Friday, January 1, 2010

Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture by Ishmael Jones

During the postwar debate, many people accused President Bush of lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and leading us into war there based on that lie...But no one was lying. There weren't any human sources to tell us about the existence of WMD in Iraq. The information sent to the president was all guesswork. All the analysts at HQs, all the layers of managers, were making guesses based on exactly zero information from human sources.

In the post-9/11 gold rush, money flowed to the Agencies retirees in vast quantities. Before 9/11 many Agency retirees came back to work as contractors at a reasonable hourly rate. Following the attack, the retirees were re-hired at $150,000 to $200,000 per year, in addition to their pensions of about $75,000 per year...It was great money for eight hours a day chatting with their friends at HQs and drinking coffee...The really big money went not to the ordinary retired case officers, though, but to the retired Agency mandarins who formed contracting companies..

After President Bush gave his "Axis of Evil" speech, the Agency began sending my colleagues on missions to these and other rogue states. They didn't conduct any intelligence operations there-just visited, stayed in hotels, and returned to write detailed after-action reports about their itineraries. HQs briefed Congress about all of them. This became known around HQs as Axis of Evil Tourism.

The Agency was having a hard time finding people to fill posts in Iraq. The problem could have been solved by recognizing service there with a commendation or medal, for example, or by accelerating promotions and giving choice assignments to employees who served there. Instead, service in Iraq was thought to be for suckers: newly trained people, or those who had no influence or connections within the organization.

My colleague Loman had been assigned to a country in North Africa. He reported directly to HQs, cutting a local Agency station out of the loop. Still, he received no replies to his requests for approval...Finally, he flew to HQs, found a computer terminal, and answered his own requests, approving all of them. He returned to North Africa and carried out his operations. When he needed new approvals, he traveled back to HQs and sent them to himself. He continued to answer his own messages for about six months before he was caught.

Less than 15 percent of the employees we had in Iraq were case officers, meaning that less than 15 percent were qualified to gather intelligence. The rest were support: chow hall workers, personnel department, clerks, secretaries, security guards, and operations support people such as analysts, information technology specialists, reports officers and people who handled technical intelligence gathering systems. Everyone worked hard and their tasks were important, but most didn't need to be in Iraq. They could have contributed to the mission just as well from their offices at HQs.

1 comment:

  1. The Human Factor; Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture by Ishmael Jones; Encounter Books, New York & London, 2008