How Dangerous IS The CIA

From what I read, the CIA has an enormous budget, and it has frequently carried out covert operations abroad…sometimes without any oversight from Congrees or the President. In the early 1960’s the CIA did all kinds of nasty things, including plotting to kill Castro, setting up and removing Vietnamese generals. More recently, the CIA has been accused of importing crack coacaine, and actually marketing it to Americans (in order to fund covert operations in Central A,merica).
My question: these actvities may result in the deaths of innocent people, and may also result to serious damage to the credibility of the US Government…so how out of control is this agency? Can you believe what they put out?
And, supposing the CIA were infiltrated by moles (say from the Mafia), how would the American people ever find out?
Given this agencie’s bungling, why does it keep getting funding?

The Cleveland Institute of Art?

The Culinary Institute of America?

The official response to this is that you only learn about the CIA’s failings, not its successes. IMHO, this is a pretty reasonable response. Also, the charge that the CIA is out of control goes back almost to its beginning, and has never been particularly true. Operation Mongoose (for example) was probably OK’d by Kennedy and others. Most of the other notorious foul-ups were signed off on by elected officials. So if the CIA is out of control, then its because the whole government is.

It’s not clear to me why the mafia would want to infiltrate the CIA, but on the general question of moles: you’re right, its a risk the CIA faces. But of course the CIA goes to great lengths to prevent this. If you’re suggesting that the CIA could be run by moles, I think this is a different story. To be run by moles, these moles would have to be appointed by the people you elect.

What’s the alternative? Stop collecting covert intelligence? Intelligence is vital to proper decision-making in Washington. Bad intelligence means dead innocent people. Good intelligence means saving lives, even preventing wars.

In some circles, people estimate the death count the CIA is responsible for up towards 5 - 10 million, but this is including civil wars (suspected to be) started by the CIA, mostly in South/Central America and Africa. There is a website somewhere by a young man who unfortunately died in a car accident that lists a lot of detail and provides cites and explanations, but I can’t recall the URL or name of the site.

It should be noted that, apparently if you believe scuttlebut, the CIA is very non-partisan, because according to some Republican circles, they also killed hundreds - thousands of people during Clinton’s rule and the Gulf War.

I expect reality differs from all of those accounts, but I’d still say the CIA is pretty damn dangerous - and directly responsible for a lot of death and destruction.

I’d like some cites that it’s the CIA that’s responsible for its screwups, and not the folks giving them the orders.


Ok, you personally believe the CIA is dangerous. Do you have reasons for believing this other than “in some circles, people estimate” and “there’s a website somewhere”?

The problem is not with the CIA’s espionage functions, but with its more proactive “covert ops” functions.

Ok, but the OP was talking about cutting all funding.

I agree that some of the CIA’s covert ops have been very stupid, but I blame the administrations that pushed for and signed off on these ops. Moreover, I think that it is almost impossible for laypeople to evaluate the merits of the CIA’s covert operations; we don’t know about the vast majority of successes, and generally don’t know enough about any given operation to determine who was at fault for its failure/success.

I suppose its a different story if you oppose covert operations on principle, but I think that’s a difficult position to defend. If a covert op can accomplish something that would otherwise require massive military force or is otherwise impossible, it will save many lives. Surely you believe that * some * covert operations are justified.

I’d like some cites first showing that the CIA does covert missions without oversight of either the Congress or the President. Afaik all their missions, even the blackest, are approved by politicians we elect (though it might be only a select few Congressmen or other officials that know). So, if the CIA does something its at the behest of our government and our elected officials.

I don’t think the CIA is all that dangerous. I think they have been WAY overblown by Hollywood and novel writers into this super dangerous and evil organization thats completly out of control, does what it wants when it wants. The image is that they are both bungling and brilliant…brilliant when they are doing all those magical things, but bungling when the hero of the show or book is on the scene. Its fiction people. The CIA is just another government agency. If they were the all powerful organization, able to do all that evil bullshit, why don’t we have ObL’s balls on a shelf…or that mad man Zarqawi?? Why hasn’t Iran or North Korea simply been ‘toppled’?


Looking for the website. If you serious;y don’t believe that the CIA was involved in operations that led to civil wars and regime changes, then you’re in denial. I don’t cite that the sky is blue.

I don’t doubt that you’re website exists, there are hundreds, if not thousands of such websites. What I doubt is their objectivity and expertise. Yes, the CIA has been “involved in operations that led to” various bad things happening. But their precise role and intentions are generally unknown, so it is very hard for the layperson to assign blame. Also, your premise is that civil wars and regime changes are always bad; I reject that premise.

You’re website will likely list the usual suspects: Nicaragua, Chile, maybe Italy, Cambodia, etc. However, in each of these cases the CIA’s role is sufficiently unknown and/or clearly supported by the President .

