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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Audio Top 5 Songs for Week Ending May 23

This week's lineup can be summed up like this: 'It's The Same Old Song' - but they're great songs - featuring Walk The Moon, The Weeknd, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs