Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Bit More on EO12333

Two or three weeks ago I mentioned in passing that the president had issued a revised Executive Order 12333 dealing with the organization and structure of the intelligence community – or as one wag put it, the forged birth certificate of a non-community with little intelligence.

Every president sooner or later gets around to amending EO12333, but usually not so late in the term of office. But then, I don’t recall any other modern presidency that has publicly harbored such utter contempt for the intelligence profession as the current one. This White House on more than one occasion not only pressured analysts to shade their conclusions but also to downplay or even ignore information that, had it been given due weight, would have driven the analysis and the conclusions away from – not toward – consensus with the Bush-Cheney coterie. President Bush, hosting the Israeli prime minister last December, went so far as to label a leaked National Intelligence Estimate – the premier publication of the Intelligence Community – whose subject was Iran’s 2003 decision to halt work on developing a nuclear weapon – as nothing more than another “opinion.” Bush was not trying to smooth an unexpected rough patch with an ally No, Bush had convinced himself that everything from the intelligence world that didn’t fit his preconceived ideas was wrong.

The last big change in EO12333 came in 2004 when the Executive had to spell out the details and operational relationships between the newly created position of Director of National Intelligence and the Pentagon’s intelligence agencies (with 80 per cent of the intelligence budget and 80 percent of the people). In true fashion – at least in the world of spy v. spy fiction – Bush initially could not find anyone willing to take on the job. Bush offered it to former Director of Central Intelligence and CIA chief Robert Gates who is currently Secretary of Defense, but Gates said no.

What is also revealing is that all of the principals in the current set-up other than Gates – the current undersecretary of defense for intelligence, the current CIA director, and the second and current incumbent in the post of DNI – all came from the Pentagon’s intelligence world. One is left wondering how relationships might have been altered had fewer retired generals and admirals been drafted into these positions.

Little wonder that, when it comes to intelligence, Secretary Gates is smiling.

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