It's a complicated task, looking at the nomination of Mike Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA chief.
As I had blogged in October, one of the biggest problems at the CIA was Goss.
What I said in that post was this:
They may wonder why the CIA is losing so many career officers, but I do not wonder why that is at all.
Start with Goss himself. Although he once was a covert operative, that was many years ago, and since then he became a politician. And one has to think that he was chosen for the job not so much because he was a former CIA officer all those many years ago, but because he was a Republican Congressman.
A political hack called to do one of the most important jobs in America.
Luckily, Goss is gone. And Mike Hayden does have one advantage that Goss did not have-- he isn't a crony. Clearly as an active duty military officer, he is qualified for the position.
On the other hand though, we should not forget the excesses of the CIA in past decades and how Hayden might relate to them.
During the early 1970's (in other words during the days when the President's father ran it) and earlier, and again starting in the 1980s, the agency clearly overstepped its bounds. In addition to domestic surveillance (which got ridiculous that there was even a report at the time that the CIA was opening the FBI's mail) the agency was involved in assassination plots, creating hyperinflation in Chile by printing a great deal of counterfeit money and flooding the country with it, and dealing with a lot of unscrupulous characters with little or no thought to what they might become and whether we should be building them up (Saddam and Osama being just two of hundreds of examples.)
What we need is a CIA chief who isn't afraid to challenge the President on Constitutional grounds, and on grounds of what the long term consequences may be. Not that there aren't reasons when covert action is necessary, but clearly our history has been one of 'shoot first, worry about the result later.'
We need a CIA chief who will challenge the President about foreign policy decisions if we are in the wrong, or if there is a good chance that the results will create more problems for us later. Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about Iran, and it came up that had we not interfered with the Iranian revolution of 1952 and put the Shah back in place (another CIA operation) because we were worried that the secular government established in that year might not be sufficiently anti-communist, then we would not today, and for the past quarter of a century, have been dealing with the consequences of the 1979 revolution, because there would almost certainly not have been one.
Simply because 'we don't like your government' is not a reason for us to take overt OR covert action against another country. Yet, this administration has seemed all to willing to do so, everything from the pre-determined Iraq war to how eagerly the Bush administration jumped in support of the coup plotters who for one day took power from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
We need a CIA chief who will challenge the President on domestic surveillance matters. This should not be the purview of the CIA anyway, but this administration seems to take an 'end justifies the means' approach to these sorts of things. And given Hayden's past support of a domestic surveillance program, yeah, we should be worried.
We need a CIA chief who will challenge the selective clipping of intelligence, as well as blaming the agency when things go bad. We know by now that the problem in Iraq was not that all the intelligence was bad (though some was), it was the selective cutting and pasting of only that intelligence which supported the President's decision to invade Iraq, a decision which as Paul O'Neill's book and the Downing Street memo have both made clear, was made even before the intelligence on alleged weapons of mass destruction was assembled. But then it was sliced, diced, cut, thrown away, parsed and molded to fit the predesignated outcome. There was intelligence stating what we know now-- that Saddam had no actual WMD-- but that didn't fit the plan so it was thrown away. Is Hayden the kind of guy who would insist on the President seeing ALL the intellegence? Probably not. And therein lies the problem.
Hayden will join an administration full of 'yes men.' Ah, but he won't be the same kind of yes man. Instead of saying, 'yes,' because he's afraid he will lose his job, I believe, based on his defense of the domestic spying program, that he will say, 'yes' because he actually BELIEVES his 'yes answers.'
But either way, he isn't what we need to fix the CIA.