Putting a political hack in charge of the CIA, what could go wrong?
As the agency prepares for a politically-charged investigation of its interrogation practices, Mr. Panetta’s leadership is noticeably lacking. Indeed, there is growing evidence that the director’s recent actions have made a bad situation worse.
We refer to the manufactured “scandal” surrounding the agency’s plans to enlist contractors in the hunt for high-value terror targets. That proposal — which involved the controversial security firm Blackwater — was discussed on several occasions, but never reached the operational stage. Three previous CIA directors declined to brief the proposal to Congress, largely because there was nothing to it.
But that didn’t stop Mr. Panetta from rushing to Capitol Hill when he learned of the project, offering an emergency briefing to members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Congressional Democrats immediately pounced on Panetta’s admission, saying it supported claims (by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) that the spy agency had repeatedly lied to lawmakers.
Sources now suggest that Mr. Panetta regrets his actions. Columnist Joseph Finder, who writes for the Daily Beast, reported last week that the CIA director spoke with his predecessors after he reported the program’s existence to members of Congress. George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden were all aware of the program, but they elected not to inform Congress because it never evolved past the “PowerPoint” stage. . .
The looming special counsel inquiry [q.v.] will make a skittish organization even more risk averse. Talented personnel will continue to leave the agency, believing (correctly) that the CIA will leave them twisting in the wind when the going gets tough.
It’s a trend that is sadly familiar. Following previous scandals in the 70s and 80s, thousands of skilled analysts and operations specialists left Langley for greener pastures, leaving behind the hacks and politicians who presided over such intelligence debacles as 9-11.