Thesis: US Intelligence

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Intelligence Community: A History of Reactionary Reform

The attacks on the United States on September 11th 2001 revealed a stunning set of shortcomings both in terms of the nations security and with respect to the reliability of its Intelligence Community. Indeed, it has been a popular refrain that the breaches which revealed such cataclysmic shortcomings in our national security system as occurred on 9/11 were accommodated by massive intelligence failings. In particular, this is an idea which the Bush Administration had expressed with its typical swagger, propagated the notion that the CIA and the FBI shared blame for declining to act on intelligence regarding a possible terrorist activity surge. Even further, it was determined by the White House that it was the very structure of the Intelligence Community which prevented these agencies from sharing information regarding such threats. These were the notions that provided foundation for the new and as yet not fully effective Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which still has several years of formation ahead of it before it can aspire to be the interwoven and dynamic agency that its designers had initially envisioned. This massive overhaul of the intelligence community would be touted as revolutionary, but in fact, there is precedent for this type of response to what appear on the surface to be system-wide breakdowns. So too was this the case in 1947 when, on the heels of World War II, The National Security Act was passed and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was formed to response to what was clearly a changing world scheme. And again in 1976, with the release of the Rockefeller Commission report detailing widespread engagement in illegal activity by the CIA in its Cold War dealings and a subsequent set of policy reforms, the U.S. Intelligence Community would be demonstrated as being in need of dramatic maintenance. Thus, with respect to the most recent shakeup of Intelligence Community orientation with 2004's passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), a pattern emerges of reactionary policy-making with limited demonstrated success in longterm organizational viability.

So would this be illustrated at the very outset of the postwar era, with members of the military establishment and the executive branch coming together to forge a new set of conditions through which intelligence could be gathered, initiatives could be taken and actions could be coordinated. Following its victory in World War II, the United States would find itself faced with many new responsibilities, dangers and opportunities, denoted by its ascendance to power and by the inception of the Cold War. These conditions would promote the need for an effectively designed and properly departmentalized intelligence community, armed with the proper leadership, orientation and resources. Therefore, "on July 27, 1947, President Truman signed into law the National Security Act of 1947, creating a postwar national security framework. A National Security Council was created to coordinate national security policy. . .. A Central Intelligence Agency was established with the Director of Central Intelligence as its head. At the time of its creations, the CIA was the only agency charged with a 'national' intelligence mission." (Johnson, 220)

It was at this time in particular that the importance of intelligence to national security had become increasingly preeminent with permeating concerns over the Cold War threat of communism driving the forging of an intelligence community that could effectively operate according to its ambitions in this environment. Therefore, the Intelligence Community would be initially postured with a great deal of flexibility, intended to afford broad freedoms to its actions. The result is that "the statutory language regarding the authorities and functions of the new Central Intelligence Agency was left intentionally vague. In part this reflected the bureaucratic sensitivities involved in specifying in the law the DCI's roles and missions in regard to other agencies, and, in part the desire to avoid working that other governments might find offensive. Thus, there was no mention of 'espionage' or 'spying' in the statute." (Johnson, 220-221) This would be the case in spite of fairly clear evidence that the CIA was intended as a powerful force for the defense of American security, expected to participate in covert operations and spying missions without the explicitly stated intention for it to do so. The outcome would be, in many ways, an agency armed with a disastrously wide latitude for operational freedom, faced with a monumentally large security task and given over to an insulated culture within which Cold War conditions seemed to legitimize all manner of otherwise questionable, illicit or illegal activities.

It would be thus that the first two decades of its existence would see the CIA through a set of expansive policies that would broaden its reach, limit restrictions on its oversight, persist on its protection of secrecy and allow it to operate absent of any real responsibility to domestic or international law. This would become a markedly problematic set of allowances for the agency constructed initially to define the Intelligence Community as a whole, with the conditions of the Cold War being used to warrant an extremity of tactics both outside of the United States through its participation in the assassination of democratically elected leaders (as in Iran and Chile, to name just a few) and through its engagement in domestic espionage tactics. This latter condition especially would demonstrate the Intelligence Community to be inherently wrongheaded during the period following World War II.

Indeed, all evidence suggests that in its relative isolation as the singular intelligence oversight group in the military structure, the CIA was allowed to develop into a distinctly negative, violence and lawless culture precipitated by the philosophical imperatives of America's Cold War Ambitions. The perceived threat of Soviet proliferation, the engagement in an ideologically-driven process of nation-building and the internalization of related security fears through Senator Joe McCarthy's now universally condemned crusades against America's own citizens would together create a highly charged security atmosphere prone to policy exploitation. As a result, the behavior of the Intelligence Community would rapidly devolve into a set of reactionary responses to threats that may have been real in some regards but which were most certainly conjured or magnified for political purposes in other regards. Such responses would also run in contrast to the policy promoted by original Act conceiving of the CIA, with the legislation including "an express prohibition on the CIA's having any 'police, subpoena, law-enforcement powers, or internal security functions,' reflecting the congressional and public desire to ensure that they were not creating a U.S. 'Gestapo' and to preserve the FBI's primacy in domestic matters." (Johnson, 221)

The CIA would prove aggressively unrestrained by this latter proposition, instead engaging as a matter of course in the very types of tactics that might earn it this 'Gestapo' classification. Because it came to be viewed, and came to view itself, as the key entity designed to oppose Russian permeation of the global community, the CIA would serve less as a true intelligence agency and more as a phantom military entity whose operations were not just covert but understood to be highly illicit or blatantly in violation of law and CIA charter. This would make the CIA both extremely important and necessary in retaining a firm national security but simultaneously prone to behaviors which seem today to be counterintuitive to the constitutional and democratic impulses driving American Cold War philosophy. As the research here encounters denotes, "it was the CIA, for example, that revealed the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Its reputation was tarnished, though, by the disastrous Bay of Pigs operation against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and reports of unsavory CIA activity during the war in Vietnam and, in the 1970s and 1980s, against unfriendly leftist regimes in Central and South America." (Answers, 1) The belief shared amongst many that the CIA engaged in dirty and dishonest tactics in order to further the American imperatives of the Cold War would be verified during these years as, especially in the sequentially negative policy implications of Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War thereafter, massive scrutiny would be placed upon the government.

This period of time would see the United States through a series of bloody and direct engagements with the scourge of communism, even as Senator McCarthy fell into disgrace. The result would be the intensification of feelings within the United States that the Intelligence Community as reflected in the CIA was in serious demand of greater restraint, more meaningful oversight and a culture of greater accountability to Congress and the public. With the revelations of its engagement in assassination attempts in democratically situated nations, the CIA would prove to be relatively a short-sighted incarnation of the intelligence community. Its crimes would be blamed on structural shortcomings which seem to suggest in accordance with the theoretical thrust of this research that this initial organization of the intelligence community had been inherently reactionary. Indeed, even in spite of its own laws and restrictions on operation, the United States would find… [END OF PREVIEW]

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US Intelligence.  (2009, May 31).  Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/intelligence/4214240

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"US Intelligence."  31 May 2009.  Web.  21 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/intelligence/4214240>.

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"US Intelligence."  Essaytown.com.  May 31, 2009.  Accessed July 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/intelligence/4214240.