The inside story of how a band of reformers tried – and failed – to change America's spy agencies
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of US News & World Report
Posted: October 15th, 2013
Twice each week, a top-secret report with distinctive red stripes lands on the desks of select policymakers in Washington. Called the "Red Cell," it is the work of a CIA unit by the same name, set up after the 9/11 attacks. "Some of it is really wacky, even scary," says an insider. "Like bombing Iran." The "Red Cell," in a very real sense, is emblematic of the trouble the U.S. intelligence community finds itself in today. Created in 1947, the U.S. intelligence community has grown enormously in terms of bodies and dollars but also in the number and complexity of its responsibilities. It has also, for many reasons, grown into a mess. After 9/11, Americans had good reason to assume the nation's intelligence capabilities were being improved. But then came the Iraq war and the subsequent revelations that the CIA's "slam dunk" intelligence on Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of banned weapons was a complete air ball, a casualty of badly forged documents, eager exiles with outlandish stories, and analysis that, in the most charitable sense, could be described as flawed. The Senate Intelligence Committee's 511-page Iraq report documents how on the country's weightiest issue – whether to launch a pre-emptive war – the U.S. intelligence community ended up wrong on virtually every critical point. "In short," laments Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat, "we went to war in Iraq based on false claims." When Harry Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947, creating the CIA, he wanted precisely what the name implied: a central agency for intelligence. "The CIA was set up by me for the sole purpose of getting all the available information to the president," Truman wrote. "It was not intended to operate as an international agency engaged in strange activities." Within months, of course, Truman himself was ordering the CIA to engage in "strange activities," such as staving off a Communist takeover in Italy.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.