Senator Roberts wants to split up the CIA. Good idea?

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has proposed splitting up the CIA into three agencies –

Good idea or bad?

It’s impossible to tell at this point. The CIA bureaucracy is obviously a major problem these days, and it’s not clear that lumping a bunch of different agencies into a new superagency would help that. On the other hand, Roberts has done a horribly partisan job of bringing the issue up. So bad, that the idea may be torpedoed before it even gets a hearing. Maybe the Feds need to hire a few network specialists to argue the merits of central versus distributed processing of intelligence information. The mixed environment we have today may even turn out to be the best we can hope for.

As Mr. Rumsfeld noted, “The Devil’s in the details.”

As a general idea, it seem like a good idea to have an intelligence department that is self contained. Especially if provides another layer of protection for the career pros against politicization of their very crucial work.

Seems to me the National Intelligence Director or Secretary or whatever would be a presidential appointee, just like the CIA Director is now . . .

Anyway, if they do establish a new department, it should be named the Department of Intelligence and Espionage! :smiley:

Department is not the same as the director.
As an example of what I hope for from the hypothetical change is that we’d end up with a intelligence service that was similar to the military in that even though a political appointee was in charge there’d be a solid staff of experienced hands that would actually control the culture of the service. As it is, there’re a number of services which have sprung up at different tinmes for different reasons whose directives have now have begun to overlap w/o a corresponding overlap in effective communication.

But, I have not seen the plan, so I’m only commenting on what I hope is in it.

I have a feeling that AFTER the election will be the moment when REAL intel community reforms will be feasible and effective. Before elections they will suggest anything to anyone…

The CIA deserves to be broken up though… every major “villain” of the last decades has been an associate of theirs… Noriega, ObL and Saddam.

I just had to comment on how funny this was. Back to the debate.

It’s too soon to judge the Roberts proposal, IMO, just because we need time to digest the details. On the other hand, I’m somewhat preinclined to be opposed to it, just because Sweeping Radical Changes To Overhaul Everything We Know Already™ always strike me as ideas driven more by convenience than by necessity.

Or, to recycle an old Clinton chestnut, “Mend it, don’t end it.”

My knee jerked toward acceptance just because I heard that the Bush team didn’t approve of it.

It’s like that TV show that’s about nothing.

OK, lets say I’m empowered by Congress to set up the Agency for Knowing Stuff About Bad Guys. Cool. Big hairy-ass budget, the woiks.

Where do I get my agents? I need qualified, experienced agents, right? Where do I get the guys to supervise my agents, they need be even more qualified, yes? Ponder, ponder…

Well, I guess I hire them from the now-defunct CIA. So now I have the Agency for Knowing Stuff about Bad Guys, made up entirely of precisely the same people.

Either that, or I go out and hire total amatuers, anybody who’s read at least two John Le Carre novels…

Not saying that would be a bad idea. Just saying, is all.

Not saying I know anything about this proposal (well, anything more than has been presented here), but there are some holes in your logic, elucidator. When the Army Air Corps was reformed to become the Air Force most of the people remained in place (like in your example)…however the MISSION changed. There was a change in focus, a change in goals, etc.

If they reform the CIA and split the intellegence services into segragate parts then the MISSION for each will change, even if the people remain essentially the same. On the surface it SOUNDS like a promissing idea. I’d have to see the details to see if it really is a good idea or a bad one though.


Well, they’ll have to change the name…

Maybe, but when you’ve got a 50 year disaster on your hands like the CIA then it’s probably time to wad it up and toss it in the garbage. I can name disaster after disaster regarding the CIA - how many successes of theirs can you name?

The only thing I disagree with the Roberts proposal on is that he wants to transfer the covert operations departments somewhere. Those shouldn’t be transferred, but ended completely.

Plus, given that the CIA has been the primary terrorist organization used by the United States, completely abolishing it will send a powerful message that not only are we willing to fight terror directed against us, but that we are going to get rid of terror as a tactic of our own.

I don’t know about the CIA, but I think the FBI should be split into two. The FBI currently has two very different and often contradictory jobs: law enforcement and intelligence. These seperate goals require very different mindsets, with the first focusing on arresting and convicting criminals, and the second focusing on couterintelligence and counterterrorism. My suggestion is to take all the lawyers and ex-cops, merge them with the DEA and ATF and found a Federal Law Enforcement Agency, and to take all the intellegence analysts and spooks and form a Federal Intelligence Agency. I think this kind of re-shufeling will allow everyone to focus on their own specialization

I am not yet convinced that the CIA – despite its history of screwups – is a “50 year disaster” that’s irrevocably unsalvagable.

Sure, but first you’d have to acknowledge that the CIA has been involved in unsavory operations in the past, and there’s still enough folks out there who’d refuse to do even that.

Again, let’s make it clear: I’m not defending nor apologizing for the CIA in any way, shape, or form, and am well aware of its unsavory history of screwups and foreign interventions. But on general principles as both an engineer and a rational-minded person, I think that any solution which starts off “Let’s tear it all down and redo it all over again” is something which must be approached very suspiciously.

There is no assurance that “new == better,” no matter how much we want to think it does.

Unfortunately, I disagree.

I think there are certain aspects of the CIA that are certainly salvagable - intelligence analysis, etc. - however, the CIA as an actual organization needs to go. I would even be content with the elimination of covert operations department and a name change. But there needs to be a conscious and symbolic break with the past in this case.

While I would certainly agree with this sentiment if it were a gut reflex to something that just happened. However, this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and I fully believe that it needs to happen.

Certainly, we should do it carefully to make sure things are wrapped up as best they can be. But it’s something that I believe needs to happen.

There is no assurance that “new == better,” no matter how much we want to think it does.

Agreed, but with some careful planning and determination, there’s no reason we can’t make it better.