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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Going nuclear

Powerline makes a good point about the role of policy markers and the intelligence community.
Once upon a time, liberals worried about the takeover of the executive branch by intelligence or military operatives. Think back to 1962's Seven Days In May. The novel and the movie that was made of it pioneered what has become a genre unto itself. "Three Days of the Condor," for example, extended the concerns of "Seven Days In May" to the CIA. Of course, the operatives in these novels and films were always depicted as right-wing or "fascist."

But the permanent bureaucracy that mans the intelligence community and the State Department is a virtual preserve of the left. The visible role undertaken by the CIA in undermining administration foreign policy should be a concern to Americans of all stripes. Yet the progressive love of power has undermined the left's concern about democratic niceties.

Neither the CIA nor the State Department have the role of establishing foreign policy. This is true whether the administration is Republican or Democrat. They are not elected to do that. In fact, they are not elected at all. It is perfectly appropriate to go public and denounce the administration. It is not appropriate to undercut the administration through leaks to the news media or politicized intelligence estimates.

During the Clinton administration, people went public about their misdeeds. We honored them for it.

The current efforts by the bureaucracy is dishonorable and will have the effect of destroying public confidence in the CIA and State for a generation or more.

part of Kissinger's comment.
I have often defended the dedicated members of the intelligence community. This is why I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch. When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates. Thus the deputy director for intelligence estimates explained the release of the NIE as follows: Publication was chosen because the estimate conflicted with public statements by top U.S. officials about Iran, and "we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available." That may explain releasing the facts but not the sources and methods that have been flooding the media. The paradoxical result of the trend toward public advocacy is to draw intelligence personnel more deeply than ever into the public maelstrom.

The executive branch and the intelligence community have gone through a rough period. The White House has been accused of politicizing intelligence; the intelligence community has been charged with promoting institutional policy biases. The Key Judgments document accelerates that controversy, dismaying friends and confusing adversaries.

Intelligence personnel need to return to their traditional anonymity. Policymakers and Congress should once again assume responsibility for their judgments without involving intelligence in their public justifications. To define the proper balance between the user and producer of intelligence is a task that cannot be accomplished at the end of an administration. It is, however, one of the most urgent challenges a newly elected president will face.

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