Briefly, on the purge underway at the CIA ...
Given all that has happened over the last four years, it is easy for critics of the president to fall into the comforting but mistaken assumption that intelligence, foreign policy, or military 'professionals' always know more or are wiser than outsiders and political appointees. Go back and read a biography of Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill to see how mistaken that assumption can be.
All bureaucracies -- whether designed to make widgets, issue drivers licenses, run spies, or drop bombs -- have tendencies toward risk aversion and group think.
But here we have a record.
There has been a running battle along these 'political appointees' versus 'the professionals' lines at the Pentagon, the CIA and, to a much lesser degree, the State Department for more than three years. And by and large the Bush administration's 'political appointees' have been wrong almost every time. There are a few exceptions at the Pentagon -- the early stages of the Afghan campaign being the best example. But at the CIA it's really been pretty much a shut-out. And a number of those screw-ups have been ones of catastrophic proportions.
Yes, some of the commissions and investigations have worked to muddle or obscure this fact. And that's not to say that the CIA has gotten everything right. But in the cases where they got things wrong, it was always the case the the White House and the rest of the administration was pushing for wrong+1 or more likely wrong-squared.
In our reporting on the Niger uranium fiasco, we tried to get very deep into what people at the State Department and the CIA were thinking about the Niger claims in the final months before the war. And the answer you hear in most cases when you ask why this or that problem with the evidence wasn't scrutinized more closely in those dwindling days, the answer you get, after you push past the rigamarole is that there wasn't much point. The die was cast. We were going to war one way or another, better to spend time preparing for it than churning over evidence the reliability or authenticity of which no one cared about anyway.
We will continue to cover and discuss the particulars. But the larger point is simple and clear. On every significant point of conflict between the Bush administration and the country's cadre of intelligence professionals, the Bush political appointees turned out to be wrong. Often very wrong, and with disastrous consequences. Sometimes the intel folks were wrong too; but when that was so, the appointees were always more wrong.
This is not argumentative or hyperbole or even up for much serious dispute.
And the upshot of all that we've seen, the result of all those struggles over the last three years is that the 'appointees' are purging the 'professionals'. Another way to put it is that the folks who were always wrong and often catastrophically wrong are rooting out the folks who were often right and sometimes somewhat wrong. The answer to politicized intelligence, it turns out, is a more thorough politicization of intelligence and the elimination of those who resisted political pressure.
If you think this is just a Washington squabble or political debating point you'd be mistaken. Because your lives, and those of your families and friends, may very well be on the line.