- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2008

‘08 ISSUES:

The next president will take office with plans to continue reforming the U.S. intelligence community and to put more emphasis on improving human intelligence.

Republican John McCain promises to create a more agile human spying service if elected, while Democrat Barack Obama has called for more and better spies and an international security program targeting terrorists.

Mr. McCain has called for “a new OSS-style agency,” said Randy Scheunemann, director of foreign policy and national security for the McCain campaign. The OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was the World War II predecessor of the CIA that engaged in both intelligence gathering and covert action.

The Arizona Republican learned as a member of the presidential commission that investigated the intelligence failures over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that a major shortcoming was a lack of spies on the ground in strategic places, Mr. Scheunemann said.

“While there may be some that think the status quo is just fine, John McCain has seen past failures of the intelligence community firsthand,” Mr. Scheunemann said. “He has identified a critical need for better human intelligence collection, more linguistic capabilities to face the threats that we are facing now, and he would be strong in ensuring that we build the kinds of capabilities we need and that we have the kind of structure that best serves policymakers.”

Issues ‘08: The Washington Times takes a close look at an important issue every day before the elections.

Mr. McCain said in a September 2007 speech that his proposed spy agency would “draw together unconventional warfare, civil-affairs, paramilitary and psychological-warfare specialists from the military together with covert-action operators from our intelligence agencies and experts in anthropology, advertising, foreign cultures, and numerous other disciplines from inside and outside government.”

The agency, like the OSS, would be “a small, nimble, can-do organization that would fight terrorist subversion across the world and in cyberspace.”

“It could take risks that our bureaucracies today are afraid to take — risks such as infiltrating agents who lack diplomatic cover into terrorist organizations,” Mr. McCain said. “It could even lead in the front-line efforts to rebuild failed states. A cadre of such undercover operatives would allow us to gain the intelligence on terrorist activities that we don’t get today from our high-tech surveillance systems and from a CIA clandestine service that works almost entirely out of our embassies abroad.”

In his campaign speeches, Mr. Obama also has called for better human spying.

“We need to revisit intelligence reform, going beyond rearranging boxes on an organizational chart,” he said in July 2007. “We must invest still more in human intelligence and deploy additional trained operatives and diplomats with specialized knowledge of local cultures and languages.”

John Brennan, a former CIA counterterrorism manager and intelligence adviser to Mr. Obama, said a top priority of an Obama administration would be to carry out a major “inventory” of the numerous intelligence reforms undertaken since 2001.

Issues ‘08: The Washington Times takes a close look at an important issue every day before the elections.

“Senator Obama not only understands the complexities of the world, but also is a very, very strong supporter of intelligence capabilities and the national security mission,” Mr. Brennan said.

Story Continues →