Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is the CIA Intelligent?

I posted an article on intelligence yesterday by Herbert Meyer, and a reader had this response:

Does Meyer think that any agency tries not to hire the smartest people it can find? If we were on a war footing and everyone had to go into the military, then some very bright people might prefer the CIA. That is not the situation we are in. Besides, the OSS was not that great a success, and the OSS role in analysis, what Meyer is talking about, was negligible. Also, if you have a hypothesis, that controls what you see. In a laboratory that is fine because you can run controlled experiments and test your hypothesis. Outside the laboratory you cannot or almost never can. There is no way to refute a firmly held hypothesis with intelligence. What we know is ambiguous and you can always find something to encourage you in thinking that your hypothesis is right. Trying new ideas is fine and needs to be done. But there is a counter-example to the one that Meyer cites. Casey refused to believe that the Soviet Union was doing as little as his analysts said they were to support terrorism. He made them rewrite the report several times. He finally got something closer to what he wanted but the Soviets were not doing what he thought they were doing and the way he thought they were doing it. His hypothesis was wrong but he would not let it go. Finally, is the CIA a bureaucracy or not? If it is and must be then how will this work with Meyer’s idea? In other words he seems to argue that there must not be brillant people in CIA because they did not get 9-11 right. But maybe there are brillant people there but they did not get it right because in a bureaucracy brillance does not always win. How does Meyer imagine we will organize ourselves if we do not do it bureaucratically?

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