ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
The developments at the CIA have raised questions about the future of U.S. intelligence, and intelligence agencies being opaque institutions, they've also raised questions about the present condition of U.S. intelligence. We've invited two men who know about the intelligence agencies. Reuel Marc Gerecht was a CIA Middle East specialist from 1985 to 1994. Welcome back.
REUEL MARC GERECHT: Thank you.
SIEGEL: And Rand Beers was a counterterrorism advisor to the National Security Council from 1988 to 1998, and again from 2002 to 2003. Welcome to the program.
RAND BEERS: Thank you.
SIEGEL: First, a question. I'd like to hear from both of you, starting with Reuel Marc Gerecht. Is the mission or the competence of the CIA after Porter Goss's tenure any different from what it was before?
MARC GERECHT: No, none whatsoever. I mean I think the agency's been in very, very bad shape. It's been in very bad shape, particularly if you're talking about the clandestine service, for years. Decades, in fact. And I don't think Porter Goss has done any damage to the agency, certainly not to the clandestine service.
SIEGEL: Nor has he cured what ails it.
MARC GERECHT: No, he certainly hasn't also put the institution onto the road of real reform.
SIEGEL: Rand Beers?
BEERS: I think that the agency has definitely had morale problems that preceded Goss's arrival, but then I think they've been compounded by his presence. Certainly the people that I've known out there, that I've talked to, have said that morale is much lower now than when Goss arrived.
SIEGEL: What's the difference between somebody being CIA Director now in the age of a National Director of Intelligence, a Negroponte, and before that.
BEERS: Well, it's a diminished position. And I think that that's one of the reasons that Hayden was an obvious choice. That I think you are going, in one way or another, have to go to the professional staff, either in the intelligence community at CIA or the intelligence community written more largely in order to find someone who would be willing to take the job in the diminished status. But also, let's be candid, also a short time frame. This is a job that's going to stay with this president, and then there will probably be a replacement.
SIEGEL: Reuel Gerecht, let's say you were still working either in or about the Middle East at the agency. Would you say, good move, a professional intelligence man. He's Air Force, but he comes from NSA. Just the guy we need.
MARC GERECHT: No, I'm fairly neutral on General Hayden. I have to say I'm somewhat skeptical on the whole notion that the, any individual who comes in now is going to make a lot of difference. I think there was a moment for real, serious reform in the agency immediately after 9/11. That opportunity ended when President Bush decided to retain the services of George Tenet and I think more or less reform as we know it, or as it should be, is dead in the agency. And that's not going to change in the next two and a half years.
SIEGEL: You have argued, most recently in today's Wall Street Journal, that reform should entail CIA operatives getting out of U.S. embassies and being, well, being spies in a truly covert sense.
MARC GERECHT: Yeah, I think most of the operatives, not all, inside of embassies and consulates are for the most part wasting their time. They largely engage in exercise that really doesn't have much intelligence value. You need to have people inside of official facilities because that's how you receive walkins, people who volunteer their services and information. And walkins historically have given us the best information, certainly on what they call hard-target subjects like the former Soviet Union.
But they need to shift. I mean, I'm quite sure that most of the officers who served inside of official facilities during the Cold War didn't really do much and if you look at the Islamic terrorist target, they really don't make much sense.
SIEGEL: That's one version of what reform might entail. Rand Beers?
BEERS: I couldn't agree more with the need to get our operatives outside of embassies. It's something that I've felt ever since I was the Senior Director for Intelligence Programs on the NSC staff. It's very clear to me that that is a missed opportunity that this agency hasn't really tended to in the way that it should.
But on the larger question of reform, and I think this is one of the issues that surrounds the Hayden nomination, and that's the relationship of CIA to the DNI and the relationship of the defense part of the intelligence community to the CIA. Where are we going to do technical collection and how are we going to balance the effort and the amount of listening to those kinds of ideas that really make up part and parcel of what we want in the end, which is good solid analysis?
SIEGEL: Let me ask you a layperson's question about the intelligence community. If we have a Director of National Intelligence and we have some people gathering, as you say, human intelligence and other people intercepting signal intelligence around the world, why should there be multiple centers to analyze that intelligence? Why shouldn't there be one place where the intelligence analysis is done?
BEERS: Well you can make the argument that you might want to have some varied opinions and that if you have it in one place you may risk having simply one point of view that gets, suppresses all other points of view.
MARC GERECHT: I mean I would agree with that. I think you need to have as much competition as possible.
SIEGEL: Just for creative tension you're saying?
MARC GERECHT: Absolutely for creative tension and analysis. I mean analysis, official government analysis tends to be quite wooden. I mean the real truth is if you read the presidential brief you're usually bored out of your mind.
SIEGEL: But don't we want our national leaders to have some guidance as to say are there weapons of mass destruction in country X or do we not know that there are? Does it serve us better to have one agency saying there are another saying we don't think there are?
MARC GERECHT: Well no, I think it's good to have as many different opinions as possible and that's why you have elected officials who are supposed to be adults and they get to make up their own mind. I would also add I think competition isn't necessarily a bad idea when it comes to the clandestine service.
I mean the Pentagon, for example, has been running spies abroad for quite some time. I'm not gonna say of whether they were good spies or bad spies but they've certainly been in the business. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I think there needs to be proper coordination so everybody knows where everybody's playing, but there's nothing wrong with having more people in this business, not fewer.
SIEGEL: The man who we hear would be number two as the CIA to General Hayden, Steven Capus is somebody who left just a couple of years ago, according to news accounts at least, unhappily after dealing with Director Goss's team and now he would go back. Is that read throughout the community as saying we're gonna try to make up some of the personnel damage that Porter Goss might have inflicted at CIA?
BEERS: Certainly the people that I've talked to so far, that is both a gesture to make it up and to some degree a repudiation of Goss by the administration.
SIEGEL: This is not an administration that repudiates people very rapidly, this is quite unusual.
BEERS: It's subtle and nuanced.
SIEGEL: Subtle and nuanced would be one description of that. A bum's rush might be another description. Would you agree? Mr. Goss has been bounced out of his job rather unceremoniously?
MARC GERECHT: Well I, it appears that way. However to give him some credit when he did go over to the agency he at least attempted to hold some people accountable. He at least fired somebody and I think the greatest concern that you have with the Central Intelligence Agency and particularly with the clandestine service is moving people out of that institution who really shouldn't be there.
SIEGEL: Well Reuel Marc Gerecht and Rand Beers, thank you both very much for talking with us.
BEERS: Thank you.
MARC GERECHT: Sure.
SIEGEL: Reuel Marc Gerecht was a CIA Middle East specialist from 1985 to 1994. Rand Beers was a counterterrorism advisor to the National Security Council from 1989 to 1998 and again from 2002 to 2003.