Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Angelo Codevilla: Abolish CIA & FISA

Today an emailer sent me a new article by Angelo Codevilla: Abolish CIA & FISA--How to defend the Republic against the Deep State. It's been a slow news day, and Codevilla's topic is very much to the fore these days, as the Durham investigation and new revelations about FBI law breaking are offering ever deeper perspectives on the threat that the Deep State poses to the Republic. Therefore, as I have in the past, I'll offer a sizeable excerpt. Actually, the article itself is quite lengthy, and this excerpt is simply the opening summary. A fair amount of the article covers ground that we've already seen--much of it summarizes views on FISA that Codevilla has published previously. Which, of course, in no way diminishes their interest--I hope this excerpt will lead readers to go to the full article.

The title is the short version of Codevilla's recommendations. He also addresses the role of the FBI, recommending that the FBI's investigations be strictly limited to violations of the criminal law. I found much of Codevilla's argument--in which he justifies his recommendations--pretty compelling, so see what you think.

America’s Intelligence agencies are the deep state’s deepest part, and the most immediate threat to representative government. They are also not very good at what they are supposed to be doing. Protecting the Republic from them requires refocusing them on their proper jobs.

Intelligence officials abuse their positions to discredit opposition to the Democratic Party, of which they are part. Complicit with the media, they leverage the public’s mistaken faith in their superior knowledge, competence, and patriotism to vilify their domestic enemies from behind secrecy’s shield.

Pretenses of superior knowledge have always tempted the Administrative State’s officials to manipulate or override voters. Hence, as Justice Robert H. Jackson (who served as chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials) warned, they often turn their powers against whomever they dislike politically, socially, or personally and try to minimize the public’s access to the bases upon which they act.

But only the Intelligence agencies have the power to do that while claiming that scrutiny of their pretenses endangers national security. They have succeeded in restricting information about their misdeeds by “classifying” them under the Espionage Act of 1921. Thus covered, they misrepresent their opinions as knowledge and their preferences as logic. Thus acting as irresponsible arbiters of truth at the highest levels of American public life, they are the foremost jaws of the ruling class vise that is squeezing self-rule out of America.


What follows begins with an overview of the threats today’s intelligence agencies pose to self-government in America.

Next, it touches on U.S. intelligence’s dismal professional record, and suggests that the measures needed to refocus them on professional performance would also separate them from domestic politics.

In sum, we find:

* CIA is obsolete. Cables show agents’ intelligence takes are inferior to diplomats’. Agent networks are unprotected by counterintelligence. FBI success at counterintelligence ended when the Bureau was politicized and bureaucratized in the 1970s. CIA bottlenecks and incompetently controls strategic intelligence, while the Army and Marines show demonstrable tactical superiority. 
* As a result, CIA is ideologically partisan. Its strength is in leading or joining domestic campaigns to influence public opinion. FBI has followed suit. 
* Senior intelligence officials were the key element in the war on Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency. CIA used meetings that it manufactured as factual bases for lies about campaign advisors seeking Russian information to smear Hillary Clinton. Intelligence began formal investigation and surveillance without probable cause. Agents gained authorization to electronically surveil Trump and his campaign and defended their bureaucratic interests, sidelining Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and denying or delaying Trump appointments and security clearances. 
* Partisanship produces failure. FISA has incentivized political abuse. “Profiling” has failed repeatedly in high-profile cases like the Atlanta Olympics bombing and the anthrax mail attacks. Perjury trapping has become commonplace.

Finally, we outline the steps that presidents and Congress might take to improve matters:

* FISA must be repealed legislatively or through Constitutional challenge in court. It unconstitutionally mingles judicial and executive power in secret. It gave Intelligence a blank check. Hardly “an indispensable tool” for national security, it is now indispensable for partisanship. Broad consensus exists for a legislative “fix,” but none is possible. The secret court’s existence, the heart of the law, allows partisan bureaucrats and allied judges to do what they want in secret. 
* Functions currently performed by CIA should be sheared down. Data infrastructure and consultant networks should be eliminated. Bipartisan opposition to the Intelligence threat should use fierce resistance and lobbying from Intelligence as evidence of why cuts are in the national interest. 
* CIA must be disestablished. Its functions should be returned to the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury. FBI must be restricted to law enforcement. At home, the Agencies are partisan institutions illegitimately focused on setting national policy. Abroad, Agencies untied to specific operational concerns are inherently dangerous and low-value. 
* Intelligence must return to its natural place as servant, not master, of government. Congress should amend the 1947 National Security Act. The President should broaden intelligence perspectives, including briefs from State, Defense, and Treasury, and abolish CIA’s “covert action.” State should be made responsible for political influence and the armed services for military and paramilitary affairs.


  1. Couldn’t agree more. The stupid CIA has been getting practically everything wrong everywhere: from missing 300,000 Red Chinese troops in North Korea in November 1950 to the Cuban Revolution to Vietnam to the ME to the collapse of the Soviet Union (which they never saw coming). What good are they - especially in the light of fomenting a coup of a duly elected president?

    Get rid of them. Fire’em en masse.

    Let’em learn to code.

  2. The FBI was politicized by it's first official head, G Edgar Hoover.

    Congressional oversight of things like wiretapping was nonexistent.

    I do not see how you can claim any federal agency politics free.

    So, what do we do now?

    Hoover proclaimed himself Republican.

  3. We have a booming economy. We can accommodate the newly unemployed that would result from abolishing ALL of these agencies.

    Let's try it.

  4. Actually the CIA is very effective at disinformation campaigns and convert subterfuge in service to manipulating foreign power centers. These are active measures as opposed to the more passive information collection tasks. But where they really drop the ball is in intelligence analysis, which they frequently botch. The latter is due to the incestuous nature of requiting and screening newbies. All birds of a feather who can't fathom their confirmation bias.

    A tidbit however. The CIA began planning and mobilizing for the eventual Trump coup in 2015, and the plan was formally approved for implementation in February 2016. Brennan was tasked to spearhead the OP using select in-house resources, but he was cagey enough to farm out major components to MI-6, who had prior success with similar OPs. Steele was a cut-out for MI-6 direct hands-on participation.

    The rabbit hole goes very deep indeed.

  5. I'm with Angelo C on this. The function of a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy (cf. Human Resource Depts.), is to expand its power. The specific mission gets lost in the early going. As far as I can tell, the current mission of the CIA is to let moles destroy spy networks in Iran and China, and to snoop on U.S. citizens.

    On the issue of competence, Angelo C. is in the money. The CIA, with precious few exceptions in its almost 70 year history, is staggeringly inept. FBI is better at its job, but it is now a political organization.

    So, yes. Smash them to pieces. Also break up Homeland Security. Is there a more inept operation in the galaxy than TSA?