Thursday, November 18, 2004

Stand by your man

Porter Goss, new CIA director, told Congress when he was nominated for the position that he would not inject any partisanship into the troubled agency.

So it was no surprise when he then did this (from the NYTimes):

Porter J. Goss, the new intelligence chief, has told Central Intelligence Agency employees that their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work,'' a copy of an internal memorandum shows.

"As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies," Mr. Goss said in the memorandum, which was circulated late on Monday. He said in the document that he was seeking "to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road."

Some agency personnel saw no problem with this. As I noted in a previous post, Michael Scheuer, Chief of the Osama Bin Laden desk at the CIA had anonymously written a book earlier this year, "Imperial Hubris," which wasn;t kind to either the Agency or the Administration. So this might have been seen as a warning against straying off the reservation.

At a minimum, Mr. Goss's memorandum appeared to be a swipe against an agency decision under George J. Tenet, his predecessor as director of central intelligence, to permit a senior analyst at the agency, Michael Scheuer, to write a book and grant interviews that were critical of the Bush administration's policies on terrorism.

"Mike exploited a seam in the rules and inappropriately used it to express his own policy views,'' the official said of Mr. Scheuer. "That did serious damage to the agency, because many people, including some in the White House, thought that he was being urged by the agency to take on the president. I know that was not the case.''

But wait, there's more:

But a second former intelligence official said he was concerned that the memorandum and the changes represented an effort by Mr. Goss to stifle independence.

"If Goss is asking people to color their views and be a team player, that's not what people at C.I.A. signed up for,'' said the former intelligence official. The official and others interviewed in recent days spoke on condition that they not be named, saying they did not want to inflame tensions at the agency.

Keep in mind that the transition to Goss' leadership has been going very very smoothly:

Tensions between the agency's new leadership team, which took over in late September, and senior career officials are more intense than at any time since the late 1970's. The most significant changes so far have been the resignations on Monday of Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director of operations, and his deputy, Michael Sulick...

"It's just very hard to divine what's going on over there,'' said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who said he and other members of the Senate intelligence committee would be seeking answers at closed sessions this week. "But on issue after issue, there's a real question about whether the country and the Congress are going to get an unvarnished picture of our intelligence situation at a critical time.''

There's more, much much more, so read the whole article.

As another example of non-partisan intelligence gathering and analysis, consider this discussion of the August 2001 PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the US," as quoted by Condi Rice during the 9/11 Commission hearings (from TheDailyHowler-scroll down):

Rice appeared before the commission on April 8, 2004. Special rules had been crafted for her appearance—no one could question for more than ten minutes. Blessed by these special restrictions, Rice knew what she had to do when questioned by Richard Ben-Veniste. She stalled; she hemmed and hawed; she fudged and evaded; and yes, eventually, she told a flat lie. And how did the “press corps” react to all this? How else? They all pandered to Condi! Rice had baldly broken her oath—and your pundits all pandered to Condi.

How did the sequence of questioning go? As he began, Ben-Veniste asked a bone-simple, yes-or-no question about a briefing Bush received in the summer before 9/11. Eventually, he was forced to ask his question three times. But here was its first iteration:

BEN-VENISTE (4/8/04): Isn’t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing] warned against possible attacks in this country?
After Rice gave an odd reply, Ben-Veniste asked his question again. This time he used more specific language—language he had taken straight from the PDB itself:
BEN-VENISTE (second iteration): As of the August 6th briefing, you learned that al Qaeda members have resided or traveled to the United States for years and maintained a support system in the United States. And you learned that FBI information since the 1998 Blind Sheik—warning of hijackings to free the Blind Sheik indicated a pattern of suspicious activity in the country, up until August 6th, consistent with preparation for hijackings. Isn’t that so?

The answer to that question was simple—yes. In fact, the highlighted language came straight from the PDB in question (text of PDB below). But Ben-Veniste was at a disadvantage; the August 6 PDB was still classified, so while he and Rice knew what it said, the press and the public had no way to know. And Darling Condi knew what this meant; it meant that she could dissemble as much as she pleased, and her fake answers couldn’t be checked. So the Icon hemmed and hawed again—forcing Ben-Veniste to ask his question a third, final time:

BEN-VENISTE (third iteration): You have indicated here that this [PDB] was some historical document. And I am asking you whether it is not the case that you learned in the PDB memo of August 6th that the FBI was saying that it had information suggesting that preparations—not historically, but ongoing, along with these numerous full-field investigations against al Qaeda cells—that preparations were being made consistent with hijackings within the United States.
Again, the highlighted language came straight from the PDB (text below). The answer to this question was bone-simple —yes. But Condi knew the PDB was still under wraps—so she refused “to tell the whole truth.” In fact, Rice’s third answer was so far from the truth that it can best be described as a lie.

Our new Secretary of State. Makes me feel so proud.

Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends.

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