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The intelligence and covert action functions of the United States intelligence community have rarely operated with total independence from either external definition of its proper mission, or without external approval of operations in other countries. These issues become complex, however, when it is realized that not all intelligence agencies were undertaken by any one agency. Some of the more controversial decisions following the Second World War were made either by military intelligence organizations, or by quasi-autonomous agencies with no clear reporting structure.

Immediately after the Second World War, it was not a given that the U.S. would, in peacetime, continue with covert action and clandestine human-source intelligence. With the former, it was also unclear if covert action, including black propaganda, covert subsidies to foreign groups and individuals, assassinations, subversion, guerilla warfare, and other activities should simply be overseen by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or by some broader group that would provide representation for the United States Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of the Treasury, and other civilian agencies with responsibility in international relations.

Just as it was a challenge, between 1945 and 1952, to decide if covert actions and intelligence collection should be undertaken, there is a challenge, today, of whether certain high-risk missions are properly assigned to the restructured Central Intelligence Agency, or to military organizations including the United States Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency. There are even international legal issues that, for example, might need thoughtful definition of the roles and missions of the CIA versus the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Current approval

Historical operations approval

Historical external review

Even after the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency by the National Security Act of 1947, the key structural features did not mature until 1952. [1] [2]

Several investigations (e.g., Church Committee[3], Rockefeller Commission [4]}, as well as released declassified documents, reveal that the CIA, at times, operated outside its charter. In some cases, such as during Watergate, this may have been due to inappropriate requests by White House staff. In other cases, there was a violation of Congressional intent, such as the Iran-Contra affair.

1949 Eberstadt Report (First Hoover Commission)

The first major analysis, following the National Security Act of 1947, was chaired by former President Herbert Hoover, with a Task Force on National Security Organization under Ferdinand Eberstadt, one of the drafters of the National Security Act and a believer in centralized intelligence.

The task force concluded that the system of the day led to an adversarial relationship, with little effective coordination, among the CIA, the military, and the State Department. "In the opinion of the task force, this produced duplication on one hand, and, on the other, departmental intelligence estimates that "have often been subjective and biased." In large measure, the military and State Department were blamed for their failure to consult and share pertinent information with the CIA. The task force recommended "that positive efforts be made to foster relations of mutual confidence between the [CIA] and the several departments and agencies that it serves."

This report stressed that the CIA "must be the central organization of the national intelligence system." It recommended a " echelon [of] an evaluation board or section composed of competent and experienced personnel who would have no administrative responsibilities and whose duties would be confined solely to intelligence evaluation." It also favored a civilian DCI with a long term in office.

"In the arena of covert operations and clandestine intelligence, the Eberstadt Report supported the integration of all clandestine operations into one office within CIA, under NSC supervision. To alleviate concerns expressed by the military who viewed this proposal as encroaching upon their prerogatives, the report stated that clandestine operations should be the responsibility of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in time of war."

The report declared that the failure to appraise scientific advances (e.g., biological and chemical warfare, electronics, aerodynamics, guided missiles, atomic weapons, and nuclear energy) in hostile countries might have more immediate and catastrophic consequences than failure in any other field of intelligence. It urged the US to develop a centralized capability for tracking these developments.

1949 Dulles-Jackson-Correa Report

The Eberstadt report was soon eclipsed by what may have been the most influential policy paper. "On January 8, 1948, the National Security Council established the Intelligence Survey Group (ISG) to "evaluate the CIA's effort and its relationship with other agencies."[5]The Jackson-Dulles-Correa report held an opposite view on clandestine collection to the Eberstadt Report, interesting in that Dulles was a clandestine collection specialist.

Like the Hoover Commission, this group was chartered at the request of President Truman, and was made up of Allen W. Dulles, who had served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the Second World War and would become DCI in 1953, William Jackson, a future Deputy DCI, and Matthias Correa, a former assistant to Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal when the latter had served as Secretary of the Navy during the war. Chaired by Dulles, the ISG presented its findings, known as the Dulles-Jackson-Correa Report, to the National Security Council on January 1, 1949. Partially declassified in 1976, it "contained fifty-six recommendations, many highly critical of the CIA and DCI. In particular, the report revealed problems in the agency's execution of both its intelligence and operational missions. It also criticized the quality of national intelligence estimates by highlighting the CIA's--and, by implication, the DCI's--"failure to take charge of the production of coordinated national estimates." The report went on to argue that the CIA's current trend in clandestine intelligence activities should be reversed in favor of its mandated role as coordinator of intelligence." It was "particularly concerned about the personnel situation at CIA, including internal security, the high turnover of employees, and the excessive number of military personnel assigned to the agency." See the continuing concern about personnel in the 1954 Doolittle Report To add "continuity of service" and the "greatest assurance of independence of action," the report argued that the DCI should be a civilian and that military appointees be required to resign their commissions.

