-averse culture driven more by petty jealousies than by mission. Stations take advantage of any possible excuse to avoid actual spying. Case officers in the field receive no guidance toward high-value leads. Headquarters approval processes are so slow that the only way to succeed is to evade them.
If this picture is remotely true then there is probably no senior insider willing or able to undertake needed reforms, and any outsider will only be able to do so by a really determined effort in alliance with people recruited from military intelligence and others recalled from retirement. Leon Panetta has his work cut out for him!
On Tuesday, my home institution put on a day-long festsprach, or festpotenzpunkt, for Tom Schelling, rounding up a really impressive collection of heavy hitters in economics and related fields (three Nobel Prize winners sprinkled in) to talk about what they’ve been able to see by standing on Schelling’s shoulders. Among them was RBC’s own Mark Kleiman, following all these stellar acts. He gave a talk that completely blew away the opening acts, in both style and substance (mainly this stuff).
We have a firm policy at the RBC of not plugging each other, but one of the things I learned from Mark’s work in this area is that enforcement is always imperfect and violations often have a positive expected payoff. Anyway, he can go blush privately someplace and get over it.
They say that criticism makes you stronger. So Paul Pillar’s review of my book –Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11– in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs makes me a freakin Terminator.
Pillar, an ex-CIA guy, didn’t like much about my analysis of the CIA’s failure to adapt to terrorism before 9/11. Actually, he didn’t like anything at all. He also savaged Tim Weiner’s National Book Award-winning CIA history, Legacy of Ashes.
Continue reading “I was Trashed in Foreign Affairs”