The CIA's leakers lack the Cold Warriors' sense of purpose

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The CIA's leakers lack the Cold Warriors' sense of purpose

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 11:53 am

This Isn't Just 'Dissent'
The CIA's leakers lack the Cold Warriors' sense of purpose.

BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, May 12, 2006 12:01 a.m.

In the same week that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent his antic epistle to President Bush ("I have no doubt that telling lies is reprehensible in any culture"), a House subcommittee released a report on the U.S.'s public diplomacy efforts around the Islamic world titled "State Department Efforts to Engage Muslim Audiences Lack Certain Communications Elements and Face Significant Challenges." That's an understatement.

Among the "significant challenges" to getting a coherent U.S. message out to the Arab world, one might include the odd recent habit of employees at the CIA to leak to the press key elements of the government's war on Islamic terror. What conclusion do you think might be reached by an 18-year-old Yemeni reading online the details of these leaks about U.S. officials "confirming" wiretaps and secret terrorist prisons? He might reasonably conclude that major parts of the American government don't want to wage a war on terror and think the war is merely the obsession of the country's president.

This conclusion found its way into Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "diplomatic" letter to President Bush. "European investigators have confirmed the existence of secret prisons in Europe," Iran's president wrote. "I could not correlate the abduction of a person, and him or her being kept in secret prisons, with the provisions of any judicial system." Any reason to believe this also doesn't correlate with the views of whoever in the CIA leaked the prisons' existence?

We used to live in simpler times. From 1950 to 1991, America's enemy took the form of a country with hundreds of ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads aimed at the U.S. mainland, and a global espionage force called the KGB with a single address, Moscow. This was the Cold War, and in those days the U.S. intelligence community had a common worldview. That ideology was laid out in the now-famous National Security Council document 68, delivered in April 1950 to President Harry Truman. The Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb the previous August.

NSC-68's first page--"Background of the Current Crisis"--describes a Soviet Union that is "animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world." NSC-68's chapter headings were not about mere policy but the basics, describing "The Fundamental Purpose of the United States" and "The Underlying Conflict in the Realm of Ideas and Values Between the U.S. Purpose and the Kremlin Design."

Who could disagree? Well, many did--ceaselessly outside the government, mostly in academic centers and policy journals. It was a lively, titanic debate. But not inside the government, or at least nothing that compares to what has been leaking out about the war on terror. The most serious bureaucratic disputes within the government's Cold War intelligence agencies involved disagreements over arms-reduction proposals in the SALT talks and the like. But there was no serious disagreement with the ideology or threat described in NSC-68.

Occasionally some in the West's intelligence services who couldn't abide this ideology (or decided to cash out) simply defected; they went over to the other side. In the mid-1970s the anti-Vietnam Democratic left of the Senate Church Committee hearings popularized the notion that the CIA was itself a kind of evil empire. Still, containing Soviet communism remained the animating idea inside the national security bureaucracies until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Today we have neither institutional discipline nor a shared ideology. The foundational U.S. document in the war on terror is the June 2002 Bush Doctrine, a response to September 11. But here the threat itself is debated endlessly. Islamic terror has no address. Obviously swaths of the national security bureaucracy--the Pillars, Wilsons and McCarthys--not only don't buy into the Bush Doctrine but feel obliged to take their disagreements with it outside the government. Since Vietnam, a war as in Iraq is no longer a national commitment but a policy matter.

As a result, the security bureaucracies have become a confused tangle of oppositional ideas over the war in Iraq, discrete policies such as the warrantless wiretaps, and the nature of the threat from Islamic terror. Out of this confusion of policy and purpose have fallen leaks as sensitive as the al Qaeda secret prisons and as oh-golly-gee as yesterday's "leak" about the government analyzing billions of phone-call patterns to pick up terrorist activity.

Aldrich Ames was a CIA traitor. Is this treason? I don't think so. But it may be a prosecutable crime under the terms of the Espionage Act. It certainly doesn't qualify as simple dissent, which seems to be the view in elite press circles. Using a privileged, confidential position inside an intelligence agency to blow up a U.S. government's war policy isn't "dissent." It's something else.

Disagreements at this stage of the terror war are inevitable. But the one thing that can erode and destroy any public bureaucracy, whether it is the CIA fighting Islamic terror or a FEMA fighting hurricanes, is the loss of a shared, defined institutional mission.

If the Defense Department under its intelligence secretary, Stephen Cambone, is expanding its role in this area, it is in part because Defense at least has a shared internal view of the antiterror mission. You may disagree with that view, but it achieves the first requirement of enabling a bureaucracy to function. At the CIA, the line between legitimate and illegitimate policy dissent seems a matter of personal preference.