As with the Eberstadt Report, the Dulles Report also expressed concern about the inadequacies in scientific intelligence and the professionalism of the service intelligence organizations, and urged that the CIA provide greater coordination. This led to a recommendation for increased coordination between the DCI and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the arena of counterespionage. In turn, the report recommended that the Director of FBI be elevated to membership in the committee to help the DCI coordinate intelligence and set intelligence requirements.

The report proposed a large-scale reorganization of CIA. Even though it emphasized intelligence analysis and coordination over operations, it

"suggested incorporating covert operations and clandestine intelligence into one office within CIA. ... the Office of Special Operations (OSO), responsible for the clandestine collection of intelligence, and the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), responsible for covert actions, be integrated into a single division within CIA. [It] recommended replacing existing offices with four new divisions for coordination, estimates, research and reports, and operations."

The heads of the new offices would be included in the immediate staff of the DCI so that he would have "intimate contact with the day-to-day operations of his agency and be able to give policy guidance to them." These recommendations would become the start of the model for the future organization and operation of the present-day CIA. Until the DNI creation, estimates were in a separate office reporting to the DCI, coordination was a job of the DDCI (later assisted by the Intelligence Community Staff), research and reports became the Directorate of Intelligence, and operations was first, euphemistically, called the Directorate of Plans. Directorates for Support (originally called Administration), and Science & Technology, were also created.

1954 Doolittle Report on Covert Activities

Gen. James Doolittle did an extensive report on covert actions, specifically for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.[6]

The report's first recommendation dealt with personnel. It recommended releasing a large number of current staff that could never be more than mediocre, aggressively recruit new staff with an overall goal of increasing the workforce, and intensify training, with 10% of the covert staff time spent in training. The Director should be nonpolitical.

Security was the next concern, starting with a drive to reduce interim and provisional security clearances. The report strongly endorsed use of the polygraph both for initial recruits and existing staff. Counterespionage needed to be strengthened, and field stations needed both to report on their staff and periodically be inspected. Consolidating the Washington workforce, which was scattered among buildings, into one or a few main buildings was seen as a way of improving the security of classified information.

Coordination in the intelligence community (IC) was seen as a problem, especially agreeing on clear understandings between CIA and military intelligence organizations. The overall IC program for eliciting information from defectors needed improvement, with contributions from multiple agencies.

As far as organization and management, the report described the structure of the Directorate of Plans (i.e., the clandestine service) as too complex and in need of simplification. The Inspector General needed an agency-wide mandate. The role of the Operations Coordinating Board, the covert and clandestine oversight staff of the National Security Council needed to be strengthened, with operations clearly approved and guided from the highest levels of government.

The report addressed the classic problem of increasing performance while reducing costs. This meant better review of the budgets of covert and clandestine activities by a Review Board, except for the most sensitive operations. It meant providing the Comptroller with enough information, even if sanitized, to do a thorough job.

1956 Bruce-Lovett Report

In his biography of the late Robert Kennedy, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr in briefly discussed a report he said was located in the Kennedy papers. There is no such report in the Kennedy papers, the CIA archives, the National Archives, the Eisenhower Library or other likely archives, and no documentation exists that an actual report ever existed. Schlesinger said that soon after President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Actitivites, that Board requested that Robert A. Lovett and David K.E. Bruce examine CIA's covert operations.[7]. This information comes from Arthur Schlesinger's book about Robert F. Kennedy, cited by ""Bruce was very much disturbed," Lovett told the Cuba board of inquiry in 1961. "He approached it from the standpoint of 'what right have we to go barging into other countries buying newspapers and handing money to opposition parties or supporting a candidate for this, that or the other office?' He felt this was an outrageous interference with friendly countries. . . . He got me alarmed, so instead of completing the report in thirty days we took two months or more.""

