How much power should the CIA have?
In the alphabet soup of government national security agencies, the letters CIA seem to be sinking.
The latest blow to the spy agency was the attorney general launching an investigation into interrogation abuses and President Barack Obama has decided that the interrogation of terrorism suspects will be taken out of the hands of the CIA and put into the control of a newly-created group that will be housed at the FBI and report to the White House.
Some intelligence experts say the CIA didn’t want to do the high-value detainee interrogations anyway.
Since the 9-11 attacks eight years ago, the United States is still trying to figure out what balance of power it wants in intelligence.
The CIA is supposed to dig out secrets to save the United States from national security disasters. In years past it was criticized for being too risk-averse and critics of the investigation into interrogation abuses say it will make the spy agency too risk-averse again.
The DNI (Director of National Intelligence), created after the Sept. 11 attacks, took over the job of overseeing all the intelligence agencies from the CIA director.
This year there was a bureaucratic skirmish between the DNI and the CIA director after the DNI put in writing that there could be times when the DNI’s representative in foreign countries would be someone other than the CIA station chief.
That dispute went to the White House for mediation.
ABCNews reported this week speculation that CIA Director Leon Panetta had threatened to quit, which the agency vigorously denied. “The ABC story is wrong, inaccurate, bogus, and false,” CIA spokesman George Little says.
Some CIA watchers are betting on a Panetta exit early next year. But then President Barack Obama would have to convince someone to take a job that seems to end up being a political punching bag.
Should the CIA have more oversight, more control over its operations, or is the balance just right?
Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Panetta walking out of CIA headquarters)