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By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - George Tenet
As the only Republican left in Congress who voted against going to war in Iraq in 2002, I have been asked whether there are lessons that apply today to the situation in Syria.
The start of the National Security Agency's rise in power can be traced to the first years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when new laws, secret presidential orders and lots of cash emboldened it to sweep up billions of communications.
In most countries, secrecy shrouds the workings of state intelligence services. Israel's Mossad sets a gold standard for such organizations, especially in operational effectiveness. Almost invariably, Mossad chiefs are promoted from within and possess extensive operational experience.
The professional rivalry and cultural divide between CIA case officers who work in the field and the analysts who work primarily in front of computer screens at CIA headquarters have been well documented in numerous memoirs, nonfiction books and novels.
The CIA's top lawyer never approved sending a veteran agency officer to New York, where he helped set up police spying programs, the Associated Press has learned. Such approval would have been required under the presidential order that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said authorized the unusual assignment.
So much of what passes for news — "the ordeal of Paris Hilton," for example — will never make the history books of this era. But a May 10 letter from Gen. David Petraeus — to "Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen" in his Multi-National Force in Iraq — merits far more attention than it has received during the 24-hour news cycle.
Nearly five years after Hillary Rodham Clinton made what she has described as "probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make," she finally admitted last week in public that she had not read the 90-page classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) before casting her pivotal vote to authorize war against Iraq. The NIE was the intelligence community's most comprehensive assessment regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Former CIA Director George Tenet, who left office in 2004 bitter over a lack of funding in the 1990s for tracking terrorists, wrote in his memoirs: "You don't simply tell NSA to give you more signals intelligence when their capabilities are crumbling and they are 'going deaf' — unable to monitor critical voice communications."