- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill is the Deputy Assistant to President Bush and the National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Planning. Insiders know him as one of the “vulcans” responsible for forging Mr. Bush’s foreign policy. This spring he was dispatched to Baghdad in search of a politician suitable for guiding Iraq on its thorny transition to democracy. The result is Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s interim government.

Mr. Blackwill thus must have been doubly grieved when the CIA leaked a damaging National Intelligence Estimate on the eve of Mr. Allawi’s U.S. visit. Designed to discredit Mr. Allawi’s message of measured progress, the leak has done far more damage to the CIA’s credibility at the White House. We say doubly grieved, because few officials grasp so keenly as Mr. Blackwill the delicate relationship between intelligence analysts and policymakers — and how easily it is ruptured.

In an article by Jack Davis in “Studies in Intelligence,” Mr. Blackwill articulated why he relied on CIA analysts when serving on the NSC in 1989-1990.

“Unlike other intelligence people I had worked with in the past, including those from State,” Mr. Blackwill said, “my informal talks about possible U.S. tactical initiatives with CIA analysts from the Arms Control Intelligence Staff did not end up in The Washington Post — your musings about policy initiatives are not leaked to the press by the DCI to shoot down your policy.”

That was the old CIA. Today’s CIA is at war with the White House, with potentially grave consequences for national security. As John B. Roberts II reports as our guest columnist today (this section, today’s columnist), Paul R. Pillar, the CIA official responsible for authoring the leaked NIE, is a longstanding opponent of the vigorous policies Mr. Bush has employed in the war on terrorism since 9/11.

Mr. Pillar advocates “finesse” in fighting terrorism. In early 2001, he mocked policy-makers who feared mass-casualty attacks, even while he and his colleagues in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center failed to connect the dots and prevent al Qaeda’s use of hijacked aircraft to bring about that very result.

Mr. Blackwill explains in “Studies in Intelligence” what happens when the CIA fails to respond to policy-makers’ needs:

“During my [1989-90] NSC tour, the Agency was still putting out gobs of analytic products that I never read. During the two years I did not read a single [National Intelligence] Estimate. Not one.

“Analysts love words and complexities?” Blackwill said, “Good policymakers are driven by the need to take action.”

As the new director of central intelligence, Porter Goss’ challenges are to see that policy-makers get actionable products from intelligence analysts and to restore trust between the CIA and the White House. He can start by reassigning Mr. Pillar.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush was right to dismiss Mr. Pillar’s politically motivated NIE as guesswork.

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