The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

CIA failure had signs

It’s strange how random sentences that you overhear often come back in your life to haunt you. Try this one I heard while I was a freshman: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but life is not like a Tom Clancy novel.”

Well, it just became one.

For those of you unaware of the mega-best-selling author’s works, in Clancy’s novel, “Debt of Honor,” he creates a scenario where a terrorist flies a plane straight into the Capitol at the end of the book.

Not to make light of the terrorist attacks on the WTC or the Pentagon, but it makes one question what happened to U.S. intelligence if the scenario can be dreamed up by a spy novelist, but isn’t prepared for when the real thing happens.

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Yet, Clancy himself, in an interview on Fox News Channel’s O’Reilly Factor, mentioned that he has spoken often with the CIA and FBI about his novels. He went on to say that the attacks in New York City varied greatly from the scene in “Debt of Honor” and that he highly doubts prime suspect Osama bin Laden reads his books.

Still it is hard to ignore quotes from my hometown Rep. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac): “What we had here was a complete breakdown in intelligence.”

That is no doubt true. But who broke it?

The political finger pointing starts with the late Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), who in the 1970s held a political witch-hunt on the CIA that would make Ted Kennedy proud. Mr. Church’s intention of the hearing was to extract the role of the CIA in the many assassination attempts on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Church failed to mention that these kill orders were given by Kennedy Administration Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. After all, only good things came out of Camelot.

The result of these hearings was the systematic gutting of the CIA’s human intelligence. President Ford further handcuffed intelligence with Ford’s executive order forbidding the U.S. government to directly assassinate foreign leaders. It’s this reason that Saddam Hussein still walks the earth.

President Carter helped gut the intelligence agencies by appointing Stansfield Turner to be his CIA director after future President George H. W. Bush left with the Ford Administration. Turner also gutted human intelligence, believing it was far more important to show our enemies, namely the Soviet Bloc at the time, that America was their friend and could be trusted. A noble sentiment, too bad Brezhnev was using the KGB to its fullest extent.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came in 1995 when Bill Clinton had Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) write up a resolution decreeing that the CIA could not enlist informants engaged in known criminal activities or human rights offenses. This meant that the CIA was limited to dealing with virtual boy scouts, peons in the terrorist organizations with no useful information. Currently Clinton dodges his involvement in the Torricelli resolution by saying the CIA didn’t have to follow his executive order.

With so many resources stripped from the CIA, was it no wonder they dropped the ball?

The simple truth is this: the CIA, like all government agencies, answers to the President and Congress. It has no outside agenda other than the one asked of it by whoever is in power. It can never publicly declare victory, for to do so would compromise national security, but its every loss is analyzed with a fine-toothed comb.

Security experts concur that the United States needs more human intelligence in the field. The nation has become too reliant on satellite imagery, showing us where they are, but not what they are thinking. Tom Clancy believes it will take 10 years to rebuild the CIA’s human intelligence. Given the current circumstance, we might not have that long before the next attack.

I hope the appeasement was worth 7,000 innocent lives.

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CIA failure had signs