If confirmed, Gen. Michael Hayden's biggest problem at the CIA will be that some of his employees are the products of a culture that no longer understands or respects the sense of purpose, discipline and honor of the best Cold Warriors, who understood that the government is an elected hierarchy of constitutional responsibility and not a faculty senate free to undermine mere presidents*. He will have to make clear that any official who finds internal dissent procedures inadequate to his or her "moral obligation" to overturn strategic doctrine, affect election outcomes or destroy an intelligence operation should get out or be willing to risk criminal prosecution. And it would help this country's sense of purpose if he made that clear not only to the CIA but in public to the American people.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnist ... =110008366

*I've just finished reading Eric Haney's Inside Delta Force, and here's what he has to say about the CIA: "The CIA operatives I have met have been dedicated, intelligent, decent, mission-focused, and self-sacrificing citizens. I only wish I could say the same for the higher-ranking members of that organization." With the de-emphasizing of humint under pre-9/11 administrations, the opportunistic careerists in the agency have had their head. Their tendency to ally with the enemy of their enemy, i.e., the State Department against the DoD, has allowed them to become bureaucratic politicians who think their judgment is superior to that of elected officials, esp. if those elected officials are Republicans.
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 12:49 pm

I worked closely with a number of those Cold War intelligence types, both in the Army and the CIA. They had a sense of purpose blended into a blindness to see andf understand a changing world. They were also largely immune to the strictures of domestic law.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 2:06 pm

Ralph wrote: They were also largely immune to the strictures of domestic law.
Some domestic laws are unconstitutional and only the willingness of the executive branch to "play along" have prevented the laws from being submitted to the courts for adjudication. I was reading a glancing reference to Chadha just the other day in an article on the War Powers Act. Reminded me again of why I just adore that case!
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 3:00 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote: They were also largely immune to the strictures of domestic law.
Some domestic laws are unconstitutional and only the willingness of the executive branch to "play along" have prevented the laws from being submitted to the courts for adjudication. I was reading a glancing reference to Chadha just the other day in an article on the War Powers Act. Reminded me again of why I just adore that case!
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Anyone can consider any law to be unconstitutional but the generally accepted principle is that a law IS constitutional until declared otherwise by the Supreme Court.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Sun May 14, 2006 7:48 pm

When my "Uncle" Charlie Allen blew the whistle on Ollie North he did so not for partisan purposes, nor for career advancement, but simply because it was the right and lawful thing for him to do. He saw it as his duty as an American citizen, let alone as an active member of the intelligence services he saw being disgraced.

That does not make every leak the same, nor justified, just pointing out that leaks that threatened the government of the day (or were thought damaging) are not simply an issue of our day, but have been around a long time.

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Post by Ralph » Sun May 14, 2006 7:58 pm

Brendan wrote:When my "Uncle" Charlie Allen blew the whistle on Ollie North he did so not for partisan purposes, nor for career advancement, but simply because it was the right and lawful thing for him to do. He saw it as his duty as an American citizen, let alone as an active member of the intelligence services he saw being disgraced.

That does not make every leak the same, nor justified, just pointing out that leaks that threatened the government of the day (or were thought damaging) are not simply an issue of our day, but have been around a long time.
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Right!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 15, 2006 1:19 am

Brendan wrote:When my "Uncle" Charlie Allen blew the whistle on Ollie North
Brendan! You been holding out on us! Tell us more!

While I loved every minute of North's tour de force before Congress, the guy really had no concept of what it meant to be the fall guy. The fall guy is supposed to, you know, take one for the team. He's not supposed to stand up and defend himself, especially if he can make the politicos in Congress look like the buffoons they are into the bargain (they usually stage-manage much better than they did in those Iran-Contra hearings).
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon May 15, 2006 1:28 am

When Charlie was stationed in Australia, my mother used to laugh that if we had a coup or governement spill she'd know who to blame.

Charlie was not one of those named in the whole "Falcon & the Snowman" thing which highlighted CIA involvement in the spill of the Whitlam Government. But the family joke remains.

I recall when the Ollie North thing first hit the news. We went to ask Charlie what the real deal was - only to find it was Charlie who spilled the beans on those idiots behaving illegally and immorally in the basements of consulates etc. Took a long time for him to come in from the cold.

As one senator(?) said recently when Charlie was appointed to Homeland Security "When we say we demand a pint of blood from those who serve our country, just take a look at Charlie Allen's record."

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 15, 2006 1:44 am

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Great story! Got any more?
Brendan wrote:those idiots behaving illegally and immorally in the basements of consulates etc.


