“Early on, there was an admiral at the head of the CIA, and he was widely regarded as a buffoon. It was pretty much an article of faith in the old days that you shouldn’t have a seaman running the Agency. Army was ok (General Smith was great), but no Navy.”
I was chatting with my old friend, the late James Jesus Angleton, via the ouija board, and it was working very well. The blossoms are out in Washington, and I was a bit worried about interference, but I needn’t have. Anyway, for once JJA was a bit imprecise. He was talking about Admiral Raborn, who was indeed badmouthed by Agency old hands for many years. But he’d apparently forgotten Roscoe Henry Hillenkoetter, another admiral, who had headed up the Central Intelligence Group until the CIA was created by the National Security Act in 1947. This largely unknown man served honorably and seemingly effectively for nearly three and a half years, and was succeeded by General Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s wartime chief of staff. They were all military guys until Allen Dulles succeeded Smith.
ML: “We’re kind of reverting to our earlier form, aren’t we? It’s all military guys nowadays, and plenty of admirals…both in the Intelligence Community and at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where Admiral Mullen is firmly in charge, headed for a second term. And of course we’ve got Admiral Dennis Blair at the top of the pyramid, he’s the Director of National Intelligence.”
JJA: “Yeah. And he succeeds another admiral, Mike McConnell. And let’s not forget Admiral Stansfield Turner, Jimmy Carter’s DCI. What a disaster he was! He tore up the clandestine service, bragged about hiring women and minorities, and was so nutsy that some of the guys put out a phony memo over his signature, modeled on Captain Queeg’s obsession with a bowl of strawberries.”
ML: “So you’re probably skeptical about Admiral Blair, huh?”
JJA: “You bet. And he hasn’t done much to reassure me. There was that silly attempt to make Chas Freeman the head of the National Intelligence Council, for example.”
ML: “Yes, it doesn’t look good when one of your first big appointments gets blown up in the Congress. And then the guy goes ballistic, accusing ‘agents of a foreign power’ of having brought him down.”
JJA: “Ah, yes, that would be the Jewish lobby, I mean the Israel lobby, wouldn’t it? But the person who pulled the plug on Freeman was a Catholic woman from San Francisco, Speaker Pelosi. And I don’t think her decision had much to do with Israel policy, it had to do with China. Freeman had been ambassador there, and couldn’t bring himself to criticize the repression of the democratic dissidents. On the contrary, he blamed Beijing for being insufficiently vicious.”
ML: “You agree?”
JJA: “Well I have a different sort of objection altogether. I don’t want intelligence officers to make policy. That’s not their job. And Freeman was a policy person, not an intelligence expert. And he said lots of things that led me to think he would have been a terrible intelligence officer.”
ML: “For example…”
JJA: “For example, he bragged
I’m a very practical man, and my concern is simply this: that there are movements, like Hamas, like Hezbollah, that in recent decades have not done anything against the United States or Americans, even though the United States supports their enemy, Israel.
That betrays a colossal ignorance of Hezbollah’s role in Iraq.”
ML: “And how! We’ve captured many Hezbollah terrorists in Iraq. And if I remember rightly, an American court recently ordered Iran to pay $25 million to an American family whose son was kidnaped and murdered by Hamas.”