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U.S.: Ex-Spy Says Senate Report Could Bring Needed Change At CIA

  • Andrew Tully

In June, George Tenet announced his decision to quit his job as director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That announcement came amid evidence the CIA had provided President George W. Bush with faulty intelligence before the Iraq war. A harsh Senate (upper house) report issued on 9 July appears to prove how bad the CIA's information really was. What impact will the report have on the American intelligence community? RFE/RL speaks to a former U.S. spy and files this report.

Washington, 12 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee -- an 18-member group that examines the work of American intelligence organizations -- on 9 July issued a damning report on the work of the CIA before the war in Iraq.

The committee's chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, said the CIA had failed to properly analyze the information regarding Saddam Hussein's weapons programs.

This, in turn, caused the White House to believe the Iraqi leader was an imminent threat to the United States.

Robertson said the CIA -- America's dominant spying agency -- was broken, and would not be easy to fix.

"Most, if not all, of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and cannot be solved by simply adding funding and also personnel," Robertson said.
"They [the entire U.S. intelligence community] badly needed an outside look at the whole thing. That's Step One -- how they went wrong. Now, Step Two is to look at how they ought to rearrange the intelligence structure so that the director of central intelligence is elevated to cabinet status and broken away from the CIA and given broad overview over the whole thing."


CIA Director George Tenet admitted his agency had serious problems shortly before he announced his resignation in June.

It remains to be seen whether Tenet's replacement -- who has yet to be appointed -- can bring much-needed change to the agency.

Edward Atkeson is a retired U.S. Army general who served as an intelligence officer in Europe during the Cold War.

He says he believes Bush will choose a new CIA director carefully.

"It all depends upon the personality -- who they pick to replace him [Tenet]. But the agency [the CIA] is a professional organization, and they can read the handwriting on the wall just like you and I can,” Atkeson says.

Atkeson says the Senate report has acted as a "wake-up" call for the U.S. intelligence community. Now, he says, it is time for Bush to push for major reforms in the CIA and other intelligence-gathering organizations.

"They [the entire U.S. intelligence community] badly needed an outside look at the whole thing. That's Step One -- how they went wrong. Now, Step Two is to look at how they ought to rearrange the intelligence structure so that the director of central intelligence is elevated to cabinet status and broken away from the CIA and given broad overview over the whole thing," Atkeson says.

The CIA director is not a member of the presidential cabinet. This, says Atkeson, means the idea of "central intelligence" is misleading.

Some members of the U.S. cabinet -- for example, the secretaries of state and defense -- have their own spying divisions that do not report to the CIA.

The result, says Atkeson, is that there is no single person, or single office, who is responsible for all U.S. intelligence. And as the Iraq war has shown, the consequences can be serious.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "The fact is that the administration at all levels -- and to some extent us [in Congress] -- used bad information to bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war -- we would not have authorized that war with 75 votes [in the Senate] -- if we knew what we know now."
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