OpinionMeister

Monday, February 28, 2005

Too Cautious to do the Job Right

The Washington Times gas an article, headlined "CIA too cautious in terrorist hunt, agency critics say." Link.
The CIA is being too cautious in employing its broad new post-September 11 authority to use lethal force against the terrorist enemies of the United States, critics of the agency say.
One former intelligence official said even the CIA's new Hellfire missile, which can be launched from the remotely piloted Predator aerial platform, is bogged down by the excessively legalistic attitude of the agency's senior management.
"From personal experience, I can tell you, you have to build a brief of almost court-level evidence before you can even contemplate shooting a Hellfire missile at one of these guys," said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA official who once led the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

"I can't give you the exact figures," said Mr. Scheuer, adding that they are classified, "but since May of 2002, the Predator has shot far less than 10 missiles. Not because there were no targets, but because the legal requirements necessary before you pull the trigger are so onerous."

It is a typical story. When the CIA was founded soon after WWII, it was filled with enthusiasts, who did their jobs well. Now, it is a vast bureaucracy, and it thinks like a vast bureaucracy. Priority 1: cover your ass. Priority 2: cover the agency's ass. Priority 3: help the nation's security. Priorities 1 and 2 translate into "never make a mistake," and that usually means "do nothing." If we shoot missiles at Al Queda, there will come a time when a missile hits the wrong target, and innocent people will die. To avoid this, you do not fire the other 99 missiles, which would have devastated Al Queda. The Pentagon understands that in a war, mistakes happen, and innocent people die. They act to minimize civilian deaths, but they do not paralyze themselves to make such deaths zero. Why can't the CIA think that same way?

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