“If we integrate intelligence . . . it makes for a better product for policymakers, decision makers — whether they’re sitting in a foxhole or sitting in the White House,” Clapper told the Geoint (Geospatial Intelligence) 2011 Symposium, a gathering of intelligence experts, last week.
First a confession. I agreed with those who considered the legislation that established the director of national intelligence (DNI) a bad and unnecessary idea. The move did not reform the intelligence community but rather added a new layer to an already large and competitively structured bureaucracy.
Intelligence functions best when those in charge as well as those below work easily and not competitively with one another. This also assumes the president and his White House staff have some sophistication about the intelligence community and its work.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, the director of central intelligence — who also headed the CIA — was not competing with the secretary of defense because the latter controlled more than 85 percent of the intelligence budget. It was accepted that the CIA and FBI worked in separate lanes, a situation that went back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, despite attempts by more recent directors to better coordinate activities.
The 1990s post-Cold War period was disastrous for the intelligence community, after CIA Director William Casey had led President Reagan into the foolhardy Iran-contra affair, thanks in part to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who actually became a facilitator of the project. The blame for the affair centered on the CIA as well as the White House.
The CIA was cast further adrift after President Bill Clinton, who had no personal connection to the agency, in 1993 appointed R. James Woolsey as director, a man he’d never previously met.
When Woolsey left and a potential successor withdrew his name from consideration, Clinton in 1995 turned to then-Deputy Defense Secretary John M. Deutch, who sought to use the job to become defense secretary during Clinton’s second term.
Appointed in 1997 as the fourth director in six years, George J. Tenet established continuity. Though Tenet survived the transition in 2001 to President George W. Bush, he had to deal with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had his own ideas about intelligence. Early on, Rumsfeld set up competing shops in the Pentagon.
Sept. 11 was cited as a CIA intelligence failure, in part because the agency post-Deutch had become “risk averse” and in part because it and other members of the community did not share their intelligence. In the wake of 9/11, the intelligence agencies on their own made changes, as joint counterterrorism centers were expanded and new ones created, including the National Counterterrorism Center.