joint Senate and House select committee is planning an investigation
not just into possible lapses by the CIA and other government intelligence
agencies immediately prior to September 11, but into the "intelligence
community's" response to terrorism over the past 16 years. While
the investigation might unearth a few interesting tidbits, it is
unlikely to be as bold or far-reaching as is warranted by the magnitude
of the U.S. intelligence failure. And it is even less likely to
be the thoroughgoing re-examination of the real intelligence needs
– of the United States in the post-Cold War era that many Americans
too bad. The terrorist attack represented a huge intelligence failure
by the U.S. government, one that should have more Americans – and
the supposed watchdogs in Congress and other branches of the government
– asking lots of pointed questions about just what they're doing
with all the tax money they spend. What we're more likely to get
is a polite inquiry conducted by intelligence insiders with a vested
interest in not rocking too many boats.
course, trying to determine the intelligence needs of a country
without a real debate, with all possible options on the table, over
what the foreign policy of the United States should be, is putting
that cart before the horse. Since the collapse of communism, however,
most people with an interest in foreign policy have studiously avoided
addressing fundamental questions about policy that might undermine
some of the ill-defined assumptions that now underlie foreign policy.
So we have drifted from engagement to engagement, and now into a
war, without anything resembling a clear picture of that U.S. objectives
in the world should be – let alone what the concrete objectives
(as opposed to abstract concepts like "defeating evil") of a war
on terrorism should be.
COMMITTEE OF LACKEYS
to the Washington
this will be the first time House and Senate intelligence committees
headed by members of different political parties have combined to
do an investigation. Senate leaders are said to have been a bit
apprehensive about the idea, since they wouldn't have complete control
of the committee. The best evidence, however, is that the new joint
committee will not be in business to embarrass anybody.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss is a Florida Republican,
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham is a Florida Democrat.
Both consulted with the ranking members of the opposite party before
hammering together a deal. California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the
ranking House committee member appears to be the only potential
fly in the prescribed "it was a tragic failure, it's not our fault,
give us more money" ointment. She is on record supporting a broader
commission to study September 11, and has made it clear that her
acquiescence in the joint committee idea doesn't rule out the idea
of a broader, perhaps more independent commission.
those who are on the intelligence committees in both houses of Congress
are generally loyal friends of the "community" who have become accustomed
to confidential briefings and have been tested to see to it that
they don't leak secret material at least not too promiscuously.
It's not quite accurate to call all of them lapdogs Republican Sen.
Richard Shelby of Alabama has been critical of George Tenet, the
current CIA director. But they are by and large all too susceptible
to the argument that there's a war on, the intelligence community
has lots to do, and now is not the time to be scratching at scabs
from the past.
FIX IS IN?
Thursday Sen. Graham announced that they had hired someone to run
their investigation, and all of a sudden most objections and reservations
about the investigation melted away. According to a fax sent out
a couple of days ago by the Center for Security Project – Frank
Gaffney's superhawk policy and lobbying outfit – "it is no
more reasonable to expect Britt Snider to be thorough, let alone
independent, than it would be if Enron's general counsel had been
tapped to run hearings into his company's melt-down."
is L. Britt Snider and why do the hawks think he won't conduct a
no-holds-barred investigation? Here's how the CSP puts it: "Mr.
Snider is George Tenet's guy. When Tenet was staff director for
the Senate Intelligence Committee in the late 1980s during which
period he forged close personal and professional ties with many
of the legislators now charged with overseeing his conduct the future
CIA Director made Snider the panel's general counsel. Later, when
Tenet was appointed the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI),
he asked Snider to be his 'special advisor,' in which capacity the
latter served for two years. Then, in 1999, Director Tenet persuaded
President Clinton to give this hand-picked and reliable subordinate
the role of in-house watchdog, the CIA's Inspector General."
the investigation – at least the investigation conducted by the
House-Senate joint committee – will be run by an insider, one of
the boys. And not just one of the boys, but a special
favorite of CIA Director George Tenet. Some of the Senate members
might get unruly in the next few months the staff is expected
to investigate and gather material for the next two months, whereupon
hearings that could last until July are expected – but the staff
director, who will have effective control over the scope and nature
of the investigation, will be a reliable from Mr. Tenet's perspective.
this might not be so bad if CIA Director George Tenet had ever acknowledged,
as a number of current and retired intelligence officials have,
that the September 11 attacks revealed serious problems with the
way his agency and other intelligence agencies have gone about their
business over the last decade. There have certainly been plenty
of gaps to lament, and a surprising number of people willing to
Tenet has generally apologized without content, claiming that it
would have been simply impossible to detect or prevent the September
11 attacks and overall the CIA was doing a superb job. That's almost
laughable about an agency that since the collapse of the Soviet
empire has lurched from one temporary task to another – thinking
about economic espionage here, talking about tracking former Soviet
nukes and generally flailing – seeking to find a role that would
justify its continued expensive existence in the post-Cold War world.
It might have focused on terrorism but didn't.
don't have to believe, as I do, that we would be better off dismantling
the CIA as an institution, dumping the deadwood, and starting over
from scratch, with a more clearly defined mission and sense of mission,
to believe that significant reform is desirable in America's vaunted
"intelligence community." The current investigation is
more likely to resemble a friendly whitewash – with some mistakes
admitted and many more covered up – than the kind of thoroughgoing
no-holds-barred bottom-up investigation this country deserves in
the wake of such a calamity.
Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, in calling for a Warren Commission-like
investigative effort – which might or might not be all that effective
– has pointed out another obvious fact. The House and Senate committees
that will be conducting this joint investigation are the very committees,
with most of the same members, that have had oversight responsibility
for the intelligence community for decades. They might well be part
of the problem. At any rate, Sen. Torricelli is probably right that
this committee "would not provide the full and impartial investigation
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