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Tectonic Shifts at CIA
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Last week’s surprise resignation of Stephen Kappes as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was at least partly due to disagreements over how to spy. Kappes is an experience clandestine service operator with particular expertise in operations directed against Middle Eastern and terrorist targets. He is regarded as a hard liner who endorsed many of the questionable interrogation and incarceration policies initiated by George Tenet, but he also supports maintaining the CIA’s traditional emphasis on classic espionage operations. Kappes favored using resources to build up cadres of agents inside Iran and other countries viewed as hostile that could both be a source of information and could ultimately influence developments.

Kappes had previously retired after disagreements with Director Porter Goss but was brought back into the agency to provide both experience and stability. He is being replaced by CIA senior analyst Mike Morell. Agency insiders believe the replacement of Kappes by an analyst is a reflection of the fact that the CIA no longer emphasizes agent handling, referred to as tradecraft, and has instead become a video-game-like targeting and killing machine that is an integral part of the so-called global war on terror. High tech shooting galleries do not require much in the way of traditional espionage skills, which are largely being lost at CIA as case officers who actually spent their time developing, recruiting, and running agents retire.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: CIA 
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  1. Regardless where you are on the political spectrum, Kappes departure is a blessing for everyone. His departure doesn’t mean any “tectonic shift” other than another marginal performer who was chosen, not because of any extraordinary accomplishment but rather as a counter to Porter Goss. Do you really believe for one minute that Kappes was the only guy who supported/supports HUMINT over other forms of intel? And that’s no great revelation. The agency specializes in HUMINT so naturally that’s what Kappes would support. Besides you are missing the most obvious point. Kappes was the number two man in the agency and arguably held more influence than Panetta who is a party hack. If Kappes wanted to change the direction of the agency he could have, with little opposition from Panetta or Obama for that matter You’re trying to somehow associate his departure with a failure of the administration to get more HUMINT on Iran. Open your eyes: Kappes was part of the problem in the same way that Panetta is, We’ll never have near the HUMINT capacity that Israel does because we lack the political, personal and national will to do the hard work that HUMINT requires to include getting into Iran. You forget that under Kappes’ watch, seven members of the CIA were killed in the largest number of CIA personnel killed on one day in the history of the CIA yet once again, like the events on 9/11, not one single government official was held accountable.

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  2. DT, you are clearly well informed. Most DO people that I talk to believe that Kappes was more than normally competent coming after dimwits like Pavitt and and Rodgriguez but that the Agency in general is becoming less capable in its HUMINT skills through lack of exercise. It also suffers from an increasingly stifling bureaucracy. I don’t think Kappes was in a position to change direction for CIA for a number of reasons, mostly political but also due to diminishing clout of the clandestine service, though we can agree to differ on that one. The seven dead agency officers are a product of decline in tradecraft skills, not really Kappes’s fault, and the failure to hold anyone accountable is a characteristic of American government at all levels and everywhere. The Israelis are undoubtedly willing to take bigger risks in running operations than is CIA but they demonstrated a high level of incompetence in their recent assassination in Dubai, not dissimilar to some recent Agency efforts (Milan).

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  3. COMINT has always been the Agency’s strong suit: where’s the “tectonic shift” there?

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  4. There is an appetite for everywhere else inside of Beltwayville that isn’t so easily satisfied if you happen to be the one on the ground in Guatamala or Nigeria, or Iran, Afghanistan, etc. This is especially true when the political boobs in Washington already know what they want to know and want your last piece of the puzzle only for someone to blame when things go wrong.
    Developing, recruiting, and running agents requires patience and judgement. Also a conscience. Careerists are notoriously short on all three. The equation is quite simple: the greater the number of careerists, the fewer the number of assets. Call it trickle down poison. Intelligence abhors a vacuum and Comint pours in.
    As for Milan and Dubai, the only question in my mind is whether there was even a single desk in Langley or Tel Aviv where the occupant didn’t look at the planning and think to himself the inmates have taken over the asylum. Tells you right there what is left of good judgement. These are the kinds of operations that cry out for review because the review will tell you how many screwballs you have in high places.

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  5. tbraton says:

    DT said:
    “You forget that under Kappes’ watch, seven members of the CIA were killed in the largest number of CIA personnel killed on one day in the history of the CIA yet once again, like the events on 9/11, not one single government official was held accountable.”

    PG replied:
    “The seven dead agency officers are a product of decline in tradecraft skills, not really Kappes’s fault, and the failure to hold anyone accountable is a characteristic of American government at all levels and everywhere.”

    You two are in agreement on the principle, although PG takes it one step further and extends the principle to government at all levels, which is undoubtedly true. Ben Bernanke, anyone? But you both leave out the ultimate step to which incompetence has been recognizedand rewarded. That is, we now distinguish it by awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom. First to George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, and second to L. Paul “Let’s Disband the Iraqi Army” Bremer. Alan “What Bubble?” Greenspan also was a recipient of the Medal of Freedom.

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  6. In an ideal world, we’d all recognize that the CIA has been an abject failure from its conception and has produced nothing but grief for the American people. Of course, any statesmen in a position to do something about it would surely be victim of a fatal “accident.”

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