Posts from October, 2008

The CIA and the Culture of Failure

“A steady stream of intelligence failures in the 1990s occurred in every facet of CIA activity, from intelligence collection to analysis to counterintelligence to covert action,” writes John Diamond in a new book on “The CIA and the Culture of Failure.”

This is of course well-trodden ground, and the author himself reported many of the underlying episodes for the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and USA Today.

But Diamond probes beneath the familiar surface of events in an effort to understand the dynamics at work, and to show how individual intelligence failures interacted cumulatively and dialectically to yield the CIA of today.

“The events of the 1990s both stemmed from and led to a steady erosion of intelligence capability, contributing to a series of intelligence lapses and alleged lapses and to a consequent decline of confidence in the intelligence community that left the CIA critically weakened,” he concludes. “These processes fed off and fueled one another, leading to a fatal cycle of error, criticism, overcorrection, distraction, and politicization.”

Diamond writes without identifiable animus towards the CIA, and gives due weight to the agency’s defenders and the critics of its critics. Even on well-rehearsed topics such as the CIA’s failure to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, he adds significant nuance and avoids cliche.

See “The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq” by John Diamond, Stanford University Press, September 2008.

Headlines from Elsewhere

“FBI Prevents Agents from Telling ‘Truth’ About 9/11 on PBS” by Jeff Stein, Spy Talk, CQ Politics, October 1.

“Former CIA Director Porter Goss’s Dusty Foggo Problem” by Laura Rozen, Mother Jones blog, October 1.

“China Report Urges Missile Shield” by Bill Gertz, Washington Times, October 1, with a copy of the draft report from the International Security Advisory Board obtained by Mr. Gertz here (pdf).

Security controls on information and intellectual property claims are increasingly restricting public access to the most useful information, according to Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin, who will address the Cato Institute on October 10.

Various Resources

A blistering critique of U.S. counterintelligence capabilities was authored by Michelle Van Cleave, the former National Counterintelligence Executive, in a case study prepared for the Project on National Security Reform. See Chapter 2 (pdf page 74) of this document (pdf).

“Fundamental Elements of the Counterintelligence Discipline” (pdf), published by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive and the ODNI in January 2006, is available here.

The CIA’s Office of General Counsel is profiled in a new paper (pdf) by former CIA assistant general counsel John Radsan, published in the Journal of National Security Law and Policy.

The missions and functions of the oddly named “U.S. Army Nuclear and Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Agency” (formerly the Army Nuclear and Chemical Agency) are described in the new Army Regulation 10-16 (pdf), September 24, 2008.

“Exploring the U.S. Africa Command and a New Strategic Relationship with Africa” is the title of an August 2007 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that has just been published.

The Congressional Research Service discussed “Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa” (pdf) in a report that was updated August 22, 2008.