Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who Should Be In Charge of Those Drones Bombing Terrorists: CIA or Pentagon?

Drone State?
Drone State? (Photo credit:

From Denny:  Can it be the CIA numbers more poor judgment cowboys than the Pentagon?  It sure looks like President Obama seems to think so over the objections of the Senators who overseer the intelligence community and the drone program.  These senators are arguing in favor of keeping the current two-pronged version of the drone program with the CIA in addition to the Pentagon.  

From Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expresses little confidence the Defense Department (DOD) would exercise the same restraint with the controversial drone program that the CIA has exhibited admirably. 

And Sen. Feinstein boldly stated this to the Defense News, "We've watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program, how they function, the quality of the intelligence, watching the [CIA] agency exercise patience and discretion.  The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well." 

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Currently, President Obama is weighing the idea of paring down the administration of the drones from both the CIA and the Pentagon to just the Pentagon gets the sole domain of handling the operational control of the armed drone attacks.

So, what's the problem here?  Is it about the budget?  Two agencies operating drone attacks is a black hole of money seen swirling the drain?  Is it about legal issues?  How about maybe there is a CIA black op gone bad that the public will never know about [in this century] that caused the President to change direction?  Is this White House unwinding a lot of the militarization of the CIA  [that everyone in the world was worried was happening] under the much too secretive and aggressive former - and disgraced - CIA Director David Petraeus?

Yeah, it's really bad form to put a former general in charge of an intelligence agency because it never works out well since it is such a peevish cultural conflict.   Generals always over reach.  Hopes were high Petraeus would do well but he followed the usual "general" suspects out the door.

Whatever the reason for the huge shift away from an armed drone program the CIA will still continue to supply targeting and other intelligence on possible targets.  The real question is whether the Pentagon will be as sharp, detailed and particular as has been the CIA  in their pursuit and targeting of terrorists.  Clearly, the Pentagon has some standards to vastly improve, according to overseers like Sen. Feinstein.

The White House is selling this move as a way to toughen the criteria for drone strikes, adding strength to the accountability of the program and increase transparency.  Somehow, transparency and Pentagon don't work in the same sentence but if the President thinks the public will swallow that funny whopper, then OK.  Of course, transparency and the CIA are not soul mates either.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words "I can neither confirm nor deny" in my CIA house while growing up I'd be as rich as Mayor Bloomberg of New York.

One thing is for sure is the CIA would finally get serious about lurching back on track since this armed drone program began and drill down their focus on collecting and analyzing intelligence overseas, surveillance, foreign espionage and counterintelligence. Since 9/11 the agency has placed their focus strictly upon the prioritization of military operations' support instead of traditional intelligence gathering.  The Bush Era is still haunting us over a decade later with no eye toward the needs of the future where it would be far too easy to get caught with our pants down if we don't get serious about addressing it now. 

It's all about the money - and winning the rep of who's the biggest baddest guy on the Washington block.  The Pentagon wants possession of the CIA armed drones so they get the missions and then they get that portion of the budget.  Yeah, since the sequestration mess kicked in it's all about the money - and finding ways to get more of it by stealing from the other guy's budget.

Here's a serious problem that each administration must deal with:  loss of institutional memory and long term expertise when switching off a program to a completely different culture and mindset [like what happened when Bush and Cheney outted CIA nuke expert Valerie Plame Wilson, ruining her well tended network in exchange for the inexperienced clueless that took her place].  CIA operators have been working on this program for over a decade and possess knowledge and experience the Pentagon does not.

Sure, it's good to assign those CIA operators to work alongside the Pentagon guys as they transition over the next year or so.  Why not get smarter and assign them permanently, teaching the Pentagon war dogs new tricks, a step up for their game and the beginning of evolving their staid plodding and resistant military culture, morphing it into the kind of vanguard sharp spear it can become?  And, yeah, that includes women at the heart of that evolving culture.  After all, we women invented guerrilla warfare thousands of years ago.  Who better to school you in how terrorists really think?  :)

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