Last week in “Intelligence failures” we featured Angelo Codevilla’s CRB review of George Tenet’s CIA memoir. Today Professor Codevilla comments in the New York Post on the CIA’s release of its 1973 “family jewels” report. Professor Codevilla writes that the report represents the triumph of a faction within the CIA whose work has not been crowned with great success:
THE CIA last week released a heavily redacted version of a 1973 report what it considers its fathers’ sins. There was nothing new: In the ’70s and ’80s, agency employees on all sides of the quarrels over what the CIA should do shopped their versions of the report to whoever would listen on the congressional Intelligence Committees (including myself) as well as to the press.
These quarrels were rooted in the deep political, social and personal animosities that split the CIA’s founding generation. Riding the post-Vietnam/Watergate wave of U.S. politics, one CIA faction wrote the report to discredit and oust their bureaucratic rivals.
Because this faction succeeded, important changes took place in the CIA. Beginning in 1975, counterintelligence – which was principally quality control of operations – became the responsibility of those conducting the operations. Freed from independent scrutiny, CIA officers gullibly accepted more information than ever from “walk-in” sources and from foreign governments’ intelligence services.
Since then, whenever we have had a intelligence windfall (e.g., access to the East German Stasi files after 1989) we have learned that all or nearly all CIA sources had been controlled by hostile services. In Iraq, in 2003, CIA sources reported watching as Saddam Hussein and sons entered a house with bunker; U.S. aircraft immediately demolished it. But there had never been any bunker, never mind Saddam. As usual, the CIA’s agents were doubles.
Professor Codevilla assesses “the most consequential change” was in personnel and attitude: “In all fields and functions, the CIA became the leftmost influence on foreign policy within the executive branch.” Professor Codevilla concludes with an educated guess about the purpose underlying the timing of the release of the report:
[A]s the performance of today’s CIA shows its insufficiencies, the agency may have hoped that distancing itself from its ancestors once again would secure its place on a political wave that some see as like unto that of the late 1970s. But then again, the CIA’s political judgments have usually been wrong.