Schlesinger went on to argue that, "The 1956 report, written in Bruce's spirited style, condemned

the increased mingling in the internal affairs of other nations of bright, highly graded young men who must be doing something all the time to justify their reason for being.... Busy, moneyed, and privileged [the CIA] likes its "King Making" responsibility (the intrigue is fascinating -- considerable self-satisfaction, sometimes with applause, derives from "successes" -- no charge is made for "failures" -- and the whole business is very much simpler than collecting covert intellignece on the USSR through the usual CIA methods!).

According to cryptome's account of the Schlesinger book, "Bruce and Lovett could discover no reliable system of control. "there are always, of course, on record the twin, well-born purpose of 'frustrating the Soviets' and keeping others 'pro-western' oriented. Under these almost any [covert] action can be and is being justified.... Once having been conceived, the final approval given to any project (at informal lunch meetins of the OCB [Operations Coordinating Board] inner group) can, at best, be described as pro forma." One consequence was that "no one, other than those in the CIA immediately concerned with their day to day operation, has any detailed knowledge of what is going on." With "a horde of CIA representatives" swarming around the planet, CIA covert action was exerting "significant, almost unilateral influences... on the actual formulation of our foreign policies... sometimes completely unknown" to the local American ambassador." Bruce and Lovett concluded with an plea about taking control of covert operations and their consequences:

Should not someone, somewhere in an authoritative position in our government, on a continuing basis, be... calculating... the long-range wisdom of activities which have entailed a virtual abandonment of the international "golden rule," and which, if successful to the degree claimed for them, are responsible in a great measure for stirring up the turmoitl and raising the doubts about us that exist in many countries of the world today?... Where will we be tomorrow? | "Bruce was very much disturbed," Lovett told the Cuba board of inquiry in 1961. "He approached it from the standpoint of 'what right have we to go barging into other countries buying newspapers and handing money to opposition parties or supporting a candidate for this, that or the other office?' He felt this was an outrageous interference with friendly countries....

The CIA itself would like more detail on this so-called report, a copy of which could not be found, in 1995, by the Agency's History Staff.[8] Referring to reports such as the Dulles-Jackson-Correa, Doolittle, Pike, Church, and Rockefeller reports, the Staff "recently ran across a reference to another item, the so-called "Bruce-Lovett" report, that it would very much like to read--if we could find it! The report is mentioned in Peter Grose's recent biography Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles. According to Grose, [Bruce and Lovett] prepared a report for President Dwight Eisenhower in the fall of 1956 that criticized CIA's alleged fascination with "kingmaking" in the Third World and complained that a "horde of CIA representatives" was mounting foreign political intrigues at the expense of gathering hard intelligence on the Soviet Union.

The History Staff checked the CIA files on the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities (PBCFIA). They checked with the Eisenhower Library. They checked with the National Archives, which holds the PBCFIA records. They checked with the Virginia Historical Society, the custodian of David Bruce's papers. None had a copy.

"Having reached a dead end, we consulted the author of the Dulles biography, Peter Grose. Grose told us that he had not seen the report itself but had used notes made from it by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger for Robert F. Kennedy and His Times (1978). Professor Schlesinger informed us that that he had seen the report in Robert Kennedy's papers before they were deposited at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. He had loaned Grose his notes and does not have a copy of these notes or of the report itself.
"This raises an interesting question: how did a report on the CIA written for President Eisenhower in 1956 end up in the RFK papers? We think we have the answer. Robert Lovett was asked to testify before Gen. Maxwell Taylor's board of inquiry on the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation. Robert Kennedy was on that board and may have asked Lovett for a copy of the report. But we do not have the answer to another question: where is the "Bruce-Lovett" report? The JFK Presidential Library has searched the RFK papers without success. Surely the report will turn up some day, even if one government agency and four separate archives so far haven't been able to find it. But this episode helps to prove one of the few Iron Laws of History: the official who keeps the best records gets to tell the story."

Schlesinger himself said the "report" had no influence on the CIA or on Eisenhower at the time; indeed no one at the time ever mentioned it.

