The Media, formerly known as the Mainstream Media Strikes Again

December 8, 2004

Here I was minding my own business this morning reading MSNBC’s “First Read,” for some good column and blog fodder when I come across a little segment on the House’s passage of the intelligence reform bill by a vote of 336 to 75. And no sooner than I took in those vote totals did I come across this sentence from the First Read people: “But most of today’s news focuses on whether the bill will actually improve the nation’s intelligence gathering.”

You have got to be kidding me. After implying that Republican opposition to this bill was virtually treasonous, the Old Media are now telling us the bill isn’t all that great in the first place? Let’s see what these doubleminded people have to say about the bill.

The Washington Post says that the bill doesn’t necessarily:

help America’s spies obtain secrets and aid analysts in determining the intentions of terrorists bent on striking again or worrisome nations developing weapons of mass destruction. The most significant changes target the top of the intelligence bureaucracy, rather than the field officers, agents and intercept operators who do the work of recruiting spies, penetrating organizations or finding and disrupting plots in motion.

Have they created a stronger, central, senior person in charge? It is not clear to me that they have,’ said Winston P. Wiley, a former senior CIA official and terrorism expert. ‘It’s not that budgets and personnel are not important, but what’s really important is directing, controlling and having access to the people who do the work. They created a person who doesn’t have that.

The New York Times says:

The question is whether the changes will make much of a difference in combating terrorism and weapons proliferation, two of the major national security challenges facing the intelligence services. On that question, even some supporters of the legislation to overhaul intelligence acknowledge their own agnosticism.

“It will continue to come down to leadership,” said Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico and former Air Force officer who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The changes that will matter most still lie ahead, Congressional and intelligence officials say, as the agencies and their lawyers wrangle over the division of their new powers and as personnel are installed in the new posts.

Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel of the C.I.A., said he had found considerable “confusion and contradiction” within the intelligence bill. “Lawyers across the intelligence community will be arguing about what these provisions mean for many months to come,” Mr. Smith said.

The Los Angeles Times writes:

The scattered agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community are about to get a new leader. The question is: Will that person have enough authority to make them follow?…

But the compromises that went into creating a director of national intelligence have left many government officials and espionage experts skeptical that key reforms will amount to more than an administrative reshuffling — or will make the nation any safer. …

Above all, the new structure has the president’s chief intelligence advisor several bureaucratic layers removed from the analysts and clandestine operatives who actually gather and try to make sense of enemy secrets. As a result, current and former intelligence officials said, the new director would have significant leverage but face a struggle in the federal bureaucracy.

Turner stressed that he had not fully examined the 600-plus-page reform bill but said he was “not comfortable at this point that they’re giving the director of national intelligence adequate authority.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Today’s vote is by no means the final solution to an ever-changing threat,’ said House GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio after the vote. ‘Congress will continue to work toward revamping our intelligence, border security and law enforcement operations to stop evil before it becomes terror.

You get the point.