Sunday, January 08, 2006

Does The US Have The Will To Win?

Mark Steyn
U.S. shouldn't have to do tap dance over bugging

Here's a Reuters headline from New Year's Day: "CIA May Need Decade To Rebuild Clandestine Service."

A decade, huh? Circa 2016, you mean? The last time I checked the job-completion estimates was back in spring 2004, when the agency's then-director, George Tenet, told the 9/11 Commission that it would take another half-decade to rebuild the clandestine service. In other words, three years after 9/11, he was saying he needed another five years. As I wrote at the time, "Imagine if, after Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt had turned to Tenet to start up the OSS, the CIA's Second World War predecessor. In 1942, he'd have told the president not to worry, he'd have it up and running by 1950."

But CIA reform is like the budget for Boston's Big Dig or the 2012 London Olympics. Think of a number, triple it and update your excuses. Four years after 9/11, it may take 10 years to rebuild the clandestine service. So Tenet would be telling FDR not to worry, we'll have the World War II intelligence operation up and running in time for the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. OK, make that the Cuban missile crisis. But definitely by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The latest estimate came from Gary Berntsen, who was the CIA's man on the ground during the hunt for bin Laden in Tora Bora in late 2001. That's what most folks think the agency does, just as "clandestine service" is assumed to be the core activity -- all the super top-secret undercover stuff you see whenever the CIA turns up in movies like ''Syriana,'' in which the sinister spooks subvert a Middle Eastern government. Oh, if only. Away from the glamorous adventuring of the silver screen, alas, the only government they're any good at subverting is the United States'. More @ Chicago Sun Times


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