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, I'll try to respond to the two or three main themes that have emerged from this discussion.
The first is that the CIA doesn't operate in the homeland. In theory, this is correct. In practice, I'm not so sure. I would refer readers to “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters” by James W. Douglass for a fairly thorough examination of this and related issues. My own feeling, based on the information I have absorbed thus far through a wide range of sources is 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. I would also argue that much of the early warning should be coming from outside the homeland anyway.
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. My thinking is, 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. I think 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 I suspect the advances they make as a consequence will be no more visible to us than at present. We are engaged in a massive trust game and I don't think that so much trust in covert activity is 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.
My overall conclusion is that the American people could/should be getting a much bigger 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.
© 2013 Deacon Martin