Seal of the Central Intelligence AgencyThe International Herald Tribune has an opinion piece in it highly critical of the CIA. It makes one wonder if the guys in that agency have a mindset that much different from the automakers in Detroit. All have plenty of money to throw at a problem, but they seem to fail wherever they turn.

First, let’s start with Public Enemy Number One:

By the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, every serving CIA officer – indeed, every American – knew that the agency had one prime mission: “Get him!” But, after more than seven years and billions of dollars, we have failed. I recognize much has been done to damage Al Qaeda but, make no mistake, no amount of “rendition” of bin Laden lieutenants can mask our failure to bring to justice the man who ordered 9/11.

George Bush is leaving office in a few weeks, but after seven years, no one can find Osama bin Laden.

Then there is the stuff the spies should know because they have billions of dollars and the world’s best technology at their disposal.

There are other failures too, less dramatic perhaps but of even greater consequence. The clandestine creep of nuclear know-how threatens to put the worst weapons into the worst hands. If North Korea or Iran, or Shangri-La for that matter, claims the right to develop a nuclear fist, our intelligence services should know every detail about that program. Yet we collectively fail over and over again when North Korea tests a missile or nuclear reactor construction in the eastern Syrian desert come as a surprise.

The writer, Art Brown, is a 25-year veteran of the CIA. He says the CIA fails at the human level because of a “cocoon of secrecy that breeds distrust of outsiders.”

The CIA culture is steeped in mistrust of the outside world, but that is where they must get the information to determine what is happening. Brown makes the startling comment that few CIA officers have BlackBerrys, but many do not even have an internet connection at their desk.

In the information age, who in the world sits at a desk doing a meaningful job without an internet connection? That sums up the CIA problem too. Information is the CIA’s job, but they seem determined to make failure a built-in option in it’s processing.

Brown points that out with the CIA quality control problem. Here is a case in point. An al Qaeda threat emerges to attack U.S. military bases in foreign countries. Yet a web search finds some of those countries do not have U.S. bases.

Imagine what even a dial-up connection would in that case.

According to Brown, the CIA culture emphasizes quantity over quality, and it gets it.

In Brown’s years with the CIA, he says that he never recalls anyone being fired or even demoted.

The problem with the CIA is accountability and accuracy. Hopefully, with the Obama administration new outlook, some of that change will spill into the dinosaur-like ways of this nation’s chief intelligence agency.


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