1975 investigations

The 1975 United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States, better known as the Rockefeller Commission investigated questionable practices including assassination attempts and inappropriate domestic operations. Larger Congressional investigations followed in 1975, first the Church Committee of the United States Senate, followed by the Pike Committee of the United States House of Representatives. Eventually, these interim committees were replaced by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

1996 reports

In 1996, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a congressional report estimating that: "Hundreds of employees on a daily basis are directed to break extremely serious laws in countries around the world in the face of frequently sophisticated efforts by foreign governments to catch them. A safe estimate is that several hundred times every day (easily 100,000 times a year) DO officers engage in highly illegal activities (according to foreign law) that not only risk political embarrassment to the US but also endanger the freedom if not lives of the participating foreign nationals and, more than occasionally, of the clandestine officer himself."[9]

In the same document, the committee wrote, "Considering these facts and recent history, which has shown that the [Director of the Central Intelligence Agency], whether he wants to or not, is held accountable for overseeing the [Clandestine Service], the DCI must work closely with the Director of the CS and hold him fully and directly responsible to him."[5]

2007 documents

On 27 June 2007 the CIA released two collections of previously classified documents which outlined various activities of doubtful legality. The first collection, the "Family Jewels," consists of almost 700 pages of responses from CIA employees to a 1973 directive from Director of Central Intelligence James Schlesinger requesting information about activities inconsistent with the Agency's charter.[10]

The second collection, the CAESAR-POLO-ESAU papers, consists of 147 documents and 11,000 pages of research from 1953 to 1973 relating to Soviet and Chinese leadership hierarchies, and Sino-Soviet relations.[11]

Mission-related failures

For the media, the failures are most newsworthy, and the CIA has, at times, either performed poorly or violated laws. Some of the violations were in response to White House orders.

Security and counterintelligence failures

While the names change periodically, there are two basic security functions to protect the CIA and its operations. There is an Office of Security in the Directorate for Support, which is responsible for physical security of the CIA buildings, secure storage of information, and personnel security clearances. These are directed inwardly to the agency itself.

In what is now the National Clandestine Service, there is a counter-intelligence function, called the Counterintelligence Staff under its most controversial chief, James Jesus Angleton. This function has roles including looking for staff members that are providing information to foreign intelligence services (FIS) as moles. Another role is to check proposals for recruiting foreign HUMINT assets, to see if these people have any known ties to FIS and thus may be attempts to penetrate CIA to learn its personnel and practices, or as a provocateur, or other form of double agent.

This agency component may also launch offensive counterespionage, where it attempts to interfere with FIS operations. CIA officers in the field often have assignments in offensive counterespionage as well as clandestine intelligence collection.

The "Family Jewels" and other documents reveal that the Office of Security violated the prohibition of CIA involvement in domestic law enforcement, sometimes with the intention of assisting police organizations local to CIA buildings.

Perhaps the most disruptive period involving counterintelligence was James Jesus Angleton's search for a mole,[12]based on the statements of a Soviet defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn. A second defector, Yuri Nosenko, challenged Golitsyn's claims, with the two calling one another Soviet double agents.[13] Many CIA officers fell under career-ending suspicion; the details of the relative truths and untruths from Nosenko and Golitsyn may never be released, or, in fact, may not be fully understood. The accusations also crossed the Atlantic to the British intelligence services, who also were damaged by molehunts.[14]

On February 24, 1994, the agency was rocked by the arrest of 31-year veteran case officer Aldrich Ames on charges of spying for the Soviet Union since 1985.[15]

Other defectors have included Edward Lee Howard, a field operations officer, and William Kampiles, a low-level worker in the CIA 24-hour Operations Center. Kampiles sold the Soviets the detailed operational manual for the KH-11 reconnaissance satellite.[16]

See US intelligence involvement with World War II Japanese war criminals and U.S. intelligence involvement with World War II Nazi war criminals.

Failures in intelligence analysis

The agency has also been criticized for ineffectiveness as an intelligence gathering agency. Former DCI Richard Helms commented, after the end of the Cold War, "The only remaining superpower doesn't have enough interest in what's going on in the world to organize and run an espionage service."[17] The CIA has come under particular criticism for failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.

See the information technology section of the intelligence analysis management for discussion of possible failures to provide adequate automation support to analysts, and US intelligence community A-Space for a IC-wide program to collect some of them. Cognitive traps for intelligence analysis also goes into areas where CIA has examined why analysis can fail.

