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Clip the Agency's Wings

Author: Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow
April 16, 2013
Foreign Policy


Among the 9/11 Commission's 41 recommendations was that "lead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department" to avoid the "creation of redundant, overlapping capabilities and authorities in such sensitive work." President Bush directed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss to review "to what extent implementation of the recommendation is in the interest of the United States." Goss -- himself a CIA operative in the 1960s -- told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: "[Rumsfeld] feels that he has capabilities that are important, and I agree. And I feel I have capabilities that are important, and he agrees. There's not a lot of disagreement on this."

Rumsfeld and Goss apparently did agree; their formal response to Bush reportedly stated: "Neither CIA nor (Defense Department) endorses the commission's recommendation on shifting the paramilitary mission or operations. We do not believe change is required in the responsibility of the CIA for foreign intelligence collection and covert action or activities, or that of the DOD for traditional military activities." An anonymous CIA official claimed that Goss "was concentrating on protecting the diminished role of the agency" from the Pentagon's expansion of paramilitary authorities and resources. Former intelligence officials also contend that as the CIA's responsibilities remained uncertain during the intelligence community's reorganizations of 2004 and 2005, Goss wanted to retain the authority for lethal operations, albeit in rare circumstances -- at the time, the CIA had conducted only three drone strikes.

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