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Analysis: The Uneven Path Toward Intelligence Reform

Council on Foreign Relations

September 11, 2007
Author: Eben Kaplan

In discussing the “war on terror” at the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said, “It’s an intelligence war more than it’s a military one.” Indeed, U.S. intelligence agencies have figured prominently in the post-9/11 national security paradigm, but have also shouldered much of the blame for their failure to the nation before the 9/11 attacks. A recently declassified CIA report details these shortcomings. The 2005 report (PDF) of the Weapons of Mass Destruction commission details additional mistakes made in the run-up to the Iraq war, while making a number of suggestions to improve U.S. intelligence agencies. The past six years have seen numerous efforts to reform the United States’ sometimes disparate intelligence community—including the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act that created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—but experts say many of the old problems remain.

One area of frustration for the U.S. intelligence community is Osama bin Laden, whose appearance in a new video (BBC) serves as a reminder that the al-Qaeda leader remains at large, plotting future attacks against the nation. The CIA disbanded its unit devoted to tracking bin Laden in 2006, a move Michael Scheuer, the former CIA agent who founded the unit, calls “a crazy decision” that was made for purely bureaucratic reasons.

More importantly, much of the bureaucracy that led to the “stovepiping (New Yorker)” of intelligence still lingers. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell pledges to overhaul the nation’s sixteen different intelligence agencies so that they function collaboratively, similar to the “joint” structure of the four branches of the U.S. military.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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