Jewish World Review July 2, 2002 / 22 Tamuz, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great | When Alexander the Great led his army into the town of Gordium in Phyrgia (about 100 miles west of Ankara in present day Turkey), he encountered in front of the temple of Zeus there an oxcart tied to a pole with an intricate knot. Legend had it that whoever could untie the knot would rule all of Asia. Many before Alexander tried. All failed. Alexander solved the problem by cutting the cord with his sword.

Alexander's example suggests the cure for the intelligence failures the United States experienced on and leading up to Sept. 11 may be to create a new intelligence agency. That could solve many otherwise knotty problems in the CIA and the FBI.

It is not possible to create an intelligence capability overnight. It takes years to develop a good intelligence analyst, longer to infiltrate agents into suspect groups. But a new intelligence agency can be created almost overnight. And - if it leaves behind the baggage that has accumulated in the existing agencies - it can make more efficient use of existing intelligence resources.

The FBI and the CIA carry cultural and legal baggage. The FBI is a police agency. The job of a police agency is to catch people who have committed crimes and put them in jail. That's an important job, but it is a different job from that of an intelligence agency, which is to find out what is going on. A CIA officer explained the difference to journalist Seymour Hersh: "The FBI catches bank robbers. We break into banks."

Both the FBI and the CIA have top-heavy bureaucratic structures which, like top-heavy bureaucratic structures everywhere, have become narrowly focused and risk-averse.

In addition to the hobbles their own bureaucracies impose upon the FBI and the CIA, there are legal restrictions. The CIA was forced to drop the trail of two terror suspects they trailed from Malaysia to San Diego, because the law forbids the CIA from operating in the United States. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) established a series of baroque hoops through which the FBI must jump in order to conduct surveillance on domestic terror suspects. Concerns about obtaining a FISA warrant caused FBI headquarters to forbid agents in Minneapolis to examine the computer of Zacarious Moussouai, the alleged "20th hijacker."

A new intelligence agency would not have the suffocating bureaucratic climate of the FBI or the CIA. Nor need it be subject to the legal restraints which handicap those agencies.

Where would the people to staff a new intelligence agency come from? Some would be transfers from existing agencies. A rich source would be recent retirees from the intelligence community. During the Clinton years, the CIA forced out many of the finest officers in its clandestine service. Others quit in disgust. Army, Navy and Air Force intelligence officers rarely make general. So many retire in what is the prime of their intellectual life. R. James Woolsey, President Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence, has advocated creation of an American counterpart to Britain's MI5. A hawkish Democrat and well-connected Washington attorney, Woolsey would be a good person to head the new agency. He knows Capitol Hill and is respected on both sides of the aisle. He is well suited to be the outside face of the Federal Intelligence Service.

Day to day management of the Central Intelligence Agency is in the hands not of CIA Director George Tenet, but of Deputy Director John McLaughlin. For Deputy Director of the FIS - Mr. Inside - I'd choose retired Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters.

I think Peters (who is a friend) is the smartest man in America. Most people who read his prescient book, Beyond Terror , will I think agree. But don't just take my word for it:

"Anyone who wants to understand the world after the September 11 attacks should begin by reading Ralph Peters, who understood what was going on years before that horrible day," said Tom Ricks of the Washington Post. We have a wealth of intelligence resources in this country. But they are poorly utilized. A "corporate restructuring" is in order.

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05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
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03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
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02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
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01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly