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Faster, Please!

“So you had it right!”

It was the spirit of my late friend, James Jesus Angleton, long-time head of CIA’s counterintelligence outfit, and after the usual initial difficulties I’d tracked him down — wherever he “lives” — via the newly rehabbed ouija board, smelling vaguely of coconut oil (the ouija board, not Angleton’s spirit).

He was talking about the announcement that Leon Panetta would replace Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense (SecDef in Washington-speak), and General David Petraeus would move from commander of the Afghan campaign to run CIA.  I’d predicted that a few weeks ago in these pages.

ML:  “Kind of you to remember.”

JJA:  “Great call by you.  How did you know?”

ML:  “Sources and methods, I can’t reveal them…you know about that.”

JJA:  “I’m cleared!”

ML:  “Really?  Who holds your clearances?”

JJA:  “Sorry, I can’t tell you.  You’re not cleared here.”

ML:  “Let’s just say I heard it from a well-informed person who holds a sensitive position in the Administration.  But the question is not where the information came from, but what you think about it.  That’s why I reached out to you.”

JJA:  “Obviously, the most interesting aspect for me is the CIA billet to Petraeus.  I suspect he’s known this was coming, and so his recent complaints about the quality of our intelligence become significant.”

ML:  “Yeah, but everybody complains about intelligence…”

JJA:  “To be sure, to be sure…we used to say that the public only hears about our failures and never about our successes.  That’s still pretty much accurate.”

ML:  “Even in the Wikileaks era?”

JJA:  “Oh yes, absolutely.  In fact, a lot of the Wikileaks documents are barely classified, and lots of others are raw reporting, much of which might very well have been rejected upon analysis.  Anyone who relies on Wikileaks is likely to end up badly misled.  Just like anyone who relies on Wikipedia…”

ML:  “So what about the Panetta/Petraeus two-step?”

JJA:  “I think Panetta has done well at CIA, and I think he likes it there, and I also think that they like him at Langley.  DoD is probably too big for anyone to effectively manage, and it’s even tougher in a time of budget-cutting, which is now, obviously.  Plus there’s a huge culture shift;  CIA professionals tend to look down on the military (not so often Ivy League grads, like the Agency types), and DoD traditionally thinks that the Agency people are soft, risk-averse intellectuals, not warriors.”

ML:  “And Petraeus will encounter the same culture shift, except in reverse.”

JJA:  “You bet.  But he knows more about CIA than Panetta knows about the military.  Petraeus has been reading Agency reports for years, and he’s worked with some agents who are anything but risk-averse.  On the contrary.”

ML:  “In fact, many of those guys are military, aren’t they?”

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