James Clapper will be the new director, the fourth in five years. The position was created
in response to the attacks on September 11th. Congress wanted one person to oversee all
the various intelligence operations and coordinate all the streams of information.
The United States has all kinds of intelligence gathering going on at any one time. The
CIA, NSA, Pentagon, Homeland Security, and the FBI are just a few. After September 11th,
it was clear the right hand had no idea what the left hand was doing or, more importantly,
didn't want the other hand to know what they were doing. So Congress envisioned one person
who could see the big picture. One person would rise above the turf wars. One person who
could force agencies to share. This is what they said they wanted. In reality, they wanted
nothing of the sort. They created a position with no authority.
The Director of National Intelligence has no control over the budgets of the various
agencies he is supposed to coordinate; contrary to the fact that controlling the money is key
to the power in Washington. He does not have the power to hire and fire. In fact, he cannot
even order an agency to follow his directives. He is a bureaucratic eunuch!
I don't want to say I told you so, but...at the time this idea was trotted out, I pointed out
that without control of the purse strings and personnel this position was a figurehead at best.
It was and is a waste of tax payer money. The only power the position has is power given by
the President. The President appoints the DNI as well as the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI,
Homeland Security, and the Secretary of Defense. This is a recipe for internecine civil war,
with each agency vying for the President's ear. In Blair's case, he ran into CIA Director Leon
Panetta who undercuts him at every opportunity because Panetta has the President's ear.
Creating this position made a dysfunctional intelligence operation even worse than before.
Congress knew this and so did President Bush. Well, not President Bush as much as Vice
President Cheney. Cheney had his thumb all over the intelligence operations. He had his own
guy, little Dougie Feith, running an off-the-books intelligence shop in the basement of the
Pentagon. He easily steamrolled an inexperienced Condoleezza Rice, the National Security
Advisor. He made unprecedented numbers of trips to CIA headquarters to pressure analysts
to give the intelligence analysis he wanted. He had a weak CIA director in George Tenet, who
assured President Bush the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was a "...slam dunk".
He was even tasking the CIA to run down leads which would help build his case for war with
Iraq (Joe Wilson's trip to Niger). The last thing Cheney, Libby, Rice, Rumsfeld, Feith, Perle,
and Wolfowitz wanted was one central figure who could coordinate intelligence.
The irony is the attack on September 11th might have been thwarted if Bush or Cheney or
Rice had been interested. Bush got daily intelligence briefings from the CIA and FBI, yet
apparently never asked "...what's new?" His counterterrorism expert, Richard Clarke, was
begging for a meeting with "the principles" to discuss the threat of an al Qaeda attack. He
never got the meeting. CIA analysts were purported to have "...their hair on fire" from what
they were picking up about an attack. On August 6th, 2001, the CIA went to Texas and briefed
Bush that an attack could be imminent and bin Laden may already have his people in place.
They even said they could use airplanes for the attack. Bush thanked them, told them they had
"...covered their asses", and went off to play golf. There was no need for a Director of National
Intelligence. The evidence was there. They weren't interested.
In 2002, the head of the CIA European station told the Bush Administration there were
no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The CIA head was told they weren't interested in that
information anymore. The CIA also told him Iraq had not tried to get "yellowcake" from Niger.
Even the lapdog Tenet made Bush change a speech in Cincinnati in which he claimed evidence
of WMD's. However, in July 2002, Bush had already told Britain's head of M16 we were going
to war. All that needed to be done was to "...cook the books" to get the American people on
board (we know this from the Downing Street Memos).
The position of Director of National Intelligence should be abolished. It has no power.
The justification for such a position is less valid than rearranging the deck chairs on the
Titanic. It's like stacking those chairs in front of the lifeboats, an intentionally political
stumbling block to direly needed national intelligence. Unless Congress is willing to give
the director line-item authority over intelligence budgets, unless the President is willing to
make the CIA, Pentagon, etc. subservient to him, unless all kinds of turf is surrendered,
the job is a joke.
The intelligence failure of September 11th and the debacle that is the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars were not a result of lack of intelligence. They were a result of politics trumping truth, a
very difficult but not impossible obstacle for a truth-hungry citizen to overcome. The only way
any democracy can survive is for its individual citizens to be informed. If our politicians are
informed and deny us access to that information, we should simply quit pretending that the
United States is a democratic republic. Unfortunately, President Obama seems to be following
a similar vein as his predecessors, again mindlessly rearranging the deck chairs. What do you
think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org