Arguing that “covert action and analysis do not belong together in the same agency,” a former CIA agent who prepared intelligence briefings for President Reagan in the 1980s says the CIA should be broken in two.
Ray McGovern, who gained attention in recent years after founding the activist group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, wrote in an article published Wednesday that the two primary functions the CIA carries out — gathering intelligence and executing covert operations abroad — are at odds with each other, and keeping the two functions together harms the US’s foreign policy interests.
In an article published at ConsortiumNews, McGovern argued that the CIA’s dual missions conflict with one another, as the CIA has to objectively assess the effect of its own missions on foreign policy goals.
Think about it for a minute. You are ordered and given funding to conduct Predator attacks on “suspected al-Qaeda bases” in Pakistan. (U.S. armed forces cannot do it since the Pentagon is not supposed to be striking countries with whom we are not at war.) You salute, find some contractors to help, and conduct those attacks.
The President then asks his CIA morning briefer about the effectiveness of the drone attacks, including the longer-term political as well as military effects. When the briefer checks with the substantive analysts watching Pakistan, he learns that the attacks are very effective — indeed, the very best recruitment tool Osama bin Laden and the Taliban could imagine.
Jihadists are flocking to Pakistan and Afghanistan like moths to a light blub. … Do you think mealy-mouthed CIA Director Leon Panetta will have the courage to whisper that unwelcome finding to the President?
In his piece, McGovern points out that there was a lot of discussion and concern about the CIA’s role during the agency’s early years, after it was created by the National Security Act in the late 1940s.
He cites an editorial by former President Harry Truman, published in the Washington Post one month after the JFK assassination, that raised serious concerns about the nature of the CIA, an agency created by a bill signed by Truman in 1948.
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” Truman wrote. “It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.”
Truman concluded that “there is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”
McGovern noted that other government officials expressed similar alarm about the agency in its nascent years.
[Truman era] Defense Secretary James Forrestal didn’t want the Pentagon to be responsible for covert action in peacetime.
And, to their credit, neither did senior leaders of the fledgling CIA. They were no neophytes, and could see that covert operations might easily end up tainting the intelligence product if one Director were responsible for the two incompatible activities.
The experience of the past 62 years has showed, time and time again, that their concern was well founded as the covert action side has not only polluted CIA analyses but also expanded into high-tech warfare.
In the early 2000s, McGovern became a harsh critic of the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in building the case for an invasion of Iraq. In 2006, he gained media attention when he confronted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a 2006 speech in Atlanta, asking Rumsfeld, “Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties?”
McGovern started out with the CIA as an analyst on the Soviet Union and Vietnam. By the 1980s, he was preparing intelligence briefings for President Reagan, a duty he continued for President George H. W. Bush.
Read McGovern’s complete article here.