There are complaints that since 9/11 the level of “militarization” of CIA reaches unhealthy level for the intelligence agency.
Do you agree with this criticism or not, and why?
Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Close coordination between the CIA and the military is essential in a time of war. America is at war on a global stage with al Qaeda and its allies, we need to use all our assets wisely. The real danger is that the CIA will lose its independent analysis. Petraeus first task is to show that is not the case. He knows this in theory. Afghanistan will be the key test. Does the CIA remain independent of the generals or become their echo? We’ll see.
David Alvarez, Professor, Politics Department, Saint Mary’s College of California
Has American intelligence become more militarized? Yes, of course it has. Intelligence services always become more militarized during war, and the United States has been at war for ten years.
Is the militarization unhealthy? Unhealthy for whom? Certainly not for the generals waging the war. Some observers fear that American intelligence services, particularly the CIA, have abandoned the study of long term economic, environmental, political, and social trends around the world in favor of a narrow, short term focus on purely military concerns. These critics forget that the services are driven by the needs of the country’s leadership. In a democracy elected leaders are not encouraged to think about long term trends because elections take place in the short term, not the long term. In the event of a devastating attack on American territory, President Obama will not calm the fear and anger of American voters by assuring them that, despite the unfortunate attack, the United States anticipates the decline of religious-based terrorism over the next fifteen years.
If there was another terrorist attack on American territory today, some of the critics who are arguing that the CIA should emphasize long term, analytical studies of political, environmental and economic trends will be among those accusing the service of failure to predict and eliminate the immediate hostile threat.
The real problem with the militarization of American intelligence is that it obscures and loosens lines of authority and responsibility. Over the years the U.S. Congress has developed mechanisms for monitoring the covert operations of the CIA. There has been, however, little effort to monitor covert operations conducted by the military because, until recently, the armed services were not much involved in such operations. The absence of an “oversight” apparatus appropriate for military or joint CIA-military covert operations means that such operations escape scrutiny by the legislative organs responsible for watching the intelligence services.
David Barrett, Professor Department of Political Science, Villanova University
To the extent that CIA becomes more of a para-military organization that the US government relies on, the CIA’s most important mission of intelligence gathering, analysis, and reporting can become endangered. Maybe in theory an organization can do very different things well, but in the real world, it’s hard; leaders naturally become focused on one big mission or the other. The para-military function/mission is very different from the intelligence one. CIA’s earliest directors (Hillenkoetter and Smith) knew and worried about this, but government higherups insisted that CIA take on the para-military/covert operations function.
One thing that can mitigate dangers of a “militarized” CIA (and keep in mind: different people see different “dangers”) is active monitoring of the CIA by the Senate and House Intellligence Committees to ensure that CIA does its tasks well and abides by U.S. law.
Michael Smith writes on defence and security issues for the Sunday Times and New Statesman, Author of various books including - Killer Elite: The Real Story Behind SEAL Team Six and the Bin Laden Raid
I think that it is dangerous for intelligence services to get involved in ‘special operations’ and it should not happen at all. Most countries have very efficient special operations forces as part of their armed forces and what is required is for the intelligence services to work much closer with these special operations forces not to run their own. Regrettably there is always a tendency to compete, largely due to competition for budgets. This was the case in the US in the past, with the CIA holding back intelligence from the armed forces special operations teams. It was a major problem during the 1980s most particularly with the failed operation to rescue the US embassy hostages in Iran. The cooperation worked well for the mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden but it was imposed from on high by the White House. The day-to-day operations of organisations like the CIA are not geared to providing intelligence for special operations teams and as a result, in the US and the UK, specialist intelligence teams have been set up within the special operations directorates. These will provide all the intelligence a special operations team needs to do its job. The national intelligence agencies – whether the human intelligence organisations like the CIA and MI6 or the signals intelligence bodies like NSA and GCHQ – should simply help by providing as much intelligence as they can to feed into that. But the intelligence for the actual mission should be produced by the special operations specialists and the actual special operations missions must in my view be carried out by the military special forces teams, which in the US means the US Navy SEALS or Delta, assisted by their USAF specialists.
James Carafano, Senior Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
It is always difficult to comment on covert operations since by definition the amount of information available to the public is limited.
Covert operations have to be appropriate for the threat. There is little question that transnational terrorism is a significant threat.
Oversight of covert activities has also received additional attention in recent years–particularly with the establishment of the Director of National Intelligence.
James Blake, Intelligence Analyst, Janusian – The Risk Advisory Group
Ultimately the CIA has adapted to meet the threats and circumstances of today’s international environment. A main priority for the CIA is to target Al- Qaeda’s leaders to prevent them from planning and executing international attacks. Because of the difficulties in military operations into countries like Pakistan and Yemen, there is a requirement for an increase in drone strikes.
Filed under: Intelligence, Military, Politics, Security, US politics Tagged: | al-Qaeda, Bruce Riedel, CIA, David Alvarez, Espionage, Intelligence, James Blake, James Carafano, Michael Smith, Military, Politics, Security, Terrorism, The Brookings Institution, United States