Melvin A Goodman and Philip Giraldi — former CIA officers with decades of experience — both agree that the agency’s focus on paramilitary operations has undermined its core intelligence mission.
It has been observed that no countries on the earth but the United States and Israel claim extraterritoriality, i.e. the right to seize or attack anyone anywhere and at any time based on evidence that is secret. The foul-up at Base Chapman [in which seven CIA officers were killed in a suicide attack] is reflective of the transformation of CIA into a Washington-sanctioned retribution machine, something not unlike the terrorist groups that it claims to oppose rather than an intelligence agency. It is telling that after the slaughter at Base Chapman senior Agency officers immediately announced that they would get revenge and the pace of drone attacks has dramatically increased, killing few or no actual terrorists but many civilians and further destabilizing an already tottering Pakistan. The broader problems that the Agency is experiencing are revealed in CIA’s eight years of largely unrewarding effort against “international terrorism,” a symptom of a systemic failure to understand much less identify and penetrate groups that are, ironically, constantly looking for volunteers to fill their ranks. CIA’s traditional strength in recruiting agents and collecting intelligence has all but disappeared, subsumed into a paramilitary mission to launch hellfire missile firing drones, which is also almost certainly a reflection of the White House’s perception of what needs to be done. If that is so, the tactic is ultimately self defeating in that it produces more enemies that it is able to eliminate, making failure in Afghanistan an absolute certainty.
Likewise, Goodman says:
In a democracy, where laws are derived from broad principles of right and wrong and where those principles are protected by agreed procedures, it is not in the interest of the state to flout those procedures at home, or to permit extra-legal activities abroad, which have complicated the task of maintaining credible relations with our allies in the battle against terrorism.
The CIA’s most important mission remains the preparation of independent analysis of international issues for senior decision makers; therefore, it is essential to protect the integrity of objective and balanced intelligence. The CIA gives far too much attention to support for the Pentagon and to current intelligence. In the past, CIA analysis served to contradict or at least temper the worst-case analysis of the Pentagon, but this is no longer the case.
President Harry Truman created the CIA to produce strategic intelligence that was not beholden to policy and political interests; President Obama must restore this mission.