News / USA

US Afghan War Commander Takes Helm at CIA

Former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and US Forces-Afghanistan General Davis Petraeus speaks during an armed forces farewell tribute and retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, August 31, 2011.
Former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and US Forces-Afghanistan General Davis Petraeus speaks during an armed forces farewell tribute and retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, August 31, 2011.

In his previous job as the U.S. commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus had some familiarity with CIA operations and analysis as a consumer of intelligence.  Now as CIA director he becomes responsible for producing that intelligence for the president and policymakers.  Petraeus takes over an agency that has become increasingly militarized to fight terrorism, blurring lines between the CIA and the military.

Intelligence historian Amy Zegart says the senior CIA leadership will be sizing up David Petreaus as soon as he walks through the portals of the agency’s headquarters in suburban Virginia.

“He comes in with enormous credentials and, I think, a great deal of respect," she said. "But I suspect that within the building, both on the analytic side and on the operations, there is going to be some hesitation about whether he is a military guy who has decamped to CIA, or whether he is really an intelligence person who is going to fight for the CIA and understand the agency.”

Challenge ahead

Zegart, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, says he will have to win over people at CIA whom he may have alienated when he was an advocate and enforcer of policies that some at CIA opposed.

“Petraeus is intimately connected with strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan that the CIA has been very skeptical about.  And so now he is in the position of having to speak truth to power, yet he is the architect of a lot of these policies.  That puts him in a very uncomfortable position,” said Zegart.

But  Thomas Fingar, the former chair of the National Intelligence Council, a kind of board of directors for the intelligence community, says the leadership at Langley will give Petraeus a chance.  He doubts things will deteriorate to the level they were under former director Porter Goss, an ex-agency officer turned politician who deeply alienated top career CIA employees during his nearly two-year tenure.

“In the years I have been around this the default setting is benefit of the doubt," he said. "And it takes rather extraordinary things like the behavior of Porter Goss and his team that sort of lost the professional crew at the agency.  I do not see a ‘we will withhold services, we will hold back, we will sort of judge.’  But certainly they will want to see how he does, how he interacts, how personable is he, how much time does he devote to the agency as opposed to activities outside of the agency.”

Petreaus has no direct intelligence experience.  But the CIA has had five military officers in charge before, and all of but one of them stayed on active military service while at CIA.  Fingar, also a senior fellow at Stanford, says Petraeus, who did retire from the army to take the CIA job, needs to be more bureaucrat than spy.

“What the agency, any agency, sort of needs is a good manager that can juggle tasks and can interact with the White House, interact on the Hill [Congress], interact now with the Pentagon on a lot of things.  No reason to think that Petraeus is less capable of the managerial aspects of this.  There are plenty of people around who know intelligence and can provide guidance for him,” he said.

'CIA-military closeness'

Amy Zegart says that intelligence, especially at the CIA, has become more militarized in the 10 years since September 11, 2001, as evidenced by drone strikes and special forces operations against terrorist targets.  The CIA and the military are cooperating closer than ever before, she says, and notes that the new defense secretary is Leon Panetta, who was Petraeus’ immediate predecessor at the CIA.  

But Zegart, who has written a new book on Congressional oversight of intelligence, says the growing CIA-military closeness raises some questions of oversight. “The downside of this story is that accountability is much more difficult.  Are operations that are inherently intelligence conducted by military personnel subject to the same oversight as intelligence activities by CIA people?  The answer is no.  So there are real questions about accountability and capability and which organization is best suited to do what functions,” she said.

The CIA director used to be the president’s senior intelligence advisor.  But in late 2004, Congress created the post of director of national intelligence to oversee the whole intelligence community as part of a package of post 9-11 intelligence reforms.  Thomas Fingar, who served as deputy director of national intelligence, says the CIA director has still maintained much of his clout in the White House.

“For a variety of reasons - familiarity, personality, continuity - the CIA under both Bush and Obama has retained something, and sometimes a great deal, of its old standing with the director of CIA because of the role of covert action, and the stuff that is not really covert but is done under intelligence authorities,” he said.

If that holds true, Amy Zegart says, Petraeus will have to ensure he does not overshadow the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

“One of critical issues will be, especially with Petraeus’ outsize public image, will the CIA continue to eclipse the director of national intelligence as the leader of the intelligence community," she said. "For the community to really work well the director of national intelligence really has to run it.  And so that is one of the outstanding questions that we are just to have to wait to see what happens.”

How long David Petreaus will remain in his new job is unknown.  The CIA director serves, as the law says, at the pleasure of the president.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid