The CIA's war with President Bush

David Brooks:

Now that he's been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies. His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Over the past several months, as much of official Washington looked on wide-eyed and agog, many in the C.I.A. bureaucracy have waged an unabashed effort to undermine the current administration.

At the height of the campaign, C.I.A. officials, who are supposed to serve the president and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak to discredit the president's Iraq policy. There were leaks of prewar intelligence estimates, leaks of interagency memos. In mid-September, somebody leaked a C.I.A. report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region. Later that month, a senior C.I.A. official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity in the Arab world.

...

The White House-C.I.A. relationship became dysfunctional, and while the blame was certainly not all on one side, Langley was engaged in slow-motion, brazen insubordination, which violated all standards of honorable public service. It was also incredibly stupid, since C.I.A. officials were betting their agency on a Kerry victory.

As the presidential race heated up, the C.I.A. permitted an analyst - who, we now know, is Michael Scheuer - to publish anonymously a book called "Imperial Hubris," which criticized the Iraq war. Here was an official on the president's payroll publicly campaigning against his boss. As Scheuer told The Washington Post this week, "As long as the book was being used to bash the president, they [the C.I.A. honchos] gave me carte blanche to talk to the media."

...

If we lived in a primitive age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes. As it is, the answer to the C.I.A. insubordination is not just to move a few boxes on the office flow chart.

The answer is to define carefully what the president expects from the intelligence community: information. Policy making is not the C.I.A.'s concern. It is time to reassert some harsh authority so C.I.A. employees know they must defer to the people who win elections, so they do not feel free at meetings to spout off about their contempt of the White House, so they do not go around to their counterparts from other nations and tell them to ignore American policy.


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