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Total Disarray at the CIA

Two sides of a bitter partisan argument appeared in Saturday’s Washington Post and the New York Times. The Washington Post reports that new CIA Director Porter Goss’ deputy, Patrick Murray, has offended most of the senior officials at CIA, prompting the resignation and/or firing of the former deputy director and acting director John McLaughlin, along with the Deputy Director for Operations (spying) Stephen R. Kappes (more or less #3 at the agency), and Kappes’ deputy, Mike Sulick. I served with Mike Sulick, but I’ve been retired so long that I didn’t even know that Sulick was the #2 in the operations directorate, much less that he was one of the main players in this contratemps.

On the other side, David Brooks writes a vicious op-ed article in Saturday’s NYT accusing the CIA of being disloyal to the President. The unusual venom in Brooks’ column must mean that there is some serious hatred in this dispute. He said, “Langley was engaged in slowmotion, brazen insuborination, 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…. If we lived in a primative age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes.”

What is not clear is whether the CIA officers legitimately believe that they were misused by the Administration, starting with the intelligence used as a basis for the war with Iraq, and are now being fired for what the Administration did. Maybe the CIA was incompetent, or maybe the Administration misused intelligence information and then blamed the CIA when things went bad.

Both Nixon (with Watergate) and Reagan (with Iran-Contra) discovered to their shame that it’s difficult to do dirty business with the CIA. Maybe the CIA will turn out to be a thorn in the side of Bush II’s second term, too.

Another bad thing is that legislation on reforming the intelligence community per recommendations of the 9/11 Commission is pending in Congress. This dust-up promises to confuse that issue as well.

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