Which Candidate Will Clean up the CIA?
By: Warner Todd Huston
We live in a post 9/11 world where having reliable intelligence on the movements of enemies is of vital importance. We no longer live during Clintonâ€™s vacation from history, a time when few Americanâ€™s realized how dangerous our enemies would become. Clintonâ€™s years in office were devastating for our clandestine services and even for the FBI. Clintonâ€™s CIA Director, George Tenet, practically destroyed that agencyâ€™s ability to gather intelligence and failure after failure has been the result.
It is obvious that our intelligence agencies are fatally broken and have been practically useless to us all. It is plain to see that if the CIA could fulfill its proper role, we would never have had to create the Department of homeland Security in the first place.
So, with the mounting and still extent failure of the CIA looming so large in the dangerous world the languid Clinton years bequeathed us, the question of what is to be done about this useless agency is left to a new president to solve. With that in mind one wonders what the GOP candidates for president would do about the CIA should they win election to the Oval Office?
At least two of the top tier candidates have talked about the CIA and the difference between them could not be more clearly defined. One wishes to throw more money at the bloated and broken agency and the other is skeptical about doing anything but cleaning house.
Mitt Romney has on at least two occasions said he wants to increase funding for the CIA. In one case he decried that the agencyâ€™s workforce was â€œslashed by almost 20%â€ by the Clinton administration. This rhetoric leads one to realize that his solution is to reverse that â€œslashingâ€ and that means greater spending.
But if that is not convincing enough, in another appearance he was more specific in saying that he wants to see â€œmore money devoted to stopping the next terrorist plot through additional fundingâ€ for the CIA.
Unfortunately, more money is not the answer, and it rarely is. But in this case giving this recalcitrant agency more money to spend will only make it expand a bloated bureaucracy and find it has more reason to stonewall further change so that it can safeguard that increased budget. Romneyâ€™s approach will make mattes far worse than they are now — and they are really bad already.
The second candidate who has spoken about the CIA has been Fred Thompson.
In an interview he gave to the Wall Street Journalâ€™s John Fund, for instance, Thompson disagreed with president Bushâ€™s awarding of the Medal of Freedom to failed CIA chief Tenet saying, “I just didn’t understand that.”
The next president, according to Mr. Thompson, needs to exercise strong leadership “and get down in the weeds and fix a civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones.” He doesn’t offer specifics on what to do, but notes the “insanity” of the new Congress pushing for the unionization of homeland security employees only five years after it rejected the notion in the wake of 9/11. “Should we tie ourselves up in bureaucratic knots with the challenges we may have to face?” he asks in wonderment.
Clearly, Thompson sees the need to fire a lot of the CIAâ€™s entrenched malcontents and obstructionists.
Plus, Thompson has had a lot of experience with the CIA having been a member of the Senateâ€™s intelligence oversight committee, so he knows about the internal troubles in which the agency is mired. As president, he would not be walking into the Oval office without first hand knowledge of the CIAâ€™s dysfunctions.
So, with the available evidence, it seems to me that a Thompson presidency would mean a clean up of the CIA, but a Romney presidency would merely mean a more bloated and dysfunctional agency.
Of the two a Thompson presidency would be a far more desirable one in a post 9/11 world.