Ah, well, I've never been able to get very worked up over unauthorized augmentation of appropriations. But then I don't have a lot of respect for the people actually in the Congress. It's pretty good institution, but since Watergate we've been in another period of the Imperial Congress, sort of like it was after the Civil War and the death of Lincoln. Its 535 members are competing way too much with the executive for bragging rights about who runs the country. If the executive branch were intended to be the lowly handmaiden of the Congress, it would have been a subset of Article 1. People viewing it from the outside, like us mere mortals, often get misled that what they are witnessing is the struggle of "the people" against an arrogant executive run amok, when what they are really witnessing is a fierce struggle between the Congress as an institution and the Executive as an institution and the Congress is the Goliath.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon May 15, 2006 2:01 am

Selling munitions to an enemy who then use them to kill Marines goes beyond a little budget-fiddling and bureucracy-dodging on the side. Anyone today really think selling bombs and stuff to Iran on the sly is a really good idea, and that they wouldn't use such things against the USA and its interests? Would you approve of a European country selling munitions to Iran, however non-nuke? I wouldn't.

The man (North) was a disgrace, and watching the undeserved accolades for patriotism quite repulsive to me, at least.

I've got heeps of weird family stories. Comes from being in a weird family.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 15, 2006 10:46 am

Brendan wrote:Selling munitions to an enemy who then use them to kill Marines goes beyond a little budget-fiddling and bureucracy-dodging on the side. Anyone today really think selling bombs and stuff to Iran on the sly is a really good idea, and that they wouldn't use such things against the USA and its interests? Would you approve of a European country selling munitions to Iran, however non-nuke? I wouldn't.

The man (North) was a disgrace, and watching the undeserved accolades for patriotism quite repulsive to me, at least.

I've got heeps of weird family stories. Comes from being in a weird family.
Yes, it was a shortsighted policy as far as Iran, but folks rarely focus on that end of it. Most of the time, to the extent that anyone but the Democratic congress focused on Iran-Contra, it was the Contra part that got their shorts in a twist. Shades of Viet Nam, don't you know. Supporting our friends against our enemies in Latin America was a sound policy that the timid Democratic Congress refused to endorse in an effort to head off another "quagmire" in Latin America. Reagan did the right thing supporting the Contras but he was really as tone deaf as the rest of them when it came to the Islamofacist threat. The arms sales to Iran were not used against Marines - Reagan had boogied out of Lebanon 3 years earlier. They were used against Iraq in furtherance of our balance of power tinkering trying to keep the two at each others throats so neither would dominate the region.

I guess I'm ambivalent about North. I'd have more respect for him if he'd quietly disappeared and revealed all 30 years later. But I gotta tell you: there were many of us who cheered his defiant testimony before the Congress, who made him a media star. Many of us thought those idiots should have been put in their place long ago, but careerists dare not attempt such boldness, even against other agencies within the executive branch, never mind against powerful chairmen and committees on the Hill. He had the freedom of knowing his career was over and he had a lot more guts than McFarlane and Poindexter, whose careers were equally dead, to tell it like it was. I wished often I had tapes of those encounters.

Please feel free to offer any more Tales From the Weird anytime. They crack me up.
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Post by Ralph » Mon May 15, 2006 2:15 pm

Brendan wrote:Selling munitions to an enemy who then use them to kill Marines goes beyond a little budget-fiddling and bureucracy-dodging on the side. Anyone today really think selling bombs and stuff to Iran on the sly is a really good idea, and that they wouldn't use such things against the USA and its interests? Would you approve of a European country selling munitions to Iran, however non-nuke? I wouldn't.

The man (North) was a disgrace, and watching the undeserved accolades for patriotism quite repulsive to me, at least.

I've got heeps of weird family stories. Comes from being in a weird family.
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For those who don't know Brendan's father was the most high-ranking and distinguished officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.

When I was in a local police department our F.B.I. liaison man had been a classmate of North at Annapolis. He asked at a staff luncheon that we all offer a prayer for Ollie as he was being investigated. I got up and left the room.
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon May 15, 2006 5:52 pm

Just for context, my father (on exchange) and Charlie Allen were at USAF Air War College together many years ago now. Lot's of connections made that lasted down the years.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 15, 2006 6:14 pm

Ralph wrote: When I was in a local police department our F.B.I. liaison man had been a classmate of North at Annapolis. He asked at a staff luncheon that we all offer a prayer for Ollie as he was being investigated. I got up and left the room.
Must not have been dim sum . . .
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 15, 2006 6:16 pm

:oops: I never heard of the guy, or at least if I read about him, it didn't stick. I plugged his name into Google, and this is what popped up. I don't know the host site.
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Post by Ralph » Mon May 15, 2006 7:33 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote: When I was in a local police department our F.B.I. liaison man had been a classmate of North at Annapolis. He asked at a staff luncheon that we all offer a prayer for Ollie as he was being investigated. I got up and left the room.
Must not have been dim sum . . .
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Definitely not. It was at a Greek-owned restaurant where the owner generously discounted the bill when we ate there or had a party.
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