Washington Babylon — January 5, 2009, 9:28 am

Will Hayden Stay at CIA?

Barack Obama still hasn’t gotten around to naming his CIA director, and there’s still talk that he might retain Michael Hayden. A former senior CIA official I spoke with thinks that would be a very bad idea. Here’s what he had to say:

From Obama’s optic, leaving Hayden there for now makes sense. He hasn’t totally fucked up and he can always get rid of him later. He’s a safe place holder. But it won’t play well in the building. He hasn’t earned respect. He’s a four-star airforce general who’s not a pilot or a war guy. He is a really nice guy, he just has no business running the nations espionage business. He’s a professional administrator and they need a good case officer. They need a spy to rebuild, restructure, motivate and run the nations spy service. Bush is leaving office, after two terms with the same intelligence questions unanswered that he faced when he arrived? How is this possible? The core intelligence questions on Iran, Iraq, North Korea, China, bin Laden’s location, al Qaida’s operational abilities remain intact, after billions of dollars spent, and the largest personnel increase in agency history. When asked why, you get answers like “its hard”, “its a monumental challenge”, “we doing good work”, etc. All of that means nothing. They are failing to accomplish their core mission on a number of fronts.

The agency was designed in 1947 as a civilian service, but if he keeps Hayden, you’ll have military people in all the key positions in the new national security structure: Hayden as DCI, a general as National Security Advisor and an admiral as Director of National Intelligence, and there are military officers sprinkled all over the agency. There a lot of people upset about this.he military dabbles in the intelligence business, yet has the largest bite of the budget. Their intelligence requirements tend to be tactical collection, with offensive operations designed to act on tactical collection in war zones. They know little or nothing about living and operating under cover, alias operational activities, the full recruitment cycle, covert communications and handling spies in denied areas, clandestine operations, surveillance detection…..the core operational disciplines.

The military is linear, conventional, with a fixed chain of command, strict operational authority and execution processes, and heavy on the ground; the agency system is anathema to the military system. When I say agency, I mean the old DO, the clandestine service (case officers). You need officers who are disciplined and creative, operating in an undisciplined system and operational environment. Someone who is comfortable making their own decisions, alone, because they can’t “call home” for authority or permission. The military is the exact opposite. Rigid chain of command, authority flows from the top down, and if the people on the operational end of the spear do not have specific permission to move or act, they will sit until they do. The military is staffed with heavily disciplined people (rigid), operating in an even more disciplined and structured system. With the agency it’s strength is speed, flexibility, and nimbleness in the field. Because of the nature of intelligence, opportunity surfaces and disappears quickly. You need the latitude to operate; the military’s first response is to stop and ask permission.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
In Search of a Stolen Fiddle·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“To lose an instrument is to lose an essential piece of one’s identity. It brings its own solitary form of grief.”
Violin © Serge Picard/Agence VU
Post
Driving the San Joaquin Valley·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Othello’s Son·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean

Number of African countries with vaccination rates higher than that of the United States:

16

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A farmer in Surrey, England, was ordered by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to tear down his cannon-equipped castle, which he had built secretly and then concealed behind hay bales.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today