In 1992, I was involved in a kind of pilot project — the details of which would land me in jail — to develop capabilities in the military that had previously been the province of the Central Intellignece Agency and, on a more limited scale, the Defense Intelligence Agency. It had to do with building certain kinds of… relationships.
This was a bold incursion into the CIA’s turf, and it followed the decade-long, systematic transfer of more and more of the CIA’s covert operations from the Agency to military Special Operations.
Most people didn’t realize it then, and still don’t, that once upon a time, the Agency was not primarily a covert operations outfit. It’s primary purpose was to develop human intelligence assets — HUMINT in bureaucratese. This is called ‘agent-handling.’
I can explain this because it has already been described in popular literature and by CIA veterans. The HUMINT CIA agent is an agent handler, that is, someone who trains and maintains contact with ‘assets’ who can give him or her information. It is a pedestrian enterprise for the most part, but it yields the kind of information that one can’t get from a spy satellite or a data-cruncher.
With the intensification of the Cold War, the other side of the CIA house, covert operations — a euphemism for paramilitary work — started to gain ascendency in the Agency, where the budget was subjected to a tug of war between these two sides of the Agency. Covert operations won, eventually eating into 80% of the Agency funds.
The problem was, as history has attested by one scandal after another that embarrassed the CIA, they were never very good at covert operations. This was partly medical.
Covert operators were plagued by a pathology that also spread through the miltiary like meningitis in a boot camp. The scientific term for this is Macho Shit-head Syndrome.
Without belaboring the symptoms here, I’ll simply refer readers to a couple of public examples to show how badly MSHS can affect judgement and create grandiose and paranoid personalities: Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy.
There is not only a budget war that rages inside very bureaucracy, there are also interagency conflicts. For example, most people don’t realize that the lion’s share of US intelligence is not collected or analyzed by the CIA, but by the much quieter and highly technological National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA are those people and machines that take pictures from orbiting satellites, monitor phone conversations through the air, and track data trends with science fiction computers. Until yesterday, NSA was under the command of Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden. Hayden has now been tapped by Donald Rumsfeld as the deputy to John Negroponte — a covert ops veteran himself, as the ambassador to Hondurus from 1981-85 when death squads and Contra terrorists operated with impunity under a US Embassy security blanket.
Which brings us to Negroponte’s new post — head of the nation’s Director of National Intelligence, which will control the intelligence budget for all US intel activities, giving Negroponte unprecedented power. Negroponte is leaving his last post as the Ambassador cum viceroy of Iraq, and leaving behind a situation where Iran has gained new proxy-power in southern Iraq, Iraqi guerrillas mount an average of 60 attacks a day against Aemrican and allied occupation forces, and there is a war brewing between the Kurds and Turkey.
This is consistent with the guiding phiosophy of imperial leadership of the Bush adminsitration so far — what political scientists call the “Fuck up, and move up” management style.
Some people have specualted that little Porter Goss, current Director of Central Intelligence, has been mightily dissed by this move, but I disagree. Goss told Michael Moore in an interview that he was distinctly unqualified to work at the Agency before the Senate confirmed him. Goss has always been a cheap neocon hatchet man, and never aspired to be much else. He doesn’t want to control the CIA’s budget. He’s too fucking stupid. There’s too much arithmetic involved. He has all the wits of a chihuahua, and all the instincts of a used car salesman.
Porter Goss works for Dick Cheney, who tells Porter how to walk and talk, and has directed him to clean out any nests of analysts inside the CIA who refuse to spin their reports to support executive decisions. Porter Goss’ job at the CIA is to wield a chainsaw. He’s part of this shake-up against the Agency.
So who benefits under this new system. Well, as Deep Throat told Bob Woodward these years past, “Follow the money.” The money leads to the Pentagon, and to one of Donald Rumsfeld’s pet projects, the P2OG.
It’s not that the military hasn’t had its share of embarrassing failures, just like the CIA, but what the Pentagon can do that the CIA couldn’t is cover up effectively. And literally. When the debacle is big eneough, Donald Rumsfeld can just use war planes to bury the evidence… called by military scientists, “The Fallujah Method.” The Fallujah Method can be used to mask the symptoms of Macho Shit-head Syndrome.
As the intel analysts in the Agency are being sent to doggie-training, its covert operations crew is being put out to pasture on The Farm to drink scotch and reminisce about the good old days when they were spreading swine flu through Cuba and directing mercenaries to destroy medical clinics and day care centers in Nicaragua.
P2OG (the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group), as David Isenberg wrote for Asia Times, represents “the largest expansion into the world of black ops and covert action since the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s.”
I encourage readers to do their web-homework on this group, because they will be behind a lot of headlines that lay the blame for shit at other people’s feet… if they haven’t already. (Think mosque bombings, think Lebanese assassinations, think anything that uses the name Zarqawi, then we should have a very high index of suspicion.)
Meanwhile, even though it’s still fun to beat up on the CIA, be aware… they are no longer the heavy breathers. Watch Negroponte. Watch Rumsfeld. And watch Alberto Gonzales. This is the new axis of… okay, I won’t go there.