Tuesday, August 3, 2004

The Medium Lobster has returned - or so it appears to you, confined as you are to the temporal prison you refer to as "linear time" - to note something of a minor controversy regarding George Bush's endorsement of a National Director of Intelligence. Bush has wisely chosen to follow the 9/11 commission's proposal in establishing this "intelligence czar," but with modifications: the National Director of Intelligence would neither be a Cabinet-level post, nor would have control over the budget or staff of the 15 intelligence agencies theoretically under his command.

Naysayers claim that such constraints would make the NDI a figurehead only, and leave the desperate need for critical intelligence reforms unaddressed while America continues to face terrorist threats in a half-blind haze of bureaucratic confusion. These critics, of course, do not include the Medium Lobster, whose enlightened status allows him to see beyond the merely apparent. Indeed, not only are these limitations necessary, they are vital - for if any leader of the United States intelligence community is to have the strength to unite the disparate threads of bureacracy, they must be too utterly hobbled to influence it.

Anyone placed at the head of the vast and intertwining web of competing agencies that comprise the intelligence community must remain as independent as possible in order to remain unsullied by the taint of departmental politics. However, giving the NDI budgetary and staffing authority automatically embroils him in the internecine squabbles of the intelligence community. While some might argue that making the NDI a Cabinet-level position would give an NDI the authority to cut through the bureacracy, it would simply taint the position even more by plunging the hapless public servant into the midst of the backstabbing and corruption of the White House itself.

The only way to make certain a National Director of Intelligence would have the power to accomplish any good is to make him truly independent - by severing as many real ties to the White House and to the intelligence community as possible. In fact, the Medium Lobster believes the president has not gone far enough, allowing the proposed NDI to give budgetary "input" to the agencies below him. If the president wants a truly independent director, the Medium Lobster suggests that the new director's office be as far removed from Washington as possible, preferably on the top of a mountain in the Himalayas or a very tall pole in the desert, cut off from all lines or methods of communication, where the National Director of Intelligence can meditate on intelligence and the nature of intelligence, and arrive at a priori truths regarding threats to the nation's wellbeing.

As for the rest of the intelligence apparatus, it would be best to shift power out of the hands of the bureacracies of the Pentagon and the CIA by leaving their hobbling connections to power and authority largely intact. Harsh and extreme measures, you may say, but these times call for such things, and shrinking from the challenge of history is not an activity for the Medium Lobster.
posted by the Medium Lobster at 4:02 PM



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