CIA Today

There is a spate of recent chatter regarding the CIA. At the expense of not delving into past CIA "accomplishments", I'd like to provide a synposis of what is currently happening within the intelligence community.

So what is the chatter?

Most notible is the process known as "extraordinary rendition", started during the Reagan years, but put into full force by Bush after 9/11. It is estimated that between 150-200 prisoners have since been rendered to countries that may include torture in their interrogation techniques.[1] Top officials deny that the prisoners are being flown to countries for the purpose of torture, but there are an increasing number of claims of abuse. "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that if the United States sends a prisoner abroad, then our nation’s Constitution no longer applies."[2]

A sock in the arm for the CIA is the disclosure that one of its informants, a man called "Curveball", regarding the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq apparently fabricated non-existant capabilities. Intelligence discrediting Curveball was available before Colin Powell's pre-war speech to the United Nations but was withheld in order to continue the White House's drive to war.

Another blow is "the CIA's nearly 60-year run as the undisputed center of power and influence in the secret world of intelligence"[3] has taken a blow with the appointment of John D. Negroponte to Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Negroponte, as you may remember, "was U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, during a time when the Reagan administration was secretly arming right-wing “Contra” forces with the aim of ousting the progressive, Sandinista-led government in Nicaragua next door."[4] "Negroponte had [also] previously served as ambassador to Iraq, Mexico and the United Nations."[5] "John Negroponte is a multi-millionaire who has made a lot of money off of owning stock in companies that benefit directly from the war and occupation of Iraq. During his 41-year career with the State Department, or as some have called it "Death Squads Inc.", he and his cronies shepherded a murder machine from Vietnam to Iraq."[6]

Since 9/11 the CIA has also begun spying on Americans here in the US, a move that is outside their jurisdiction. "A secretive government commission recently scrutinized the CIA for expanding its spy activities inside the United States and for failing to share key intelligence with the FBI, the New York Daily News has learned."[7] Similarly, "the nation's electronic intelligence agency [NSA] warned President Bush in 2001 that monitoring U.S. adversaries would require a "permanent presence" on networks that also carry Americans' messages that are protected from government eavesdropping. [The document] raised questions about how new global communications technologies were challenging the Constitution's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures."[8] Even the FBI and Pentagon has gotten into the spy business,[9] though a "study contracted by the Pentagon has concluded that the Defense Department should not take charge of the CIA's paramilitary functions."[10]

"The Bush administration has adopted a new counterintelligence strategy that calls for "attacking" foreign spy services and the spy components of terrorist groups before they can strike, a senior U.S. intelligence official said,"[11] a continuation of Bush's so-called "preemptive defense". But reshuffling of agencies' priorities has had its share of problems. "The Terrorist Threat Integration Center (which has since been renamed the National Counter-Terrorism Center) mission was to "fuse" the various strands of information collected by the government's 15 intelligence arms, including the FBI, CIA, NSA and Homeland Security. Instead of competing, officials from each agency would work together inside the new office. [But] analysts from different agencies had different clearances, making it difficult for them to talk to one another."[12] The Congressional Research Service "questions whether the primacy of the DNI (Negroponte) is "undermined by establishing a separate reporting channel to the president for certain counterterrorism operations."[13]

While "the agency has turned into "a government bureaucracy like any other, its managers and employees preoccupied with endless reams of restrictive regulations and simultaneously caught up in many of the newfangled pathologies of the American workplace,""[14] CIA Director Porter Goss has complained that he feels overwhelmed by his new job.[15] One such result seems to be "that he intends to rid the agency of those who do not fall into line with Bush administration policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, leading some high officials to leave the agency and to widespread morale problems."[16]

To top that off, the Court has ruled that state secrets should stay secret and that agents cannot sue the CIA if the CIA renegs on an agreement "because such a suit would be incompatible with the often harsh realities of the cloak-and-dagger world."[17] This ruling has had the effect that ""All the attorneys have stopped keeping notes and it does terrible things to the historical record," [John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, said].""[18]

Within the CIA "there is widening unease...over the possibility that career officers could be prosecuted or otherwise punished for their conduct during interrogations and detentions of terrorism suspects, according to current and former government officials."[19] "Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, believes CIA detention and interrogation practices should be subject to the committee's standard oversight function rather than a special review, an aide said."[20] Meanwhile European nations are threatening to sue the US for "forcibly detaining suspected terrorists on their soil before transferring them to other countries where torture is practised."[21]

Despite all the negativity surrounding the recent politics and pursuits of the intelligence community, steps are being taken to actively recruit new operatives. "The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) is a new program through which highly qualified undergraduate or graduate students who plan to work at the CIA may compete for a $25,000 one-year scholarship to help fund their studies."[22] "The scholars program is an ROTC-like pilot program intended to recruit and train graduate students for futures in the CIA or other U.S. government intelligence agencies."[23] "The CIA makes sure we won't know which classrooms PRSIP [sic] scholars attend, this being rationalized as a requirement for protecting the identities of intelligence personnel."[24] "The secrecy surrounding the current use of university classrooms as covert training grounds for the CIA and other agencies now threatens the fundamental principles of academic openness as well as the integrity of a wide array of academic disciplines."[25] Though it's claimed that only selected schools will be used for this project, with all the outsourcing and contractual work the CIA is involved in,[26] it is possible that any school will be used.

Unsuspecting kids are signing up for this, and years later may join the ranks of disgruntled agents who have spoken and written critically of the Agency. Agent Lindsay Moran has published "Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy"; agent Melissa Boyle Mahle "Denial and Deception : An Insider's View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11"; agent Michael Scheuer "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror"; and agent Philip Agee "Inside the Company: C.I.A. Diary".[27] While these books may not condemn Murder, Inc., they should provide some insight into the workings of what has become the subject of many novels, television programs, movies and even video games.[28]


The reshaping of the American intelligence community is necessary to combat terrorism, but this restructuring is not happening as smoothly as planned. There is often little common ground for these agencies to work with -- for example technology: computers in one department may not connect to computers in another department either because of different security clearances or that they're just plain incompatible. Agencies are also still finding it hard to share information with each other and local police, often because of long time rivalries. "A troubling charge is that the CIA has withheld intelligence from the FBI."[29] ""I don't get the sense that the feds are learning to cooperate with local and state law-enforcement agencies," says Ms. Kamarck of the Kennedy School. "If you look at several of the terrorists who've been apprehended the past couple of years, it's because of the local police."[30] But at the same time, "government officials say the FBI is conducting intelligence operations without notifying other agencies like the CIA and the State Department, a move some say could be significant."[31]

While the right hand of the intelligence community fails to know what the left hand is doing, potential terrorists are falling through the cracks. Innocent Americans are also being arrested and all but stripped of their Constitional rights -- authorized by the Patriot Act signed immediately after 9/11 -- events with an eerily familiar ring to those knowledgeable of the rise of Nazi Germany.[32]

Bush's "illegal but legitimate" approach to combatting terrorism must be seen as a dark day in American History. The fact that so many American's are still in favor of the Bush gulag while the rest of the world condemns him speaks volumes. "Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success."[33] "So far more than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel prize winners, have...signed a statement condemning the Bush administration for misusing, suppressing and distorting scientific advice. Four dozen Nobel laureates...endorsed John Kerry for president."[34] It is terribly unfortunate that while the American intelligencia sees through Bush's lies, many Americans are reported to still favor him according to recent polls. The result? "Massive spending and massive deficits,"[35] low-income program cuts and depleted Social Security, more war and soaring gasoline prices.


































[34] Yahoo! News quoted at


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