December 14, 2004

Intel Reform Scorecard

Count me among the skeptical when it comes to intelligence reform legislation. When trying to solve the problems of hidebound bureaucracy and rampant careerism in government agencies, it seems to me illogical to add a whole new layer of bureaucracy to what you already have. A czar? Great.

In our system, it seems like we debate new legislation after it has passed, because beforehand nobody has read it all, including half of Congress. The half that has read it is deathly afraid of letting any constituents know how much pork is included in it, so they keep quiet too, until the deed is done. A week ago this WaPo editorial warned that Congress was acting hastily, and that many questions remained to be asked, much less answered.

Then we were treated to the comical spectacle of Congressmen like Jay Rockefeller railing about some supersecret provisions in the bill that were just awful, and if they were allowed to share with us what in the hell those provisions were, which of course they couldn't, we too would agree that they were well, really awful. This is helpful?

So now we're starting to find out what the reform bill does and doesn't do. Michelle Malkin links to two good articles from Christian Bourge of UPI and Joel Mowbray which attempt to keep score on that. On the immigration reform issue, which can hardly be separated from intelligence reform, Malkin has more here , and Mort Kondracke thinks there may be enough bipartisanship to get real immigration reform passed this term, if President Bush leads the way.

Andrew C. McCarthy says we've cleaned up some of the vagueness in the legal language defining what constitutes "material support" for terrorist organizations. And Ralph Peters says we need more people, not just more "stuff":

The Pentagon's stranglehold on purchasing decisions must be broken. We need more openness - and far more accountability. And we need more personnel in the intel ranks as surely as we need more soldiers and Marines.

But there's no constituency for people. Contractors profit from selling more stuff, not from government hiring. And contractors hire retired generals. Even Congress is more susceptible to the clout of the defense industry than to the real needs of our troops. Toss in top-secret-codeword classifications and all the intricacies of intel work, and no end of moral corruption can be hidden "behind the green door."

The best possible result of intelligence reform would be a ferociously aggressive director of national intelligence who demanded accountability from the Pentagon, scrutinized every pre-programmed purchase and recognized that people, not hyper-expensive gadgets, are the key to successful intel work in the 21st century.

My prediction? Business as usual.

Who'd bet otherwise?

Posted by dan at December 14, 2004 10:48 PM