Among the first analytic failures, before the CIA had its own collection capabilities, it assured President Harry S Truman on October 13, 1950 that the Chinese would not send troops to Korea. Six days later, over one million Chinese troops arrived.[18] See an analysis of the failure; also see surrounding text for the two Koreas and China, and the time period before the Korean War. Earlier, the intelligence community failed to detect the North Korean invasion, in part because resources were not allocated to communications intelligence of the Korean peninsula.

The history of US intelligence, with respect to French Indochina and then the two Vietnams, is long and complex. The CIA often made pessimistic predictions that underscut the optimistic hopes of the White House. It does appear that some estimates were changed to reflect Pentagon and White House views.[19] In general, the military was consistently more optimistic than the CIA. Sam Adams, a junior CIA analyst with responsibilities for estimating the actual damage to the enemy, eventually resigned from the CIA, after expressing concern, to Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms with estimates that were changed for interagency and White House political reasons, writing the book War of Numbers{ See CIA activities in Asia-Pacific for detailed discussions of intelligence and covert operations from 1945 onwards.

Another criticism is the failure to predict India's nuclear tests in 1974. The Agency did predict some aspects of the test, such as a 1965 report saying, correctly, that if India did develop a bomb, it would be explained as "for peaceful purposes".

A major criticism is failure to forestall Al Qaeda's 9-11 Attack in 2001 because of three organizational deficiencies: the inability of multiple American intelligence agencies to work together, organizational incentives to take the wrong analytical actions, and resistance to new technologies and ideas.[20] The 9/11 Commission Report identifies failures in the intelligence system as a whole. For example, the FBI failed to "connect the dots" on information held but not shared by its decentralized field offices. The report, however, criticizes both CIA analysis, and impeding their investigation. The CIA Inspector General in 2007 concluded that former DCI George Tenet failed to adequately prepare the agency to deal with the danger posed by Al Qaeda prior to the 9-11 Attack. [21] Tenet disagreed with the report's conclusions, citing his planning efforts vis-a-vis al-Qaeda, particularly from 1999.[22]


  1. Warner, Michael (expanded from Fall 1995), "Salvage and Liquidation: The Creation of the Central Intelligence Group", Studies in Intelligence
  2. Troy, Thomas F. (1993-09-22). Truman on CIA p.6. Center for the Study of Intelligence.
  3. Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, United States Senate ("Church Committee") (April 26, 1976), Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. Book II
  4. United States Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States (1975), Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States
  5. 5.0 5.1 Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of Representatives, 104th Congress (2006-07-16), "IX. Clandestine Service", The Intelligence Community in the 21st Century,
  6. Doolittle, James (30 September 1954), Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency
  7. Schlesinger, Arthur Jr. (1978), Robert Kennedy and His Times, at 454-458
  8. "The Elusive "Bruce-Lovett Report"", Center for the Study of Intelligence Newsletter, Spring 1995
  9. The CIA Commits Over 100,000 Serious Crimes Per Year. (2006-07-16).
  10. Mark Mazzetti and Tim Weiner. Files on Illegal Spying Show C.I.A. Skeletons From Cold War, The New York Times, 2007-06-27.
  11. Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Releases Two Significant Collections of Historical Documents
  12. Wise, David (1992), Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA, Random House
  13. Baer, Robert (2003), See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Three Rivers Press, ISBN 140004684X
  14. Wright, Peter (1987), Spycatcher, William Heinemann
  15. FBI History: Famous Cases - Aldrich Hazen Ames. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  16. McKinley, Cynthia A. S., When the Enemy Has Our Eyes
  17. [ | title = The CIA: On top of everything else, not very good at its job: Review of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA | journal = The Economist | date = 16 August 2007}}
  18. Kerber, Linda K. (2006-05-15). Protecting the Nation's Memory. American Historical Association.
  19. Adams, Sam (1994), War of Numbers: an Intelligence Memoir, Steerforth Press, ISBN 188364223X
  20. Amy B. Zegart, "CNN with Secrets": 9/11, the CIA, and the Organizational Roots of Failure." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 2007 20(1): 18-49. Issn: 0885-0607
  21. Tenet’s C.I.A. Unprepared for Qaeda Threat, Report Says, The New York Times, 2007-08-21.
  22. "CIA criticises ex-chief over 9/11", BBC News online, 22 August 2007