Thursday, May 11, 2006

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Open CIA thread

I've been remiss in posting about the debates over who should head the CIA and what it should do, so here's an open thread.

Readers are encouraged, before posting, to read John Crewdson's dissection in the Chicago Tribune of the bureaucratic conflicts at work behind Porter Goss' resignation and the Hayden nomination:

[A] senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of events says Goss was dismissed as CIA director after the White House became convinced that strong disagreements with his immediate boss, John Negroponte, were beyond resolution. Those disputes involved changes that Goss feared would limit the agency's scope and influence, undercutting its role in analyzing intelligence.

The disagreements, the official said, had been "ongoing for a couple of months" before Goss' departure. In an ironic twist, it was Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, whom President Bush has nominated to fill Goss' position, who began the critical assault on Goss by complaining of his performance to a CIA civilian oversight body.

It should be noted that Crewdson's chief source was a Goss loyalist.

I tend to agree with Matt Yglesias and Fred Kaplan that Hayden's military status is a nonissue -- though, on the other hand, Amy Zegart does seem exercised about it, and that it reason enough for concern here at

Fire away!!

UPDATE: This could definitely be a problem for Hayden's confirmation. See Orin Kerr on this point as well.

posted by Dan on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM


First rule of Bush admin. politics: when they say it is not about Rumsfeld, it is about Rumsfeld. The more energetically they deny, the more likely it is true...

posted by: Sam on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

My worry is the NSA connections. This is an agency which we find out has reverted to its old ways, gleefully overrunning its mandate with wiretapping and, now we find out, collecting a US wide pen register for "data mining".

posted by: Nicholas weaver on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

this has nothing to do with me at all

posted by: dusty foggo on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

anyone that uses only female hookers...not male.

posted by: anon on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

I tend to agree that the uniform is a non-issue. Rumsfeld has already so overstepped his bounds, I don't think having a General run the CIA will make much difference.

I do think Hayden's wiretapping and now datamining activity is of extreme concern however. The NSA has way overstepped its bounds and crossed into some very murky legal territory. What would Hayden do at the CIA?

Today's revelations, if they prove accurate, could not only scuttle Hayden's nomination, but could greatly increase calls for the impeachment of President Bush and VP Cheney. I had opposed any idea of a Bush impeachment because, as a Clinton supporter, I am reluctant to do unto others as was done to us. I think the threshold for impeachment should be pretty high. However, President Bush's actions are so beyond the Pale that I think it is time to start thinking seriously about whether he can or should continue to lead this country.

The truly sad thing is that many people in this country are so obsessed with the idea of 'protecting the American people' that they forget what America is about. America is a country without nationality. There is no blood or creed that bind us together. What makes America a great nation is our constitution. America is an idea. When we trample on the constitution - even in the name of protecting national security - we destroy ourselves.

posted by: SteveinVT on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

Wow, some people need to switch to decaf. Does anyone really want to claim that data-mining and social network analysis are per se beyond the pale? Innocent people's privacy is improved by statistical tools that enhance the accuracy of investigative targeting. In other words, for the same level of security, data mining methods lower the level of intrusion on individual rights. Of course, we can always choose a lower level of security, and that's a political question, but I don't see how making the tradeoff worse is a constructive position.

posted by: srp on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

While I have little conflict with the military v. civilian idea of Hayden, I am a bit concerned about the wire-tapping "fiasco". Although, as some have already stated, it is quite possible that Hayden's introduction into a civilian post, such as the CIA, will only shed further light on the entire program, which would be beneficial to us all. I could've sworn I heard a "click" during a conversation last night, heh.

posted by: Ben on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

If we know enough about the CIA and Hayden to suggest what should be done, then security is blown to the point that it doesn't matter.

The whole concept of intelligence services is profoundly undemocratic. Voters must not be allowed to know what's going on, or else the whole thing becomes a total waste. What's the budget? You don't know. What is it spent on? You don't know. How do they operate? You don't know. Who are they targeting? Hope it isn't you.

Democracy was a good idea but it just doesn't work for world powers.

posted by: J Thomas on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

srp, SteveinVT isn't overly caffeinated; more like you are under-aware.

The phone-tapping gambit, while seemingly innocent enough on paper, is another example of government chipping away at our freedoms and that which makes this country great.

posted by: St. James the Lesser on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

I think its telling what Quest says happened.

Quest: "If you go to FISA, we'll give it to you"

NSA: "No" (FISA wouldn't approve!?)

Quest: "So get a letter from the Attorney general to authorize it. You're asking us to break the law here."

NSA: "No" (The AG wouldn't approve!?)

Quest: "THan No"

NSA: "Then you won't get classified contracts going forward"

Quest: "Still No".

IF what quest says happened is what happened, this really is serious. The NSA asked the telcos to break the law! The requirements for pen register are so mild in terms of asking for court approval that the NSA's reluctance to go to FISA to gen approval says something.

posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

The questions that might be asked are:

1) Do we need a civilian intelligence service?

2) If intelligence requires a civilian arm, does an independent agency make sense or should its activity be folded back into the State Department?

3) If an independent civilian agency is needed, should it do higher-level analysis, or should this function belong to the new National Intelligence Director's staff?

4) What is the long-range future of intelligence gathering? Will nanotechnology eventually enable anyone to spy on anyone?

5) What will be the role of the private intelligence sector?

posted by: David Billington on 05.11.06 at 10:41 AM [permalink]

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