Our New Spy Czar

“U.S. Alone Among Allies in Centralizing Spy Powers

BERLIN (Reuters) – By creating a new, all-powerful director of national intelligence, the United States departs radically from the practice in most of its Western allies where spymasters shun the public gaze and work by committee.

An intelligence reform bill passed by Congress this week, designed to redress the failings exposed by the Sept. 11 attacks, will create a new spy chief in charge of 15 agencies and with substantial control of an estimated $40 billion budget.

This highly visible chief executive will be a different beast entirely from the reclusive top civil servants in countries like Britain or Germany who coordinate the work of domestic, foreign and military intelligence.

In Israel, a “first among equals” system prevails, where the chief of military intelligence chairs meetings with his counterparts from the Shin Bet (domestic) and Mossad (foreign) agencies, and has ultimate oversight over assessments.

“How do you reach an intelligence estimate if not by groupthink?” former Mossad director Efraim Halevy told Reuters.”

I have to agree with this. I am troubled by the idea of one man wielding too much power, and it is not necessarily with the J. Edgar Hooverish possibilities.

There is an enormous amount of information and a vast wasteland of paper to process. One of the past failings was a lack of imagination about what our enemies might try, we need to get beyond that. And part of getting beyond that is encouraging multiple voices.

Not for the sake of bureaucracy, but because there is so much going on here it requires assistance at all levels. And in the interest of checks and balances it would be nice to try and provide some balance.

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  1. Sparky December 10, 2004 at 4:27 am

    I’ve always viewed this proposal as reform for the sake of reform. I don’t think there’s any real benefit. And, the reality is that it just creates one more level of bureaucracy. The reform should be about decreasing the bureaucracy, not increasing it.

  2. Stacey December 9, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    I do not think the centralization of agencies under one director is necessarily a bad move. The intelligence agencies were disjointed and not functioning or coordinating well, which left us vulnerable.

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