Last Updated: 9/7/07

The Iraq War cannot be blamed squarely on the CIA’s faulty intelligence, but the American public still does not grasp the magnitude of how badly the U.S. intelligence community has failed them. Our intelligence-gatherers and analysts have become bureaucratized, militarized and politicized, while congressional oversight has become lax, timid and complacent. The result is that we are less secure, with intelligence failures becoming more frequent and – in the case of the failure to anticipate the 9/11 attacks – catastrophic.

The U.S. intelligence apparatus has become steadily more militarized – the Pentagon now controls 90 percent of the intelligence budget – with the result that strategic intelligence has been sacrificed to nearsighted tactical priorities. Intelligence agencies continue to guard their fiefdoms jealously; the resulting lack of coordination allows much to slip through the cracks, especially where homeland security is concerned. Congress, which should be asking tough questions, has utterly failed in its oversight role. Meanwhile, the imperative to root out terrorism is creating new internal roles for intelligence agencies, presenting an increasingly urgent threat to civil liberties. Though they have made some useful contributions, official reviews of pre-9/11 and pre-Iraq intelligence, including the work of the Kean-Hamilton commission, suffer from inside-the-box thinking and even make some potentially dangerous recommendations, such as the creation of an easily politicized “intelligence czar” within the executive branch.

The Iraq WMD controversy and the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations have brought intelligence reform to the forefront of the national debate as never before. Long-lasting structural reforms to our intelligence apparatus are being debated and enacted as we write this, and more is to come. Our security, and our democracy, demand that these reforms genuinely meet the needs for demilitarization, depoliticization, coordination, oversight and protection of civil liberties. We cannot sit by and hope that the leadership in Washington – the same practitioners and legislators who have not been held accountable for past failures – does the right thing on its own.

The National Security Program of the Center for International Policy (CIP) wishes to make the most of the opportunities of the present. All of our actions over the coming year will continue to be guided by the overarching goal of “no more 9/11s and no more Iraqs.”

CIP’s Intelligence Reform Project has five guiding objectives:

(1) To reverse the militarization of the intelligence community, which has weakened the United States’ strategic intelligence assets. The CIP project seeks to weaken the control of the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon over the intelligence community. Such major intelligence collection agencies as the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office must be removed from the Department of Defense. The DoD must abolish its new post of assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, which had a major hand in politicizing intelligence on Iraq and served to weaken the independent role of the director of central intelligence.

(2) To prevent the establishment of an intelligence “czar” in the executive branch, which will increase possibilities for the politicization of intelligence. CIP favors separating and strengthening the positions of the director of Central Intelligence and the director of the CIA. Unlike the 9/11 commission and various congressional resolutions, we strongly oppose placing an intelligence czar in the executive branch of government, where it would be more susceptible to manipulation and politicization.

(3) To stop the centralization of intelligence analysis, which will weaken the intelligence community’s analytical assets.

(4) To encourage improved congressional oversight of intelligence. We strongly believe that congressional oversight capabilities must be strengthened and made more aggressive, and that the intelligence committees must monitor the Defense Department’s efforts to establish its own covert-action and intelligence-collection capabilities.

(5) To protect civil liberties in the wake of the USA-PATRIOT Act and the intelligence community’s expanded domestic powers.


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