(Washington, D.C.): In the postmortem about Wednesday’s sudden resignation of R. James
Woolsey from his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, one theme recurs: Woolsey
did not understand that the end of the Cold War necessitates a radical overhaul of the CIA. The
corollary to this conventional wisdom is that his successor will have to commit to such
deconstruction if he or she is to pass muster in the White House or on Capitol Hill.
The truth is that Jim Woolsey has been a forceful exponent of the view — which the Center for
Security Policy strongly shares — that changes in the international environment following the
collapse of the Soviet Union do not allow a wholesale dissipation of American military power and
intelligence capabilities. Developments of the past few months in the Balkans, the Persian
Gulf, the Korean peninsula and, yes, even Russia are reminders that the post-Cold War
world is a very disorderly place with considerable potential for endangering U.S. interests.
Effective intelligence collection and analysis is, if anything, more complex a task and
arguably a more necessary one than before the demise of the Evil Empire.
The Woolsey Legacy
Unfortunately, Jim Woolsey nonetheless took several steps — presumably reluctantly and in any
event too late to appease those demanding more radical actions — that threaten to degrade greatly
the quality of intelligence provided by the CIA. Some aspects of the Woolsey reorganization
could, ironically, greatly simplify the efforts of a future spy like Aldrich Ames aimed at
penetrating and compromising the Agency’s covert operations overseas. Others would make it
less likely that policy-makers will receive unwelcome, “politically incorrect” inputs from the U.S.
intelligence community. Unless Congress makes clear that such steps are unacceptable, it
will not only fail to prevent the damage entailed by these actions; it may see President
Clinton appoint someone who will do far worse.
The ‘DO-DI Partnership’: For example, Woolsey has ordered an organizational and, in some
cases at least, a physical integration of the Agency’s Directorate of Operations (“DO”, the covert
side that handles human intelligence assets also known as spies) and its Directorate of Intelligence
(“DI,” which is responsible for analyzing the information provided by such assets and other
intelligence sources). As a result, Operations and Intelligence officers have begun to be co-located in certain CIA offices.
The stated objective of such a “partnership” between the Agency’s “DO” and “DI” sides is to
improve cooperation between the two, an unobjectionable goal. The real reason for this
reorganization, however, seems to be to make the two indistinguishable — thereby heading off
proposals, like that offered up by incoming Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Arlen
Specter, to make the operations function the responsibility of a separate intelligence agency. That
may or may not be a good idea. But this stratagem is a decidedly bad one.
Extremely sensitive information related to the identity and running of spies is now being made
accessible to those who have no “need-to-know” about such details. The breakdown entailed in
the compartmentalization of information greatly increases the opportunities for a mole like
Aldrich Ames to destroy whole intelligence networks. Congress should put this reorganization —
and for that matter all others — on ice until an opportunity has been afforded for hearings on their
costs (estimated to be over $22 million for the “DO-DI partnership” scheme), their likely
repercussions for security of information and accountability and their possible impact on the
quality of U.S. intelligence.
‘Judgment-free Analysis’: Another troubling legacy of Jim Woolsey’s efforts to accommodate
political pressure for “reform” has been his direction that all Agency analyses should, henceforth,
be “non-judgmental” in nature. As with efficiency-inducing “partnerships”, judgment-free analysis
sounds great. This is particularly true in light of the fact that the judgment of many CIA analysts
in the past has sometimes been characterized by naivete, wishful thinking or liberal notions of the
way the world ought to be.
In practice, though, the effect of this “reform” will be to make it less likely that the Agency will
perform its critical task of “speaking truth to power.” An environment is being created in which
the CIA will be discouraged from providing not just analysis that is deemed inconvenient but even
facts that do not fit the reigning administration’s preferences. Toward this end, every Agency
analyst and manager will be subjected to a reeducation program next month entitled “Tradecraft
2000″. At it, they will learn such astounding verities of the new “intelligence for the ’90s” as the
idea that U.N. personnel assigned from the Russian, Chinese and other foreign espionage services
are to be regarded as international civil servants, to be entrusted with sensitive American
information without regard to their nationalities or affiliations. Such nonsense may fit the Clinton
Administration’s view of the United Nations and the world, but it does not fit with the need to
protect sensitive sources and methods on which U.S. intelligence continues to rely.
The Bottom Line
Policy-makers — not least those in Congress — need the facts. They also benefit from the
competition of ideas about what the facts portend for foreign threats to U.S. interests. It is far
better to have CIA analysts offer their judgments, and take responsibility for them, and rely upon
the competing conclusions of other intelligence agencies to inform the policy community than it is
to pretend that judgments do not influence the facts that are presented.
President Clinton’s choice of a successor to Jim Woolsey is an occasion not only to evaluate his
commitment to move toward the political center with an appointment of an individual who will
resist short-sighted pressures to gut out the Central Intelligence Agency and place politically
correct blinders on its contributions to national security. It will also be an opportunity to evaluate
the steps that have already been taken in that direction — before still more serious damage is done.