Note: while I use “intelligence community” as a shorthand here, what I’m really referring to is that community as defined by the second group in Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy.
Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
I am well aware that there are a lot of intelligence professionals who check their politics at the door. This is not about them.
There is a move afoot by the Trump administration to start a wide-ranging review of the intelligence community.
President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.
The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested.
There is a lot of mind boggling stuff in just the first paragraph. The Wall Street Journal claimed today (see Jay Caruso’s post) that the intelligence community was holding back on the information it gives Trump because apparently protecting their sources and methods from leaks (irony alert: the only leaks these days are those coming from the intelligence community) outweighs any obligation they have to the nation and its safety. The concern about providing information that conflicts with Trump’s worldview is a freakin laugh considering the intelligence community was exposed several times for shaping intelligence reports to show that Obama’s various idiocies were successful.
The very fact that they are afraid of a review says a lot about the state of affairs and, in fact, cries out for a top-to-bottom examination.
On an array of issues — including the Iran nuclear deal, the utility of NATO, and how best to combat Islamist militancy — much of the information and analysis produced by American intelligence agencies contradicts the policy positions of the new administration. The divide is starkest when it comes to Russia and President Vladimir V. Putin, whom Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised while dismissing American intelligence assessments that Moscow sought to promote his own candidacy.
If we are to know these assclowns by their fruits then I’d say that they shouldn’t stand on their record as a defense against Trump ordering a review. The intelligence community has been totally wrong on Iran and they have been complicit with the Obama administration is selling a very, very bad agreement as a good thing. What disagreement there is over NATO is ridiculous. First and foremost, how we deal with NATO is simply not something the intelligence community gets to vote on and, as we’ve seen, the administration is supportive of NATO. Anything the intelligence community offers on how to combat radical Islam should be summarily dismissed as their consensus is apparently kneel and face Mecca.
You can’t look at the performance of the intelligence community over the past eight years and come to any conclusion that a) it wasn’t very good in 2009, b) it got a lot worse by 2017), and c) in addition to becoming borderline dangerously incompetent it became heavily politicized.
Now we get to the crux of the matter:
Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.
There are a few points to be made here. The first is that the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate, picks agency heads. The agency people don’t have to like that because it doesn’t really matter if they like it or not. There is no other place in government where it is expected that agency heads come from within the agency. Title 10, USC, up until James Mattis was confirmed with a waiver, tried to prevent that from happening in Defense. Hell, Hillary Clinton, whose only job qualification was possibly having had sex with Bill Clinton, was appointed Secretary of State. Secondly, if you launch into an rather open revolt against the elected president of the nation you don’t have any reason to expect the president to do much more than laugh at your opinion.
Any substantive reorganization of the intelligence community is going to require the buy in of State, Defense, the Director of National Intelligence and of the Congress. But even if no changes are made a lot of light can be shown on the process the agencies use to analyze the information they collect and maybe, somewhere along the way, they can explain why they were full-bore in favor of the Arab Spring and weren’t able to even imagine the formation and rise of an ISIS-like Islamic enemy.
What the intelligence community is going to find is that they really aren’t much better at politics than they are at intelligence which means they really suck. And they are going to pay a price for the fun and games that they have had.