A panel of advisers led by influential Washington officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have concluded that “blind spots” in U.S. intelligence have arisen as a result of a narrowed focus on military operations and drone strikes. The still classified document from last year calls for the first “significant” shift in intelligence resources since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
John O. Brennan, Obama’s former top counterterrorism adviser, who was sworn in as CIA director this month, told Congress in February that he planned to evaluate the “allocation of mission” at the agency. He described the scope of CIA involvement in lethal operations as an “aberration from its traditional role.”
However, Brennan has made it clear that the CIA will not give up its fleet of armed drones, and “must continue to be able to provide the president with this option.”
Recent rumblings from the White House have hinted that the CIA’s role as the spearhead of global counterterrorist operations may shift to the Pentagon, although this remains rumour for now.
“The intelligence community has become to some degree a military support operation,” said Boren, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who serves as co-chairman of the Intelligence Advisory Board. Boren said the deployment of intelligence personnel and resources has become so unbalanced that it “needs to be changed as dramatically as it was at the end of the Cold War.”
Another panelist, former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.), said traditional espionage “has suffered as the CIA has put more and more effort into the operational side.” Hamilton was co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, whose findings helped usher in far-reaching intelligence changes, including shifting huge resources to counter the terrorist threat.
The CIA’s Counterterorrism Center has ballooned from 300 employees on the day of the 9/11 attacks to around 2,000 today.
More from Washington Post’s Greg Miller here.
And for information on the proposal to switch drone strikes away from the CIA, see here:
Some close observers of the drone program disputed the widely repeated notion that moving it entirely to the Defense Department would necessarily make it more open, particularly if it is to be operated by the Joint Special Operations Command, among the least transparent elements of the military.
“We know JSOC is far more secretive than the C.I.A., and that Congressional oversight is weaker,” said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School. She said that while units under the Joint Special Operations Command were accused of serious abuse of prisoners in Iraq, “it never had to face public scrutiny about it in the way the C.I.A. did.”
The administration shift on drones was outlined in recent weeks as a draft presidential directive, which provides formal guidance to federal agencies. The directive, once finalized, will set out a general framework for the shift to the military, providing a “clear marker” of where the drone program is heading without setting out hard and fast deadlines, a senior U.S. official said.