You insinuation that saying the CIA has ** caused ** civil wars is equivalent to saying the sky is blue is hopelessly naive. You attribute too much power to the CIA and too much knowledge to the casual observer.

:rolleyes: I’m not in the mood to drag this out today, but whatever. Sure, yea, CIA is wholesome goodness, hail McCarthy, yadda yadda.

I’m sure the CIA did have a role in operations that encouraged civil wars and regime changes. But as far as I know, every time they were so involved, it was with the knowlege and the instruction of the federal government as a whole. It’s not that these are rogue operations.

Remember it was not until 1976/77 that congressional oversight was setup to watch what the CIA was doing. We do not know but it is interesting that in early 1976 the Select Committee on Intelligence decided to withhold details of its findings on its investigations into illegal or improper running of the CIA. 5 months later we get oversight committees being formed. This may mean something or nothing but one cannto help think that the timing is suggestive that they did not like what they found in their investigation.

As for foul-ups the CIA certainly has had a few. Some of the more notable: Bay of Pigs, multiple failed attempts to assassinate Castro, missed the overthrow of the Shah in Iran, 9/11 and WMDs in Iraq. There have been many more than that of course. As mentioned though CIA successes tend to be more secret than failures (as failures often advertise themselves) so few know what good work they may have done.

Still, it is a tough job and mistakes are bound to happen. The US absolutley needs the CIA. I cannot imagine the President being able to do his job without them. I have heard in the past the CIA went away from humint (people on the ground) in favor of spy satellites and elint but I think they figured that was a mistake awhile ago and are working to increase their humint resources again (not sure…seem to recall reading about that somewhere). Sadly I would think getting spies inserted in the places you want is a tricky and lengthy process.

In my view it is both good and bad that there is government oversight. Good because an agency like the CIA could easily run amok left to its own devices so a check and balance system on what they do is a necessary thing. I think it is bad because I have little faith in politicians to make the hard calls an agency like the CIA probably needs to make. The “long view” is not a notable trait in most politicians and risk avoidance is their watchword. As such I would fear they might holdback the CIA from really getting in the dirt and going to town. No doubt it is a tough balance to strike as to really do their job well the CIA might well endup in shady operations that would shock most people. Drawing an ethical line for what the CIA should or should not do has to be a near impossible task (e.g. is it ok to crash a plane load of people to kill one guy who is a nuclear weapons designer working for, say, North korea?..just an example).

In the end though we need the CIA.

Well, the CIA hasn’t been particularly good at predicting things…they failed to notice:
-the overthrow of Batista by Castro
-the revolt against Diem , in Vietnam
-the emergence of Milosovich in Serbia
-the “Yom Kipper” War between Israel and Egypt
-the Gulf War I action by Hussein (invading Kuwait)
With this kind of track record, why do we need these guys?
Not to mentiopn that James Angleton (head of the CIA in the late 50’s-early 60’s) convinced himself that the Soviets had infiltrated the CIA-and he just about wrecked it as a result.
Fletcher Prouty talked about covert CIA actions in the Philippines…and many innocent people were killed as a result of CIA bungling!
Finally…does anybody have any hard info on the (supposed) CIA drug smuggling from Central America? Supposedly, the coke was flown in to an airstrip in Mena. Arkansas, by a guy named Bobby Seale.

This is a copy of the original, but it is the one I was citing

May make for some interesting reading.

And regarding the CIA’s mixed record of success and ineptitude, keep in mind that, like any organization, they are not monolithic. Some people and some groups perform better than others, some projects go wrong, and some go right.

You’re missing the point entirely. The problem is not the CIA’s failures but its disastrous successes: The 1953 coup in Iran that ousted Prime Minister Mossadeq and restored the Shah to absolute power; the 1973 coup in Chile that overthrow the democratically elected Marxist President Salvador Allende and put the country under the heel of General Pinochet; etc.

I didn’t forget about those but that is more a function of our government than the CIA. I doubt the CIA just decided on its own to do the things you mentioned but were rather directed to do them. The CIA succeeded in its tasks. That the results were less than stellar is not their fault. Our government’s willingness to engage in “realpolitik” rather than have any ethical basis for its decisions is a whole other GD thread. Such things have bitten the US (and indeed other governments) in the ass so many times it is a wonder they never learn (hell…we armed Saddam…and Osama for that matter).

I respectively submit that you have missed the point.

That is the point. Whether you call mistakes successes or claim their real successes too secret to divulge, Whack-a-Mole is right about needing the CIA. If we don’t need it, then how do we operate without it? Do we just close our borders and not deal with the rest of the world or perhaps just assume that everyone will love us because we did away with our spy agency? Obviously, saying we should do away with it is a simplistic answer to a complicated question.How about talking about how to improve it, rather than doing away with it?