Is the CIA a 'Bloated, Dysfunctional Bureaucracy'?

Are Brad Thor’s latest blog posts hyperbolic charges against the CIA as former CIA Director Michael Hayden suggested when he remarked, “From my point of view Brad Thor’s accusations is (sic) pure fantasy.”

Thor claims that the CIA is in a “vicious war against the Department of Defense … and had leaked to the New York Times the names of Americans covertly providing force protection to our troops in Afghanistan.” In an earlier post he stated that the CIA is “impotent” and “better resembles a pack of jilted, jealous teen-aged girls." He went on to write that "the sad fact is that the CIA is a bloated, dysfunctional bureaucracy whose usefulness to America has long since passed.”

Although not “pure fiction," Thor has wrongly connected the dots. Granted, like any other bureaucratic organization, the CIA has issues to address, but the men and women of this agency are the ones who have kept Americans safe.

Thor does not seem to differentiate between the intelligence missions of the military and the CIA. Military intelligence is geared toward gathering tactical information by going out to localities to see what is happening on the ground. The CIA handles the strategic end -- i.e., the big picture -- to enable policy decisions.

With that said, both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Bush Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend told Pajamas Media that when the policy changed from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency, the entire intelligence architecture had to be retooled. Townsend points out that currently, the CIA and military participate in joint ventures where the “CIA has developed the capability both operationally and analytically to support military tactical operations.”

There certainly doesn’t appear to be a turf war between the agencies as evidenced by Secretary of Defense Gates’ comments about Michael Hayden’s leadership at the CIA. In June of 2008, Gates said, “In Iraq and Afghanistan countless lives have been saved through intelligence efforts that have led to the killing or capture of terrorists. … I would argue that there has never been a better fusion of military operations and intelligence in the history of warfare.”

It is very easy for Thor to imply that the agency has “made mistake after mistake after mistake.” How can the agency defend itself? People make false claims because the failures are publicized -- not the successes. Hayden explained that Thor “is shooting the wounded because the Agency can’t fire back at him. The facts that would prove him wrong are actually secret and classified.”

Hayden responded to the criticism that the CIA did not provide actionable information for the soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. He told Pajamas Media: “By definition the American people cannot know about successful spy work. Otherwise it will neither be successful nor spy work.”

Furthermore, this year Major General Michael Flynn, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence in Afghanistan, wrote a report about the military, not CIA intelligence in Afghanistan. Thor used this report in a misguided attempt to show the CIA’s ineptness. Flynn emphasized to Pajamas Media that “my report does not refer to the CIA. … [T]heir support has been very good, very forthcoming.  The report was as much a self-critique and meant to kickstart a process of change.”

Stephen Kappes, the deputy director of the CIA under Hayden and Panetta, is used by Thor as a scapegoat. He writes: “There are lots and lots of problems at the Central Intelligence Agency and Kappes’ fingerprints are all over them.” Kappes was described by those interviewed as someone who knows how to work Washington and who is very honorable, reasonable, and loyal.

Thor believes the "Kappes' doctrine" is at the forefront of what’s wrong with the CIA and cites the Forward Operating Base  Camp Chapman disaster, where seven CIA agents were killed by their Jordanian asset, and the recent leaks to the New York Times as examples. Yes, there were mistakes made at Camp Chapman, but Mr. Thor is a Monday morning quarterback. There is the need to take risks. No one wants a risk-averse CIA. Rest assured that those in the intelligence business will take the lessons learned, procedures will change, and security will be strengthened.

Regarding the leaks, many U.S. intelligence officials think this accusation is not only wrong but preposterous. There is an unwritten commandment of the CIA: “thou shall not out anyone.” A former high-ranking CIA official emphatically stated that “everyone just needs to keep their eye on the adversary and stop sniping at each other. This is probably another case of those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know.”

Granted, no organization is perfect and there is always the need to reexamine and make improvements. Yet people should remember that directly after 9/11 the CIA was a big part of America’s combined shield. As Michael Hayden positively stated, “We are proud of our record in Afghanistan and as strategy changes intelligence needs change and the CIA will adapt.”