The FBI and the CIA have always been hostile competitors. My father, in the FBI, told me about this competition in the 1960s. It has not lessened.
The possession of secret information is a mark of power in every organization. Information is potentially power. It is always a factor in hierarchical standing in government. It is not shared voluntarily. The FBI spies on Americans. The CIA does, too, but legally speaking, it is not supposed to spy on Americans inside the nation’s borders. So, they compete for information. They rarely share it.
But isn’t the idea to stop terrorists? Yes, but this idea is secondary to another one: to build up your bureaucracy at the expense of all rivals. This is called stovepiping. It is inherent in all bureaucracies.
According to a recent story in the Washington Post, the Director of National Intelligence has placed the FBI over the CIA in the competition for secret information. His name is James Clapper.
The head of the CIA, former General David H. Petraeus, says he accepts this arrangement.
What else could he say?
The CIA has long had stations inside the USA. Its front is called the the National Resources Division. It recruits Americans to spy overseas. It contacts foreign nationalists, too.
The FBI, which failed to offer any warning of the 9-11 attack, has expanded its operations since then. Nothing succeeds like failure in government. “Yes, we failed. We needed more money. Just give us more money.”
Once DNI senior official, a 3-star general, said that the new arrangement changes nothing. “This program doesn’t change the authorities of the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security or anybody else in the system. But there is more of a responsibility to share and work together.”
Without negative sanctions, it is impossible to enforce accountability. The question is: What van the DNI do to the FBI or the CIA or the NSA or any of the 16 spying agencies? If he cannot cut their budgets, he has no clout.
It is unclear whether the change will require the CIA to disclose more information about its domestic sources. In his memoir, former senior CIA official Henry A. Crumpton writes that during his tenure as head of the National Resources Division, the FBI “repeatedly demanded the identities of NR sources” and he refused.
The new DNI program began as a pilot operation in four cities — New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Chicago — and was expanded to 12 regions covering the entire country this year.
So far, there has been nothing like 9-11 inside the USA. Let us hope that this continues. The DNI will take credit for this. But, if there is an attack, I know what the DNI’s answer will be. “The DNI needs more money and more authority.”