The Unsettling Testimony of Dr. Henry
Did anyone else catch the unsettling testimony of Dr. Henry? I was using C-SPAN for background music on my way out of the house today and I suddently found myself hosting the house party for the voice of the original national security DJ, Dr. Henry Kissinger. An unmistakable voice it is too.
If you weren't paying attention, like I wasn't, you need to know that on Tuesday Kissinger testified before the Senate on the matter of the reforms to the national intelligence apparatus. Well, I'd heard that he was doing that, but I figured that he was mostly trying to protect the interests of whatever high-level corporate clients he's had since entering the private sector.
And for all I know, he may be doing that, but he came into that Senate hearing with a statement signed by all kinds of former Defense and State Department officials, Democrat and Republican, basically saying "Stop! Bad idea!" He also had a name tag in front of him that seemed to say only "DR. HENRY." I presume it had "KISSINGER" on the next line, but they never showed that.
To hear him tell the tale, the reason that the proposed reforms are a bad idea is that they consolidate all authority in a signle office that reports to the president, thereby abolishing the traditional barriers between policy-making and intelligence analysis. These barriers were erected to protect analysts from outside pressure, to keep them honest, essentially, when providing crucial security information. The other problem with having a single director is that it discourages the development of a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives, each of which may provide useful shadings or details to policy makers. Dr. Henry helpfully provided examples of this process in the form of a few personal anecdotes from his Secretary of State days. (Or were they his National Security Adviser days? He held both posts simultaneously, as you may recall!)
So the long of the short of it is that the proposed reforms turn the intelligence apparatus into an agency that tells the President whatever he or she wants to hear and squelches the possibility of forming alternative opinions. Hey, does this sound like anything that happened recently? Like, say, starting with "I" and ending in "Q"?
The Senators, somewhat flummoxed by this refutation of the conventional wisdom (with the exception of the unflappable Robert Byrd) regrouped to pointedly pose the following poser: if that's the case, then how do we explain the intelligence failures of 9/11? And good old Dr. Henry--and here I was deeply empathizing with Dr. Henry's obvious feeling (something I thought I'd never do) that this was too important to leave to such stupid people--explained as tenderly as possible that really, that's the job of the National Security Adviser. Or at least it was when he was National Security Adviser. Or was it Secretary of State?
In other words, without explicitly saying so, he parked the blame of 9/11 pretty squarely at the feet of Dr. Condi. Well, at least now we know why she's willing to jump when Bush says jump: he's got her number.
--Melissa O, at 23:23