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DCIA Selection: Some Clarity

I’m obliged for a number of unrelated reasons to like many of the people behind the voices that are coming out against Gen Hayden for DCIA. I’m obliged to like them, but I’m not obliged to avoid criticizing them when due. The laundry list grows by the day, but for the life of me I have no idea what the hell is in the water back East (someone look out the window and tell me if Blue Plains is backed up).

A military officer shouldn’t head a civilian intelligence agency. Heaven forbid. Thank goodness there is no precedence for that, such as Admiral Souers or General Vandenberg or Admiral Hillenkoetter or General Smith or Admiral Raborn or Admiral Turner . . . that’s almost 40% if you count General Donovan (who headed CIA predecessor organizations). Also consider that while they may fall under the DOD, most of the nation’s intelligence agencies are headed by military officers but staffed overwhelmingly by civilians. The long term (some would say “real”) power in these agencies isn’t in the temps-in-uniform but the long-serving SESes and senior GSes that occupy Deputy positions.

Hayden is controversial: he started and ran the “warrantless wiretap” program. That would be the program that focuses on real or suspected terrorists operating inside the US. That would be the program that despite their best efforts to imply otherwise, minority members of Congressional oversight committees knew all about yet didn’t start crying about until after it was leaked to the press. That would be the program that 64% of American’s think is just hunky dory, thank you very much.

Hayden doesn’t know HUMINT. With a career focused on SIGINT it is easy to forget that he was an Air Attaché at one point. For those not familiar with the job it is a fancy and historically storied way of collecting overt HUMINT. He’s no C/O, but then again he didn’t get his knowledge from watching Ian Fleming movies.

Hayden is Negroponte’s man. Duh. You appoint who you trust and who you think can get the job done. Goss could be trusted to do the job that he was asked to do. He had a minor problem with execution, so they’ve reached into the bullpen. No shame in that, and certainly nothing to get bent about in DC-town, where cronyism is an art form.

As a military officer he’ll just do Rumsfeld’s bidding. I have no idea where this comes from. Like everyone in uniform is crafted from some homogeneous base material and customized based on their choice of service. He’s not making five stars. His Medal of Freedom is a lock. He owes Rumsfeld nothing. He doesn’t even report to Rumsfeld, he reports to Negroponte, who reports to Bush.

On to the real concerns:

For all the good the terrorism surveillance program is doing, TRAILBLAZER is a mess. Not that problems in technology programs at government agencies is exclusive to NSA, but you expect better from the people who are supposed to keep you safe, vice say the people who are supposed to count wolves or elk or snail darters.

As a relative outsider and given the trials of the last 18-odd months, the workforce needs a pat on the back as much as it ever needed a kick in the rear. Out of the gate we need to see a rousing workforce speech, dramatic action in the area of personnel, and some serious promotion of capabilities (I would not be surprised if the next year saw a lot of rapidly if judiciously declassified success stories). Anything short of an Extreme Makeover-like effort is going to waste this opportunity.

All things considered, I’m as pleased as can be realistically expected.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.