Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Intelligence reform bill

I haven’t said much about the intelligence reform bill passed by Congress, because I don’t claim to understand most of it; and the things I think I understand about it don’t make that much sense to me. I don’t think it is going to have any immediate effect on fighting terrorism by making our intelligence capabilities better; this is certainly the impression the MSM gave us during its campaign to get the bill passed (it is possible, of course, that over the long run it could do a lot of good). Also, I am always sceptical about so-called reform initiatives (see what happened to campaign finance reform). Reforming creeky institutions is difficult, if not impossible, without a great exertion from above. Someone has to take charge of an agency and take names and kick some rear in order to make sure that the agency in question is less interested in pushing its own agenda, in fighting its own battles, in thumping its own chest at the expense of the national interest; that’s right, the national interest as laid out by (especially in times of war or crisis) the executive branch. Why is it, for example, that the Department of State is so hard to control? Sometimes I think they think of themselves as an ombudsman between our rash president and an enlightened world. And this attitude didn’t start with W.’s presidency. This mode of this hard-to-direct, if not rogue, agency has been around for a while now. Is it possible that our intelligence apparatus is in the same state of disrepair? I think--for a while at least--it will prove more interesting to keep our eye on what Porter Goss is doing (and has done) as DCI than to watch what is going to happen with these so-called reforms. Goss (clearly, with W.’s support) is up to something. And what he is doing may have more to do with reforming our intelligence apparatus than the bill just passed. Now it is not necessarily the case that Goss will play Remirro de Orco to W.’s duke, but it is certainly the case that Goss’ subalterns are finding in him a "cruel and ready man". The president may want to end Goss’ excessive authority when the reformation takes place, take the credit, and leave everyone (who’s still around) in the spy business satisfied and, just maybe, even stupefied.

In any case, here are a few articles from the MSM on the intelligence reform bill.

Dana Priest & Walter Pincus write for the Washington Post, and this is Douglas Jehl for the N.Y. Times. I also cannot help but note that, as soon as the bill was passed, even those drum-beaters in the MSM who were most vocal in supporting it have already started questioning whether it will do any good. Bad sign.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I suspect the drumbeat for its passage was just a vehicle to criticize those Republicans whose concerns were allegedly tying it up - now that it has passed, they’ve returned to the theme of criticizing the President.

I think you’re right that Goss is the key. From the sound of it, he’s doing the sort of house-cleaning which would’ve occurred right after 9/11 in a more perfect world.

I get a sense, though, that the President saved the house-cleaning for a more appropriate time, that he knew it would be a disaster if Tenent did it and it wasn’t yet time for Tenent to leave (it was better to have Tenent close by & ready to take the hit, so to speak).

And now the CIA is being cleaned up at a moment when its ability to fight back politically is at its weakest.

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