The CIA and the Death of Policy

THE DEATH OF POLICY….David Ignatius on Porter Goss’s crusade to root out subversion at the CIA:

Though Goss long ago served as a CIA case officer, he arrived from Capitol Hill with a phalanx of conservative aides, soon dubbed the “Gosslings,” who viewed the agency as a liberal, leak-prone opponent of conservative causes. That image is mostly nonsense ? many of the people forced out by the Gosslings were ex-military officers who would be tempted to shoot Democrats on sight, and most veterans cheered Goss’s effort to stop press leaks. Goss’s attacks on senior officers were reckless, and they peeled away a generation of senior CIA managers. Sadly, the Bush White House mostly applauded his jihad on what they viewed as CIA naysayers.

When the history of the Bush years are written, I suspect the biggest untold story of the era is going to be the one that John DiIulio warned us about almost at the beginning: The Death of Policy. George Bush’s Republican Party is driven sometimes by ideology, sometimes by corporate fealty, and sometimes by nothing more than stubbornness, but serious policy analysis rarely enters the picture anymore. Why bother when you already know exactly what you want to do?

The CIA is the latest victim of this corrosive syndrome. Are they a bunch of effete liberals who hate toughminded foreign policy? Don’t be absurd. But they sometimes produce inconvenient facts, and in Bush’s world that makes them simply a member of the opposition to be dealt with. And so they were.

Goss’s problem, ironically, is that for all the partisan witch hunting he conducted so eagerly, it turned out in the end that he wasn’t quite willing enough to destroy the agency he headed. Presumably Michael Hayden will be more tractable, and when it’s all over the Pentagon’s intelligence arms will be more powerful, the CIA will be neutered, and Washington’s other, smaller intelligence services will increasingly be sucked into the bureaucratic maw of the new Office of the Director of National Intelligence. What little dissension there used to be will be steadily planed away, and in the future presidents won’t need to deal with even the occasional “minority opinions” that were so pesky during the runup to the Iraq war. There will be only the ODNI and the Pentagon, singing like a single Greek chorus into the president’s ear.

My guess: future generations will consider the ODNI a catastrophe. For George Bush, though, it’s exactly what he’s always wanted: a department that will make sure he hears only what he wants to hear. The CIA, contra Ignatius, is not at rock bottom. There’s still plenty far it can fall.

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