Pentagon Hawks Take Wing

Pentagon Hawks Take Wing

A new Defense Department spy office could politicize intelligence gathering.


As the civil liberties community endeavors to stem the tide of threats to the Constitution posed by John Ashcroft’s Justice Department and new Department of Homeland Security, some in Washington policy-making circles watched with trepidation on November 13 asCongress gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld permission to create a new Under Secretariat for Intelligence at the Pentagon. According to some observers, not only does the move have the potential to obscure Congressional oversight of much of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, but it could result in analysis increasingly politicized and slanted toward reporting what the most hawkish officials want to hear.

To be sure, some observers see the change as nothing more than a simple but long-overdue bureaucratic reform; in fact, it was originally conceived as a kind of “reinventing government” idea under the Clinton Administration. In this view, it’s simply an attempt to bring order to the organizational and budgetary chaos of the myriad intelligence agencies that operate under the Defense Department’s aegis–from high-tech-oriented outfits like the National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office to the specialized intelligence units of each uniformed service. One popular Pentagon anecdote attributes the move to Rumsfeld’s frustration at having representatives from nearly a dozen different military intelligence organizations in his office at the same time during the EP-3 spy-plane crisis in China: “All I want is one dog to kick,” he reportedly said, angrily noting that instead of one dog, “right now I have a whole kennel.”

Yet to others, there’s much more–and much more that’s troubling–to the creation of a Pentagon “intelligence czar.” Some veterans of the national security establishment see it as part of the Administration hawks’ plan to institutionalize a serious counterbalance to the CIA, which has not produced the analysis the hawks want to hear: namely, that there are real, substantial links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. “This is basically showing the following: If you don’t get the intelligence you want, you create something that will give it to you,” says Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA analyst who now teaches at the National War College.

Indeed, the idea of a Pentagon intelligence czar is 180 degrees from the recommendation of another Bush Administration official, retired Lieut. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was National Security Adviser under the first Bush Administration and now serves the younger Bush as chair of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In his capacity as chair of a special commission on intelligence reform, in March Scowcroft recommended that several key intelligence functions now run and funded under military authority be transferred to civilian control. While George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), technically coordinates the entire intelligence community, he has both operational and budgetary control only over the CIA. Scowcroft’s recommendation was to separate the traditionally dual role of the DCI, making one person DCI with coordinating responsibility for all US government intelligence functions (commonly called the Intelligence Community, IC), one person director of the CIA, and moving the National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and National Imagery and Mapping Agency to independent-agency status under the new DCI.

Rumsfeld and his longtime cohort in all things hawkish, Vice President Dick Cheney, didn’t take too kindly to Scowcroft’s recommendation. In the milieu of Washington, where the size of the budget one controls is a source of power, the loss of such big-ticket agencies would not only diminish the Defense Department’s clout but remove from its control some of the most valued collectors of sensitive information–which, for the hawks’ agenda, are quite important.

The Congressional authorization not only effectively neuters Scowcroft’s recommendations, says a veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations; it also creates the potential for covert operations under Pentagon control that have no oversight. “Covert operations,” he notes, “are generally done through the CIA, and the requirements are presidential authorization and then notification of the Gang of Eight–the chairs and ranking minority members of the Congressional intelligence committees and the majority and minority leaders of both houses.” Some in the intelligence community are now wondering whether, in addition to going to the Pentagon for the analysis it wants to hear, the White House might task the new Pentagon intelligence office with certain covert operations that might not be shared in an expeditious or complete manner–if at all–with the DCI or Congress.

Intelligence scholar and National Security Archives senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson echoes these concerns, noting the lack of debate and clarity on just what the new under secretary’s role will be. “If the job’s role is to manage the Pentagon intelligence agencies for the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence better than anyone else has been able to do, it’s all for the good,” he says. “But if the under secretary tries to be an ‘intelligence czar’ in some sense, trying to compete with or displace the DCI in running these agencies not for overall national security purposes but for DoD purposes, that’s not a good thing.”

Troubling as this lack of certainty and clarity is, in the context of the current Administration, it’s about par for the course. Given that it has done everything from dispatching former DCI (and fellow Iraqophobe) James Woolsey on a comically secret mission to Wales last year in search of the Holy Grail–a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda–to setting up an ad hoc collection-and-analysis operation designed to facilitate the conclusions and actions it wants on Iraq, it’s reasonable to puzzle over just what the new directorate is about. Discerning an answer is also difficult, given the unique nature and background of the man likely to become the new under secretary, Richard Haver.

A former naval aviator who flew reconnaissance missions in Vietnam, Haver went on reserve status in the early 1970s and returned to the Navy as a civilian analyst. A protégé of William Studeman, a prominent naval intelligence officer who would later make admiral and go on to head the National Security Agency, Haver is almost universally praised for his analytical prowess and “is a straight shooter who won’t modify what is true for political reasons,” says David Major, a former FBI counterintelligence specialist who has worked with Haver for years. A longtime CIA colleague and ally describes him as “solidly Republican but not an ideologue, and he has a quick mind and gives great advice.” On the other hand, the colleague says, “he also tends to talk a lot more than he listens–a style that did not make him an appreciated figure at Langley–and he does have strongly held opinions.”

As a naval intelligence analyst, Haver headed the damage assessment probe in the 1985 John Walker espionage case, and then was seconded to Langley as chief of the IC management staff. Based on his experience with the Walker damage assessment, Haver ended up directing the Aldrich Ames assessment–and, say multiple intelligence community sources, unnecessarily alienating and even ruining the careers of some case officers. “I am not going to be an apologist for the agency and say some heads did not need to roll,” says a former senior CIA official. But, he and others add, Haver seemed to regard everyone involved in the Ames case–including veteran counterintelligence officer Paul Redmond, who pushed a recalcitrant CIA to start looking for the mole in its midst–as a bad actor, and he “is not someone who inspires warm and cozy feelings at the agency to this day.”

Despite his ostensibly nonideological reputation, some in the intelligence community have begun to wonder in the past year if this might not be the case any longer. That he first intersected with Rumsfeld as the IC liaison to Rumsfeld’s ballistic missile commission has given pause to some; that he was floated as a possible chief for all Pentagon space-warfare issues raises eyebrows as well. Earlier this year hawks were making little secret of their view (as well as their efforts) that Haver would be the “ideal replacement,” as one put it, for George Tenet. And a favorite Haver mantra–“a lack of evidence is not evidence of absence of evidence”–likely puts him in good stead with the hawks on Iraq and other issues. But even Haver’s biggest boosters say that while he’s a great analyst and adviser, “he has never been a particularly sterling manager,” as one puts it. “If the under secretary’s job is merely a policy role, pulling together and coordinating budgets, maybe. But beyond that, I’d worry.”

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy