Revamping the CIA

Homeland Security

MELVIN A. GOODMAN

Revamping the CIA

The terrorist attacks have once again exposed wide-ranging flaws in the agency’s operations.

One week after the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, national security adviser Condoleeza Rice told the press: “This isn’t Pearl Harbor.” No, it’s worse. Sixty years ago, the United States did not have a director of central intelligence and 13 intelligence agencies with a combined budget of more than $30 billion to produce an early warning against our enemies.

There is another significant and telling difference between Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001, attacks: Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a high-level military and civilian commission to determine the causes of the intelligence failure. After the recent attacks, however, President George W. Bush, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, and, surprisingly, the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees adamantly opposed any investigation or post mortem. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said it would not be “appropriate” to conduct an investigation at this time; his predecessor, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), agreed that any investigation could wait another year. The President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board normally would request such a study, but the board currently has only one member, because the president has not yet replaced members whose terms have expired. The president’s failure to appoint a statutory inspector general at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deprives the agency of the one individual who could have requested an investigation regardless of the CIA director’s views. Overall, the unwillingness to conduct an inquiry increases the suspicion that there may have been indicators of the attacks that went unheeded.