CIA: Ignorant, Arrogant and Incompetent
by Ralph McGehee

The New York Times reported recently — "One of the most secret documents of the Cold War is out: the CIA's inquest into the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, which laid the blame for the disastrous invasion of Cuba squarely on the agency's own institutional 'arrogance, ignorance and incompetence'."

Scans of documents:
[Now at]

ZIP files available for download:
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The CIA convinced itself and the White House that the invasion would magically create in Cuba "an organized resistance that did not exist," composed of 30,000 Cubans who would "make their way through the Castro army and wade the swamps to rally to the liberators."

If the CIA could not work with Cubans, Kirkpatrick warned, "how can the agency possibly succeed with the natives of Black Africa or Southeast Asia?"

The report warned those who would use the CIA to overthrow enemies, saying that job belongs to the Pentagon and its broad arsenal of military forces around the globe.

The IG's report painted a picture of an agency shot through with deadly self-deception, one whose secret operations were "ludicrous or tragic or both."

Also released were some 300 pages of documents with the IG's report. Those pages include comments from various top-level CIA officials who predictably laid the blame for the conclusions of the report on other factors such as the rival ambitions of Lyman Kirkpatrick and Richard Bissell, the CIA's Deputy Director for Operations and President Kennedy's cancellation of a second air strike.

The CIA to itself is never at fault — the blame always lies elsewhere — its only reaction to criticism is denial and attacks on critics.

Those reactions, to me, epitomize the then and present "incompetence, arrogance and ignorance."

As noted the Bay of Pigs report painted a picture of an agency shot through with deadly self-deception, one whose secret operations were "ludicrous or tragic or both." Kirkpatrick accuses the agency of faulty intelligence on both the strength of the Castro regime and the opposition to it. This is particularly evidenced by the realities — the CIA was matching the 1,500-man brigade, after an amphibious landing, against Castro's combined military forces, estimated as: Cuba's Revolutionary Army of 32,000 men; and the militia of 200,000 men — a prescription for a predictable disaster.

The Inspector General's report was written in 1961 but it just as appropriately could have been written about today's CIA. Any number of ex-CIA officials from John Deutch the last DCI, to recently resigned intelligence and case officers, record the state of deep rot in the CIA's Directorate of Operations (especially its leadership) and in the Directorate of Intelligence.

The United States, as the leader of the world community, needs the best possible intelligence service — something the CIA's 50-year history of failed covert operations and bad and politicized intelligence cannot provide due to its "ignorance, arrogance and incompetence."

The IG's Cuba report was made public just as the Administration was pushing another covert operation to topple Saddan Hussein of Iraq. But even a general apologist for the Agency, former CIA Director Robert Gates, said of this new plan, "Nobody should kid themselves that it will be successful ... you might as well play Lotto."

The Associated Press reported that the CIA drafted plans against Saddam Hussein using Kurds and Shiites to sabotage key economic and political targets in Iraq. The plan would be the fifth covert attempt by the CIA to get rid of the Iraqi president. DCI Tenet feels the plan is risky, and NSC adviser Berger doubts the agency's ability to undermine Hussein and warns of the debts incurred to the survivors of its various disasters.

The new plan would target utility plants and government broadcast stations, and employ propaganda programs like a "Radio Free Iraq." "This is a major campaign of sabotage." Since 1991, CIA has backed Kurdish dissidents in northern Iraq, Shiite Muslims in the south and Iraqi exiles and defectors in London and Jordan in an unsuccessful effort to destabilize Saddam.

One of the current deficiencies of the CIA is its (continuing) inability to analyze intelligence. Even the very pro-Agency House Intelligence Committee in its annual 1997 report said the CIA was unable to analyze political, military and economic information — this is about as dismal an evaluation as possible.

If the CIA is intelligence and operationally-challenged, and is "ignorant, arrogant and incompetent" and refuses to change, what good is it?

Ralph McGehee

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.

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