Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
HOW DID ABORTION RIGHTS COME TO THIS?  — Carol Hanisch charts how the right to an abortion began to erode shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision; Uber vs. the Cabbies: Ben Terrall reports on the threats posed by private car services; Remembering August 1914: Binoy Kampmark on the enduring legacy of World War I; Medical Marijuana: a Personal Odyssey: Doug Valentine goes in search of medicinal pot and a good vaporizer; Nostalgia for Socialism: Lee Ballinger surveys the longing in eastern Europe for the material guarantees of socialism. PLUS: Paul Krassner on his Six Dumbest Decisions; Kristin Kolb on the Cancer Ward; Jeffrey St. Clair on the Making of the First Un-War; Chris Floyd on the Children of Lies and Mike Whitney on why the war on ISIS is really a war on Syria.
The Latest Flawed Reorganization Scheme

The Decline of the CIA

by MELVIN A. GOODMAN

CIA director John Brennan is promoting a reorganization scheme at the Central Intelligence Agency that will make it more likely that intelligence analysis will be politicized to support the interests of the White House and senior policymakers.  The organizational change that he favors would abolish the directorates of intelligence and operations, which were designed to maintain a bureaucratic wall between intelligence analysis and clandestine actions, in order to create regional and functional
“centers” that would place analysts and operatives side-by-side.  There is no doubt that such centers would do great harm to the production of strategic intelligence and would increase the likelihood of politicizing all intelligence production.

The CIA already relies heavily on so-called fusion centers, such as the Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) and the Counter Intelligence Center (CIC), which combine intelligence analysts and clandestine operatives.  These centers were responsible for the operational failures in 2009 that allowed a Nigerian terrorist to board a commercial airline flight to the United States and enabled a Jordanian suicide bomber, a double agent, to enter (and blow up) the most sensitive CIA base in Afghanistan.  More recently, the CTC contributed to the intelligence failure regarding the danger and the lethality of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which has contributed to the policy nightmare in the Middle East that just claimed a major bureaucratic victim, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.  And let’s not forget the role of the CTC regarding the 9/11 intelligence failure, the most important intelligence setback since Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier.

The analysts in these centers do serve an important purpose as “targeting analysts,” which allows them to concentrate on identifying targets for drone attacks in the case of the CTC or for counter-intelligence operations in the case of the CIC.  This is very tedious and parochial work, but very different from the kind of academic and analytical work needed to produce trenchant analysis on long-term geopolitical concerns regarding Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.  There is already too much insularity in these regional offices, which do not take full advantage of outside experts, and combining analysts and operatives will lead to greater parochialism.

The “centers” that currently exist have become more or less service centers for policymakers, answering specific questions and preparing requested briefings, but not distinguished for exploring new ideas or for sponsoring competitive analysis.  They often justify themselves by citing the numbers of briefings given to policymakers or staffers, with an emphasis on quantitative
evaluation and rarely on qualitative assessment or lessons learned.  This is similar to the evaluation that takes place in the National Clandestine Service (formerly the directorate of operations) that grades its operatives on the number of recruitments...

CounterPunch’s Top Stories
TOMAS YOUNG
Editor’s Note: News came yesterday that Tomas Young, an Iraq war vet turned anti-war activist, had passed away...
GARRY LEECH
How can it be just that so few dictate the lives of so many? And I’m not referring...
MIKE WHITNEY
“The Republican victory does not represent a shift by the American population to the right, but demonstrates the...
WILLIAM BLUM
“Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday [August 27], sending armored...
RUTH FOWLER
When it comes to entertainment, people either want to escape from their assholedom, or to watch it in...
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
The dark force of ISIS is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and...
ARUN GUPTA
There is a standard critique of the U.S. political system that seemingly explains why right-wing ideas drive the national agenda...
ROBIN D.G. KELLEY
Wait. Patience. Stay Calm. “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views,” said the first...
AMB. ANDREW I. KILLGORE
Alison Weir writes at the beginning of her book, Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how...
Visit our archives for even more interesting articles from past CounterPunch authors.