Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An incredible article in the WSJ about how screwed up the CIA has become over the years, from Aldrich Ames to "Anonymous." As you might imagine, things were already bad, then got worse in the 90s just as they needed to be at the top of their game.

The Clinton administration greatly accelerated this process, not only by sharply cutting the CIA's budget but also by reining in almost all risk-taking operations and browbeating the agency into becoming a showcase for the Clintonian brand of affirmative action. And showcase is the right word: if the CIA typically shrouds itself in secrecy, when it comes to racial and gender preferences, few government agencies have made their internal workings quite so visible. The drive to hire more "Asian Pacific" and Hispanic officers at the very moment the CIA was facing a critical shortage of Arabic speakers, and at the very moment when Islamic terrorism was emerging as the most significant threat to our national security, speaks volumes about how and why the agency failed in its mission of safeguarding the United States.

Just as there is no single cause of the CIA's manifold shortcomings, however, so there is no single solution that can put things right. The United States is today once again at war, and contrary to the CIA's leading expert on Osama bin Laden, we are facing not a "gentle" adversary but one that has already demonstrated its capacity to murder large numbers of us. In this war, intelligence is the most important front--which means that fixing the CIA or, if it cannot be fixed, replacing it with something different and better, remains the government's most pressing task. Unfortunately, grafting a new layer of bureaucracy on top of what exists, as Congress has just done, does not even begin to grapple with the real weaknesses of the present system.

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