A disaster of whose making?

The man who ran the CIA’s covert activities in Europe during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq says U.S. intelligence needs to be better insulated from political influence if the nation is to avoid another disaster in Iran.

“I can see the same thing happening with (intelligence on) Iran,” Tyler Drumheller told United Press International in an interview about his just-published book, “On the Brink.”

“They are headed down the same path … Looking for sources to give them information that fits their preconceptions regarding the Iranian nuclear program … They are talking to expatriates and figures out of the Iran-Contra affair, giving their information and that produced by the CIA equal weight.”

He said there was “a core of intelligence professionals who can do the job if they’re allowed to.” But there was a real risk of repeating what he said was the two-pronged failure on Iraq: policy-makers brought their preconceptions to the table and senior intelligence officials failed to confront them with uncomfortable truths.

Given our rather woeful record in securing well-placed human sources in hard target locations like Iraq, North Korea, etc., is it such a stretch to think that we have just as incomplete a picture of what is going on in Iran as we do any other hard target?

Given that no one can point to a single individual or instance where a politician leaned on an analyst to cook or otherwise alter their work in the run-up to Iraq, is it more or less likely that someone will try to politicize intel when the environment is even more politically charged?

Policy-/Decision-makers don’t operate in a vacuum. They come to these jobs with varied backgrounds and with experience working with and talking with varied sources. To expect that with their appointment will come a wholesale purge of those contacts and sources is beyond foolish. Since we do we ding people for trying to gather more information to aid in the decision-making process?

Intelligence types like to talk about “speaking truth to power” but that assumes that the only people who can discover and consequently communicate the truth are intelligence officers. When you can’t penetrate the inner-workings of the adversary, what makes “secret” truth any more or less credible than the “truths” promulgated by people who actually live(d) and have contacts in the target areas? Past performance I suppose . . .

If you truly eschew politics in your business, then you are obliged to speak out during every real or perceived abuse of intelligence, regardless of who the first customer is or who he appoints. Maybe I was too busy on-the-job or maybe I wasn’t paying attention or maybe there was no such thing as new media but I don’t recall hearing similar refrains in past regimes. I’ll have to pay more attention to future ones to make sure all these “truth tellers” are maintaining their high standards.

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