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Spies and Leviathan

Monday December 10th, 2012   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 11:01am PST   •  

The Pentagon plans to add the Defense Clandestine Service to the nation’s Intelligence Community (IC). This is being billed as an advance in national security but it shapes up as a costly bureaucratic turf war that could leave the nation less secure.

The current IC boasts 17 member agencies:

Air Force Intelligence
Army Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
Coast Guard Intelligence
Defense Intelligence Agency
Department of Energy
Department of Homeland Security
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Drug Enforcement Administration
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Marine Corps Intelligence
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
National Reconnaissance Office
National Security Agency
Navy Intelligence
Office of the Director of National Intelligence

The Pentagon now aims to transform the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) into a network that rivals the Central Intelligence Agency in size but “rivals” has a broader meaning. An intelligence “community” does not mean that all members get along. The British Guardian noted the “turf wars” between the CIA and DIA, and such wars are not a new development.

All bureaucracies guard their territory and seek to expand it, but such expansion carries no guarantee of enhanced performance. In The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright noted the ferocity of the conflict between the CIA and FBI. They and all other U.S. spy agencies were unable to prevent a terrorist group based in caves in Afghanistan from taking down the World Trade Center. Neither was the Intelligence Community effective in the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

The great need is for better counterintelligence. FBI counterintelligence specialist Robert Hanssen spied effectively for the USSR. So did CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Ames. Naval Intelligence was unable to keep John Walker from handing reams of classified material to the Soviets. More recently, Army Intelligence was unable to prevent Lt. Nidal Hasan, an acknowledged jihadist, from killing 13 at Fort Hood, more than perished in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

A new spy agency is not a remedy for such deadly lapses and carries no guarantee of enhanced security. On the other hand, the bigger-is-better approach will certainly increase government spending, an irresponsible act in a nation marching toward a fiscal cliff.

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December 2012