sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Keeping Secrets (US Clandestine Service)

There is an old maxim that maintains that two people are able to keep a secret if one of them is dead. I don't know the source, but can identify with the sentiment.

How open should the US Government be when operating its intelligence and counterintelligence services? The question has been debated to death. (LINK) The Clandestine Service of the United States exists within the Directorate of Operations (DO) of the Central Intelligence Agency. A debate within the DO has raged for years on just how secretive the Clandestine Service needs to be.

N. Richard Kinsman (article linked above) writes, "If the Clandestine Service (CS) is rendered ineffective due to the Agency's inability or unwillingness to insist on rational and reasonable applications of openness to the business of intelligence, we will be found guilty of a self-inflicted intelligence failure that could prove fatal." Kinsman maintains, therefore, that a degree of openness is the key to a successful intelligence service.

The Clandestine Service (and the larger intelligence community) is driven by demands placed on it by foreign policy decisions made within the US Administration and Congress and by events that drive many of those policies that originate in other countries. 

Should the Clandestine Service even reside within the CIA? While that may sound like a radical question, its mission is clearly different from the mandate placed on the CIA as the nation's clearinghouse for intelligence. The Clandestine Service (LINK) is charged with collecting information from human sources and engaging in covert action at the direction of the President, while remaining responsive to Congress. Is the CIA "secret enough" to manage the business of the Clandestine Service? The present CIA is very politically correct within the Washington bureaucracy. Do we want a politically correct Clandestine Service? How secret is too secret. 

Here is your chance to comment and be heard!