The CIA released a years-old report critical of DCI Tenet and the CIA’s anti-terrorism performance in the 1990s. The CIA has long been a disappointment and its counter-terrorism efforts live up to its record.

It is the most consistently underperforming intelligence agency and one most resistant to reform and executive control. This actually makes it dangerous.

There were several reasons why the CIA became handicapped.
The laws passed in the 1970s under the Carter administration crippled American human intelligence. Additional laws passed in the 1990s prevented foreign intelligence agencies from sharing information with domestic law enforcement (The “Gorelick” Wall). The FISA laws regulate antiquated technology and intel methods, so it severely limits the intelligence community from doing legitimate work.

The Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administration never considered terrorism to be a major foreign policy threat – and they should not have either.

The CIA did not treat al-Qaeda as a threat and mismanaged their resources. From MSNBC summary:

An executive summary of the report, prepared by the agency’s inspector general’s office in 2005 and finally released Tuesday under orders from Congress, is unquestionably embarrassing for former agency director George Tenet and many of his top deputies. According to the report’s findings, the CIA under Tenet’s leadership repeatedly blew opportunities to disrupt the Al Qaeda network—and possibly even penetrate the 9/11 plot itself—because of “mismanagement,” a lack of strategic direction and a “systemic breakdown” within the agency’s Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC).

The other intelligence agencies, like the NSA and the military intelligence services, have performed well and do their jobs quietly and professionally. The CIA makes up for their lack of competency with awful group-think and partisan noise-making.

Here’s a tell-tale case of typical CIA blame-shifting from the WP:

The report said Tenet bears “ultimate responsibility” for the CIA’s lack of a unified, strategic plan for fighting al-Qaeda. The intelligence community “did not have a documented, comprehensive approach” to al-Qaeda, the document said, and Tenet “did not use all of his authorities” to prepare one.

In his recent memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” Tenet recounts his long campaign to persuade Bush administration officials to take terrorism more seriously. “The bureaucracy moved slowly,” he wrote.

The bureaucracy was Tenet. The CIA traditionally uses partisan hatred to cover up its mistakes. All it has to do it blame Bush and instantly half the country will turn a blind eye to the CIA’s incompetency.

MSNBC again:

The report also criticized intelligence problems when Bill Clinton was president, detailing political and legal “constraints” agency officials felt in the late 1990s. In September 2006, during a famous encounter with Fox News anchor Wallace, Clinton erupted in anger and waived his finger when asked about whether his administration had done enough to get bin Laden. “What did I do? What did I do?” Clinton said at one point. “I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.”

Clinton appeared to have been referring to a December 1999 Memorandum of Notification (MON) he signed that authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. But the inspector general’s report made it clear that the agency never viewed the order as a license to “kill” bin Laden—one reason it never mounted more effective operations against him. “The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to bin Laden, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations,” the report stated.

Ambiguous? Clinton simply did not order the CIA to kill bin Laden. If he says so otherwise today, he is lying.

I’ve argued before the bin Laden is a distraction. The urge to “get” bin Laden distracts us from the fact that Al-Qaeda is an ideological mass movement that extends beyond a single man.

Personally, I do not fault the Clinton Administration. There were bigger issues at the time, and the only real way to handle radical Islamism was to throw the US into major civil wars in Afghanistan, Algeria, and elsewhere. This was not politically viable at the time. The tit-for-tat attacks were ineffective and pointless, however.

There is a bigger story that the newsmedia is missing. Strata-sphere connects the dots to the failed FISA program. The National Security Agency tracked al-Qaeda signal intelligence, including information on the 9/11 cells, but they were legally prohibited from sharing the information with other agencies, especially the FBI. This is due to the antiquated FISA laws. Once Al-Qaeda agents cross into the US, the NSA is forbidden from listening anymore and it may not warn other agencies that terrorist cells are planning attacks. Information it already collected needed to be deleted. Individuals in the US become protected persons and the intelligence community needs FISA warrants. Worse yet, since most signals from cell phones or the US pass through US communication lines, the NSA needed FISA warrants to conduct foreign espionage too. FISA was taken to the legal extreme in the 1990s and it disabled the intelligence community.

The news media are such dunces it is simply amazing. All these stories on FISA and the NSA and not going around the court and they cannot connect the dots. Read the article and realize all the whining from the CIA was because of FISA and the Gorelick Wall had penetrated so far into out national security that they blind folded us to what was happening… The fact is the FISA tried to extend this by making it a requirement to get a warrant to eavesdrop on terrorists overseas…. Things to remember about warrants is they LIMIT who can have access to the information gained. This is exactly how we got to 9-11 – lawyers playing CYA.

This is a failure of the legal community moreso than the intelligence community. The NSA did the best job humanly possible given the bizzaro world constraints placed upon them.

But enough of that. I want to bash the CIA some more.

The CIA has been playing a dangerous game against the White House for decades now. It became a politicized spy agency early on, serving the interests of Presidents or opposition parties. One of its tactics is to cover its ass by shifting blame onto unpopular politicians.

The CIA acts with a partisanship that is astounding. The Military, in comparison, strives to be non-partisan and will serve any President from either Party. The CIA makes no such promise and openly undermines executive policies.

One of its tactics is the routine leaking of selected classified information to tarnish the public image of the President. These leaks are carefully selected, deceptive and out of context. It gives the newsmedia “soundbites” of negativity.

The only way the White House can counter these leaks is to release the entire intelligence reports which usually show a balanced perspective. By then, the negative leak already took root and the Big Lie beats the truth.

Then there are the tell-all books by “Anonymous.” The book Imperial Hubris by an anonymous CIA man had a mystique and credibility it did not deserve. Then people found out who the author was: Michael Scheuer. They listened to him. He sounded like a raving Fox Mulder more than a credible analyst.

Then there are more partisan non-scandals involving the incompetent Richard Clarke and the non-agent Plame. The CIA is a joke. It has accomplished nothing of value in the past 50 years and it is completely useless against decentralized networked enemies. The fact that it is now an openly partisan group-think agency means it is a spy agency that openly opposes democratic government in America. The CIA is a threat to Americans.

I’ll say it again: Abolish the CIA.