Can't the CIA put the United States out of its misery - one way or the other?
Published on March 25, 2018
The furor over supposed collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians has been going on for a while, and Robert Mueller's investigation shows no sign of finishing things up.
Can't the CIA put the United States out of its misery -- one way or the other?
They should know what Russia was or wasn't doing with Mr. Trump. It is the CIA''s job after all to know what Vladimir Putin and his associates are doing - or even thinking about doing. Russia is of some modest importance - and presumably the CIA prioritized Russia over say...Slovenia.
If the Agency has evidence Trump colluded with the shirtless one in the Kremlin...provide it. If it has no evidence...say so.
One sometimes thinks the CIA is not very good at spying.
The Agency's principal duty is to obtain secrets by persuading foreigners to betray their countries or organizations - admittedly for a good cause.
This isn't always easy. Nonetheless, it is what the CIA is supposed to do.
It's often argued, or better said, used as an excuse that the Russians are a 'hard target'. That's not much of an excuse. The intelligence targets most important to the United States usually are the hardest ones. Imagine an airline pilot suggesting he should not be expected to land in a 30-knot crosswind, because it was "hard".
Some nationalities are recruitable by the dozen in an afternoon - with a decent lunch and a little money. Russians and Islamic terrorists? Not so easy.
But if promotion at the Agency is still based on 'scalps' -- regardless of whose head they come off -- guess what kind of targets get the attention. The easy ones. And bending the rules to jump start a career isn't unheard of. One recipient of the Agency's top case officer award some years back, offered sage advice - with a straight face - that 'you should go to an agent meeting with the intelligence already written,' and, 'It's okay to write what an agent would have said.' You mean...make it up?
Adding to the problem, after 9/11 the CIA got into paramilitary operations big time. That's a lot easier than pursuing and convincing 'hard targets' to give you information. Paramilitary work is, moreover, a lot of fun -- like being in the military but without most of the rules, and you only do the 'fun stuff.' No parades, no inspections, no PowerPoint torture, and no seminars on sexual harassment and welcoming transgenders into the military.
Paramilitary operations have their uses, but they are not the CIA's core purpose.
And one suspects the CIA might rely excessively on 'liaison services'. That's a handsome way of saying the local intelligence services do the work for you -- instead of gathering intelligence on your own. It's easier and eliminates the risk of being caught spying in another country (a risk that's part and parcel of the intelligence game - and always has been). But you're also a supplicant, dependent on foreign intelligence services. You'll only know what they know - and of that, only what they care to tell you. And their interests are not always America's interests.
One also marvels that nobody seems to notice - or at least do much about all this.
Congress has oversight responsibility for the CIA. But as one Agency officer commented a while back, there is little to worry about from Capitol Hill: "Tell them some stories, give them a little show and tell, and they think they're dealing with Mr. Bond himself."
Then-CIA director, John Brennan might have shown more interest in penetrating Putin's inner circle (not to mention discovering and heading off ISIS) than in sabotaging Donald Trump - both before and after the election.
And it doesn't help when the then-Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper - now one of President Trump's fiercest critics - in 2013 delivered what he later called a 'clearly erroneous' but 'least untruthful' answer to the Senate Intelligence Committee when testifying about government surveillance of US citizens. This doesn't exactly make a citizen brim with confidence in the intelligence community's ruling class - or in US Air Force three-star generals.
In fairness, the CIA presumably is doing some useful work collecting information 'the old fashioned way'. But as for Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump, one wishes Langley would end this national waterboarding of the American public -- and settle the matter about Donald Trump and the Russians -- as they should have been able to do long ago.
Perhaps they don't know the answer. In which case the Agency hasn't done its job - and should clean house until it can. Or perhaps they do know and aren't telling. In either case, there's some explaining to do.
But please...tell us. Or at least tell Robert Mueller.