Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Pentagon Makes Its Move

As you may recall, around 3 weeks ago I put up a post dealing with the CIA's takeover of a major piece of the Army's mission (CIA 1, Army 0 – Nov. 28). More recently we received news that the Army is not just going to take this sort of thing lying down. An article entitled “Pentagon plans spy service to rival CIA's” from Dec. 3 makes this clear. Now... one could say that this proposal has nothing to do with the CIA's growing private (and secret) army... nothing to do with “turf wars” or push-back. But one would be wrong. Of course, it has everything to do with turf battles, and is obviously a case of major push-back. “Oh, so you want to take away the cream of the Army's military mission? Fine, then – we'll start pecking away at your spy mission.”

Let me self-quote from the previous post: “... the article quotes an Obama advisor: 'Should the [CIA] be looking to be the principal player in a global drone war versus its more traditional role as the principal collector and analyst of foreign intelligence?' Well – I think that question's already been answered. While the Army sits all alone and feeling blue, the CIA moves in and takes the best people and the best missions. I'm sure they'll continue to collect intelligence – but only enough to support their own military operations. And the Army will be left alone to do nation building, social and humanitarian work, and to continue being a lab for social experimentation.”

So yeah, the Army could have rolled over and played dead. But instead they played a card described as “an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size”. The key player in all this would, naturally enough, be the Defense Intelligence Agency, which – now get this – would become “more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units”. In other words, they would move in on the CIA's turf and take away a chunk of their mission, but remain friends, just like the farmer and the cowman in “Oklahoma”. Right. The CIA's really going to go for that. And as to elite military commando units – isn't military intelligence already closely aligned with them? Don't they talk? Apparently not, judging by some of what has happened over the last few years.

And what is the CIA supposedly going to get out of all this? I can tell you from direct experience that many Army personnel consider “Army intelligence” to be a contradiction in terms. This may not be a fair assessment, but there it is – and I don't think it's any different from any other age-old communications gap between fighters and thinkers. The fighters think the intel guys are all nerdy eggheads who never get their hands dirty and subsist mostly on guesswork... and the intellectoids in the military consider the fighters to be violent (duh), impulsive, no-neck jugheads. And the friendly rivalries that result – oh, my! Especially when it comes to “resourcing” -- another word for money. The point is that if this is what the Army thinks of its own intel types, you can only imagine what the “real, professional” intel types think of them. Are they just misunderstood, square pegs in round holes? No – what's more likely is that they're amateurs – and now they want to send out their own “surge” to do... what? Things the CIA can't, or won't, do? Surely that can't be allowed to stand. What is more likely is that in any given instance, the military intel guys will be second-class citizens and will have to subsist on scraps while the CIA feasts. That's just the way the dominant group treats its inferiors. Nothing personal, it's just about status and hierarchy.

Ah, but hope springs eternal. Some of these military intel types will be “clandestine operatives” and “will be trained by the CIA”. Sounds like someone never got over being non-selected for Boys State.  And get this: “Unlike the CIA, the Pentagon's spy agency is not authorized to conduct covert operations that go beyond intelligence gathering, such as drone strikes, political sabotage or arming militants.” In other words, the military intel types are not allowed to undertake military operations; that will still be left to the civilian intel types.

If this all sounds completely topsy-turvy and like something out of Lewis Carroll, that's because it is. Here's another gem: “Because of differences in legal authorities, the military isn't subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA, leading to potential oversight gaps.” So the CIA is subject to “congressional notification requirements”? That's the first I've heard of it. As far as I know, they present their top-secret annual budget, get it rubber-stamped by Congress, and go on their merry way, enjoying maximum authority and zero accountability. I've never seen, or heard of, anything that would contradict this, and yet it's presented as a major consideration.

But wait! There's more! (as they say in Veg-o-Matic ads) – a week or so after the Pentagon played that card, the Senate – certainly no opponent of military expansionism – said “Whoa, there, pardner!” It seems they are concerned with costs (for once!) and with “management failures” in defense intelligence (as the CIA sits up in its tree with a Cheshire Cat grin – undoubtedly having furnished some of the evidence for said management failures). So... the Pentagon gambit seems to have been declined – at least for the time being. But it is fascinating to see this struggle acted out in such an overt manner. It's paradoxical, to say the least.

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