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Insulting Our Intelligence, Part II: The Upcoming Hearings

Friday, 15 February 2002 12:00 AM

DCI George Tenet's inability to come to grips with the word "failure" in front of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee during his testimony on Feb. 6 could lead a listener to believe it's the new "F" word. This repeated reluctance led the not-so-laconic New York Post a few days later to trumpet: "Tenet Must Go!"

To be fair to Director Tenet, if the Post's criteria are used, most of the CIA's upper management, the chairmen of the congressional intelligence committees and their staffs should follow.

Make no mistake about it: the congressional intelligence committees are not only key players within the U.S. intelligence community, they have assumed through the years an inordinate amount of power and influence in shaping and running the intelligence community.

Anyone wishing to debate the point need only refer to the resume of the current DCI, a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff director.

Rep. Porter Goss and Sen. Bob Graham, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees respectively, have vigorously defended Director Tenet since Sept. 11. They have repeatedly cited the DCI's warnings prior to Sept. 11 about bin Laden and al-Qaeda as proof the DCI is up to his job.

And sure enough, the DCI renewed his warnings about bin Laden and al-Qaeda last Wednesday, i.e., we're at war, the other side is going to attack us.

However, what's more troubling than the chairmen's staunch support of the DCI has been their own avoidance of referring to Sept. 11 as a major intelligence failure. Shortly after the attack Rep. Goss emphatically stated, "I don't want anybody to get the idea that this was a great intelligence failure."

Both chairmen apparently believe using the "F" word might begin to assign blame for Sept. 11. In effect, the chairmen argue that assigning blame for Sept. 11 serves no useful purpose and is counterproductive.

Maybe. But many experienced observers believe the upcoming hearings will serve no useful purpose and will be counterproductive.

Indeed, the White House has lobbied strenuously to limit the scope and length of any congressional inquiry, because a large-scale congressional inquiry now is likely to undermine and impede the conduct of what has been primarily a war of intelligence and covert actions.

Much as the appearance of planeloads of congressmen and their staffs probably bewildered Afghan tribesmen and the rest of Central Asia during the winter break, the appearance of congressional investigators and subpoenas at the CIA, FBI, NSA, et. al. will probably leave more than a few intelligence officers perplexed and wondering, "Whose side are these guys on?"

Nevertheless, oblivious to practical concerns, Congress rolls on.

In justifying the upcoming hearings and explaining why he and Rep. Goss scrapped the House proposal for an independent commission to investigate Sept. 11, Senator Graham stated, "The same group that is going to be prescribing the reforms ought to be diagnosing what the pathology is.'' What kind of diagnoses can we expect from Chairmen Goss and Graham?

That is, the same committees that gave us the intelligence agencies that brought us the intelligence debacle of Sept. 11 are to decide what the agencies may or not have done wrong and get back to us.

What do they say about doctors who treat themselves?

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DCI George Tenet's inability to come to grips with the word failure in front of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee during his testimony on Feb. 6 could lead a listener to believe it's the new F word. This repeated reluctance led the not-so-laconic New York Post...
Insulting,Our,Intelligence,,Part,II:,The,Upcoming,Hearings
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2002-00-15
Friday, 15 February 2002 12:00 AM
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