Taking Stock of the Intel Community Shake Up

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by Larry C Johnson

There are big doings in the intel community that may signal the start of a new effort to cook the books to justify an attack on Iran.  Let's start with John Negroponte's move to State Department.  I am told by a knowledgeable friend that Negroponte was pressured by the White House to take the job at State.  The exodus of key State Department personnel (e.g., Deputy Secretary Zoellick, Counselor Phil Zelikow, and Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Hank Crumpton) left Condi twisting in the wind.  Negroponte gives Condi one of the most experienced foreign service officers in the State Department's history. 

Negroponte will not be shedding crocodile tears as he drives  to Foggy Bottom.  The Director of National Intelligence job is still in its full birthing pains and, while having important clout over the National Intelligence Estimate process and handling the daily Presidential intelligence brief, still lacks effective control of the intelligence community.  The Director of CIA retains control over the most significant human collection capability and the Under Secretary of Intelligence at the Department of Defense essentially controls 80% of the intelligence community, including almost all of the critical technical collection assets.

Replacing Negroponte with retired Navy Admiral John M. McConnell and appointing retired Air Force Lt. General James Clapper as the Under Secretary of Intelligence at DOD, where he will be in charge of coordinating the budgets and activities of the NSA, the NRO, Defense Human Services, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency, will give the military unprecedented control of the intelligence community.  This will mark the first time since World War II the active duty or former military officers are running the main intelligence assets of the United States.  Clapper's new job, at least for him, is a dream come true.

Clapper and McConnell are worrisome choices because they are known in the intelligence community as guys willing to give their customers what they want.  Unlike Negroponte, who took a pretty tough analytical stance dismissing the imminence of an Iranian threat, Clapper and McConnell will be more than willing collaborators in making a case that Iran is a serious, immediate threat.  If you want to cook the books then these guys can be master chefs.

Clapper's new job, at least for him, is a dream come true.   He appears on the verge of fulfilling a lifelong ambition.  While he was director Clapper spent much pf his time politicking and scheming to take away from the Director of the CIA any and all moneys that were budgeted for any support to the armed forces. He wanted to make himself “Director of Military Intelligence,” a new title, so that he could receive his fourth star as a full general. He was defeated in this attempt by the then DCI James Woolsey.  Although a fourth star is not in the plans, Clapper will be the Director of Military Intelligence.

Jim Clapper, I'm told by a former colleague of Clapper's, may have been the worst director ever of the DIA.  An Air force tactical intelligence officer, Clapper knew nothing whatever of intelligence support to policy making when he arrived at DIA as its Director in 1992. His entire world of work up to then had been made up of target photographs and anti-aircraft weapons.

He was completely unfamiliar with the fact that DIA was a major participant in the formulation of national intelligence estimates, and when he found out that was true he said that he “had no intention of participating.” Accordingly he re-structured DIA’s analytic force, which had been one of the finest in the world away from such categories as; countries XXX, counter-terrorism, economics, advanced weapons developments, Middle East, Islam, etc. to categories such as; tanks, anti-aircraft rockets, bombs, etc. This removed from the national analytic capability a major asset which would have been invaluable in the period before 9/11.

As a result of his destruction of their career fields, hundreds of the most senior and esteemed analysts retired early. DIA has been trying to re-construct the fine capability that it had at the end of the First Gulf War ever since Clapper left the job of Director. The confirmation hearings of Clapper and McConnell will be a signficant test of the Democratic Senate's spine.  Are the Democrats willing to ask tough questions during upcoming confirmation hearings and insist on getting answers?  Will the Rockefeller led Senate Intelligence Committee push hard behind closed doors to get a solid, no shit appraisal of whether or not Iran really poses an imminent threat in the Middle East?  I hope the answer is yes.

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