Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More One Percent.

The American Prospect's Benjamin Weyl interviews Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Doctrine. Some interesting thoughts here on the past and future role of the CIA:
Is it fair to say that in your book, your sympathies lie with former CIA Director George Tenet as he confronted both al-Qaeda and the White House?

I think it’s fair to say that there was an irresistible political urge that the White House embraced mightily to blame the CIA for not only pre-9-11 intelligence but the supposition of WMDs in Iraq and to essentially take no blame itself. Just getting the historical record correct as to what has gone on over the past few years will act in a way to rebalance people’s views of the CIA and Tenet. You know, I have no personal allegiance or affinity to anyone in the CIA or George Tenet. But as the reporting went forward it became clear that the CIA was getting blamed for everything right down to mortgage interest rates, and that was probably borne mostly of a) the fact that they couldn’t defend themselves and b) the desire of people throughout the government to have someone that they could blame that could not really respond. Tenet is a complex character, like all the characters. There are times when he trips and bumps his head and times when he does things that are quite heroic and quite effective.

The other point I think worth making is that the book shows very clearly that one of our greatest assets in fighting the war on terror is what I call trust relationships. Most of those trust relationships with Arab leaders were built up within the CIA through Tenet and a whole gang of folks. Where they can look people in the Arab world, who may not have a lot in common with us, look them right in the eye and say, “Here’s what I need to know and here’s when I need to know it,” and have frank discussions. Those trust relationships are very, very difficult to build. Many agents, not only those under Tenet but those who replaced them, have been washed away, and that has meant that many of the trust relationships have been washed away. That, I think, probably makes us weaker and more vulnerable at a time when we can’t afford that.

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