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Intelligence failures

My Legislation course has a 9 a.m appointment tomorrow with Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who will be talking about Congressional oversight processes generally and the Senate report on pre-Iraq war intelligence specifically. He's also likely to offer some comments on the reorganization of the intelligence agencies that Congress has been working on.

I've been thinking about what to ask the Senator tomorrow. I think I'll ask him this:

The push to reform America's intelligence services has been spurred by two major reports citing intelligence failures--the Senate report on pre-Iraq war intelligence (links here), and the 9-11 commission report (here). These two reports, to the best of my knowledge, seem to point out at least two different kinds of "intelligence failure." One is the failure of the various services to cooperate and to share information. The other is the politicization of intelligence, such that the Bush administration characterized the Iraq threat as imminent and beyond all doubt, when in fact the underlying intelligence demonstrated that the threat was highly ambiguous and uncertain.

The differing legislative proposals that have passed the House and Senate seem to address the first kind of intelligence failure. Creating a national intelligence director with control over agency funding might solve the coordination problem. My question is, what is being done to address the politicization of intelligence?

Creating a single intelligence director might actually worsen the problem of politicization. If the Bush administration had had this single national intelligence director on board when it was leaning on the intelligence agencies for a rationale to support its decision to invade Iraq, it might have been able to distill the aluminum tubes, the Niger uranium, and the Muhammad Atta-Iraqi-intelligence-meeting-in-Prague stories much quicker than it did under our more fragmented intelligence organization. The "groupthink" that the Senate report criticized might have been even worse.

Our intelligence services failed in many different ways, but it seems to me that the current fixes address only one of these failings.

[As an aside, the House version of the intelligence reorganization bill is an argument for voting the Republicans out. It tried to add to the Senate version things that shouldn't be added (making it easier to deport foreign nationals to countries where they will be tortured (via Fafblog)), and remove things that shouldn't be removed (a civil-liberties watchdog board).]