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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid