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Pontifications and Other Mindless Banter

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February 7, 2004

The Intel on Intelligence

Filed under: Mindless Banter @ 7:36:35 PM

I do not envy the Central Intelligence Agency.

Think about it, what other organization is asked for so much, rewarded for so little, and berated for every mistake they ever make? (With little, or no, resources to start with?) That is not an environment I’d want to find myself in.

I’ve often said that the office of the Director of Central Intelligence is the third most powerful man in the world. Third only to The President of the United States and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Currently, that office is held by George Tenet, and he’s under the gun of Congress because of some potential bad intelligence.

Bad intelligence?
What is Bad intelligence?
Mr. Tenet and his team started with NO intelligence in the case of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

I’d like to see Congress, or anyone else for that matter, do better.

Perhaps people don’t know what the CIA does?
I’m no expert, but I know a few things, enough to not envy the job one minute.
There are only so many ways to legally acquire intelligence, then there are some other more clandestine ways. Either route, the yield is very small, and most of the time inaccurate.
Think about it. How can one learn things about an organization as secure as Saddam Hussein’s?

  • Internal Moles? (Not likely, and very difficult, and expensive, to maintain.)
  • Wiretaps? (Again, difficult to maintain, and prevent from being discovered.)
  • SIGINT, or Signals Intelligence? (How does one monitor the communications of an oversees country? This is quite possible, but the data from is is not as dependable)
  • Spys? (IF you believe that, you’ve seen too many James Bond movies)
  • Informers? (Would Saddam surround himself with people who would talk?)
    There are other methods, like monitoring imports, exports, sales and shipping. These tell a great deal. (but think of the inaccuracies) Also there are satelites, but they only tell so much; and any assets in countries allied to Iraq, but that is now second or third hand information.

    The picture I’m drawing here is that the CIA and the Intelligence Community is a tapestry of bits and peices of information.
    They have the unwanted job of putting together a picture for the Executive Branch to act upon. How many mistakes have been made? Who knows. But mistakes are inevitable.

    Congress should investigate, however, they also need to take into account the difficult job the CIA has. Most of this, however, is just political posturing to make the current administration look bad. George W. Bush did the right thing in saying that George Tenet’s job is safe. (Aside, Tenet was appointed during the later part of the Clinton Administration)

    I’m not saying that any potential mistakes should be brushed aside. But I would only punish the CIA and the Administration in the same magnitude as your applaud them.

    In the CIA’s case, (where Applause is almost never) that would be a surprise.

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