Is the Intelligence Community worth it?
In the age of information it seems we have it all at our finger tips. In fact, of course, we have a virtually impossible-to-manage overload of information at our finger tips. And, ironically, the application of the old adage, “a little information can be a dangerous thing”, is never more than a heart beat away for most thinking people. Nevertheless, we absorb what we can and we form views. With this proviso in mind, here are two or three responses to the main themes that inevitably emerge from any discussion about US "intelligence".
The first is that the CIA "doesn't operate in the homeland". In theory, this is correct. In practice, Wikileaks and others have demonstrated that this is simply not true. Readers are also encouraged to have a look at “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters” by James W. Douglass for an earlier and more digestible examination of this and related issues. Based on the information so far absorbed through a wide range of sources, this writer concludes that, yes, the CIA is very much active and involved in the homeland, and that it will always have the upper hand as far as the FBI is concerned. So why so much interest In spying on its own funders (the American people)? One would expect that much if not all of the early warning of "terrorist activities" should be coming from outside the homeland.
The second is that "we have no idea of the scale of the problem that the CIA (and the FBI) have to deal with". For all we know, they could have successfully stopped hundreds of terrorist activities. But one might think, if this is so, why haven't we been told? Isn't it the citizens' right to know these things being done on their behalves? And in any event wouldn't the CIA/FBI wish to trumpet their successes wherever possible? There may be a case for “protecting sources” in some instances, but surely this can't apply in every instance and forever?
The third is that "any further vigilance would involve even further infringements of our human rights". Great liberties have already been taken in this respect with very little to show in terms of subsequent success rates. Still greater liberties are being sought by the intelligence community and one can't help suspecting that whatever advances they make as a consequence will be no more visible to tax payers than at present. Tax payers are engaged in a massive trust game and so much trust needing to be placed in covert activity is not workable in a healthy democracy.
The fourth, slightly cynically, is that "the CIA is busy doing other things" (targeted assassinations via drone aircraft, government overthrows). Maybe so.
The overall conclusion is that the American people could/should be getting a much bigger or better bang for their buck. They have paid and continue to pay a lot for their intelligence community, both in terms of hard cash and in terms of compromises to their individual human rights. They have every right to demand higher standards and better returns on their investment.
© 2013 Deacon Martin