Director for the CIA

El director de la CIA responde con ambigüedad al informe sobre las técnicas de interrogatorio

Director for the CIA

How CIA directors are selected and appointed

John Brennan – veteran intelligence and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama – passes the Senate sieve: the president nominated him for the post of director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA Director is one of the most important positions in the structure of the US executive branch. He leads – in charge of both budget and operations – one of the most powerful intelligence services in the world, which employs approximately 20,000 employees (the size of the CIA budget is classified). The headquarters of the CIA is located in the suburb of Washington – Langley.

Director candidates are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate. Formally, the CIA director reports to the Director of National Intelligence (DPR). The last position was created in 2004 – in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – to coordinate the actions of 16 US intelligence services. The DPR received at its disposal a number of functions and powers that were previously the prerogative of the CIA director.

However, as before, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency is more often in direct contact with the White House, and, regularly, with the relevant committees of the Senate and House of Representatives..

Intelligence historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, in Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, The CIA and American Democracy, notes that the CIA’s successes and got direct access to the president, and how much the president trusted Langley’s employees. It is important to emphasize that some US presidents have had serious doubts about the CIA’s ability to do a good job..

There is another factor: despite the fact that the CIA was created on the initiative of Democratic President Harry Truman, traditionally Republican presidents have a greater interest in this intelligence service and, as a rule, give Langley more resources, money and – sometimes – authority. This, however, does not prevent them from disliking the CIA – for example, George W. Bush and George W. Bush differed in this..

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the US Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report stating that one of the reasons for the failure of the CIA, which did not disclose Al Qaeda’s plans in time, was to admit that intelligence had been given insufficient attention and resources for too long ( it was about the eight-year reign of Democratic President Bill Clinton).

Selection principles

As a rule, candidates for the post of CIA director are not political appointees (political allies of the president who receive this or that state post): in many cases they are either trusted officials or crisis managers who are able to restructure the work of a powerful and secret structure.

The chances of them being approved by the Senate depend on many factors. So, traditionally, American lawmakers assess not only the professional qualities of a potential director (one of them, who had worked in intelligence for several decades earlier, after being approved, said that if he were hired for the CIA in the usual way, he – with his resume – would not even be invited to interview). Legislators traditionally fear that intelligence agencies will gain too much power and capacity, leaving them unmanageable..

For the past two decades, CIA directors have not sat in this chair. US Secretaries of State usually served in this position for four years. The FBI director can spend seven years in this position from the moment he is approved by the Senate, as a rule, he does not resign after a change of administration (the CIA and FBI traditionally see each other as rivals).

Director for the CIA

In the past 20 years, only George Tenet has served as director of the CIA for seven years. John Deutsch, Porter Goss and David Petraeus were less than two years old. The current director, Leon Panetta, will step down less than three years after his appointment..

Often, CIA directors resigned in the wake of a scandal: Petraeus was killed by the revealed extramarital affair, and Porter Goss (who headed the CIA in 2004-2006) – conflicts with subordinates and influential Washington officials.

Presidents appointed to work in Langley with people with a wide variety of experience: among them were the military (recall that the CIA is a civilian intelligence service), managers, diplomats, engineers, people from Congress, and – relatively rarely – professional intelligence officers..

An exemplary story

Case in point: the story of President Ronald Reagan’s appointment as CIA Director William Casey, described by Tim Wiener in his study “The Legacy of the Ash. History of the CIA ”(Tim Weiner Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA). As stated by Wiener (these data are not refuted even by the CIA, whose leadership extremely negatively assessed the book, accusing the author of rigging the facts), in the eyes of Reagan Casey had an undeniable dignity – he was an ardent anti-communist.

Many of Reagan’s associates opposed Casey’s appointment to this post, including his vice president George W. Bush, who himself had experience as a director of the CIA..

Casey said the bureaucratic CIA was “turning into the Department of Agriculture,” and promised Reagan to breathe new life into Langley by making the secret service more aggressive and active. In return, he demanded (and received) the right of regular personal meetings with the president, which became the main instrument of his influence in the administration (it is curious that Casey was a worthless speaker – he suffered from a serious speech defect, it was extremely difficult for untrained interlocutors to understand him).

Casey, who has always believed that the end can justify any means, launched an unprecedented large-scale program of covert operations. His CIA career ended in scandal after the Iran-Contra story became public..

Casey was no exception: almost every new director came to the CIA with his own agenda and innovations. Quite often, the next director was appointed in order to carry out counter-reforms: so Casey and Gates were replaced by a former judge, and not even a member of the “Reagan team” William Webster, who was tasked to “cleanse” the CIA and bring the work of the special services in accordance with the law. Webster coped with this task, but the CIA “slept” the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s troops into Kuwait.

Error cost

Among the serious failures of the largest US intelligence service in recent times are the inability to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks and the assertion that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. As a rule, such failures led to the investigation of the actions of the CIA by lawmakers, but not always their result was the immediate resignation of the head of this department..

The authoritative newspaper The Washington Post explains John Brennan’s nomination for the post of director of the CIA with Barack Obama’s decision to strengthen Langley’s traditional intelligence functions: before joining the White House, Brennan worked for the CIA for 23 years and was known for opposing the conduct of special operations to destroy terrorists. However, while working in the White House, Brennan did not hesitate to endorse the operation to kill Bin Laden and support the anti-terrorist drone program..

  • Alex Grigoriev

    Alex Grigoriev specializes in covering international relations, defense and security, intelligence, terrorism, and nuclear issues.

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