Congress Attacks the CIA
by Ralph McGehee, July 1997

The two June 1997 Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee reports recommended approval of the intelligence budget (approved 7/10/97) while demanding changes in the way the Intelligence Community (IC) operates.

Both Committees ordered an improvement in analytical personnel and results. This to me is exactly right. Since the earliest days of the CIA, it recruited people both for itself, and the foreign liaison services it creates, who are psychologically tested to be team-playing extroverts with rigid mentalities — sounding the death knell for controversial or accurate intelligence. The CIA over its entire history has recruited those deficient in analytical promise and its 50-year record of intelligence failures should have clued us to the problem. The 25-year failure of intelligence on Vietnam is but just one example.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SIC) Report 105-24, June 9, 1997, is particularly detailed and informative and while authorizing increases in budget and personnel for the CIA, notes the inability of CIA analysts and directs that this problem be corrected. The report also orders CIA make new investments and efforts in counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-intelligence and covert action. This report taken with the companion House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, below, documents the intelligence community's analytical inabilities. You cannot run effective operations against terrorists, drug dealers, distributors of weapons of mass destruction and others if you do not and cannot analyze the information you collect.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HIC) report 105-135, 6/18/97 is especially condemnatory stating the Intelligence Community (IC) has very limited analytical capabilities to meet the myriad challenges, especially strategic and predictive. The report says the IC lacks the analytical depth, breadth and expertise to monitor political, military, and economic developments worldwide. Analytical deficiencies include: a largely inexperienced workforce; lack of foreign languages; limited in-country familiarity among analysts; and a focus on current intelligence that erodes strategic analyses. The IC must improve training and personnel selection. The IC is awash in unexploited open source information. "Put simply, collecting information that is not processed and analyzed is simply a waste..."

Unfortunately the two Committees do not address the other major deficiencies of the CIA. Any number of analysts, and books by some of them, record the impossibility of accurate intelligence surviving the bureaucratized and politicized processing of CIA's Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

In my experience, raw field intelligence had to survive political decisions by the Directorate on Operations (DO) managers — who frequently achieved those positions by accommodating to the demands of politicizing information. In a large field station, raw reports were measured by the operational desk chief, the station reports office and in some cases the Deputy Chief and Chief of Station. This review was repeated when and if the report reached Headquarters — the DO desk chief, the branch chief, the division reports officer, and the division chief, before it was sent on to the DI. The DI then followed a similar procedure for reports from the DO. One informed person recorded eight DI review layers these had to survive prior to dissemination.

The Agency denies this and other problems via its media operations. Using its relationship with the media, CIA routinely turns or tries to turn intelligence and operational failures into successes. The standard canard — its successes must remain forever secret while its failures are headlined — is for the most part not true.

The CIA's pre-1975 use of over 500 members of the domestic media to burnish its image, boost its covert operations and cover its failures, gives lie to this canard. In more recent times, CIA report dated 10/12/91, entitled "Task Force on Greater CIA Openness", outlined its relationship with the media. The report said:

PAO (Public Affairs Office) has relationships with reporters from every major wire service, newspaper, news weekly and TV network ... this has helped turn some "intelligence failure" stories into "intelligence success" stories, and it has contributed to ... countless others. In many instances we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold or even scrap stories.

An example of this occured after its egregious failure to predict the downfall of the USSR. The Agency tried to turn this embarrassment into a "success." Rather than determine what went wrong with intelligence under DCIs Casey and Gates, the CIA waged a campaign to show that it anticipated the Soviet collapse. CIA declassified selected documents, and then the Director of Intelligence, Douglas MacEachin, took a sabbatical at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government where the CIA financed the case study that concluded "CIA got it right." Both profited. Harvard continued to receive millions in research contracts from CIA and the Agency protected its image. Details of its vindication appeared in an article by Bruce Berkowitz and J. Richelson — their article drew heavily on the Harvard case study.

It should be clear why the CIA has such a terrible intelligence record. The politicized/bureaucratized structure ensures that managers, who owe their supervisory positions to political accommodations, can alter, negate or cancel unwanted information. The current CIA leadership is replete with those who have documented records of politicizing intelligence, as recorded in an article in March 1997 issue of Foreign Policy Magazine.

The article says that former DCI Gates's immediate successors have compounded the problem by refusing to deal with politicization of intelligence. They have condoned efforts seeking to obfuscate the record and have recycled those high-level officials who contributed to the politicization. Two senior officers who corrupted intelligence on the USSR later became the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Russia and the Deputy Director for Intelligence. The project manager for the politicized papal plot assessment is one of CIA's highest ranking officers, the Deputy Director for Operations. The co-author is the CIA historian. Deutch even named Gates to head a panel to determine whether a NIE had been politicized.

Now Congress charges the CIA to meet the challenges of counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, counter-intelligence and increased covert action. It is obvious that this terribly flawed organization cannot meet these difficult challenges. But it is just as obvious that we will sit on our collective hands and do nothing as we wait for the next CIA operational/intelligence disaster.

This report was copied from Ralph McGehee's CIABASE website as at 2001-11-14 CE.

A copy of the entire Serendipity website is available on CD-ROM.  Details here.

Ralph McGehee and CIABASE
Audiotapes, Videos, CD-ROMs, Books and Articles
A CIA Reading List The CIA Serendipity Home Page