In the post-Cold War world it has been publicly debated that for the CIA to remain as a viable institution it has had to justify its worth now that the Soviet threat has disappeared. However, it has to be stressed that although the CIA has largely attempted to find itself new roles in the areas of counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics among others, the CIA has been accused of playing up threats to US security either to justify its existence or to justify the immense budget that it still has.
US intelligence has had a history of playing up threats and sensationalism as noted by Real Admiral John Godfrey in 1941 when he stated that there was among US intelligence a ‘predilection for sensationalism’. This was in the context of US estimates of Nazi reserve air power being 250 per cent higher than the same estimates done by the British. This, among many other historical examples, supports the argument that they remain this way today.
For instance a report funded by the CIA on Japan’s desire to economically dominate in the world ‘has elicited embarrassed disclaimers from those allegedly involved with it, including the intelligence agency itself.’ The reason for this is that firstly, this report was written when the CIA was still attempting to justify its role in the post-Cold War era, and secondly, that many, as discussed in the previous article, have urged the CIA to become involved in commercial espionage. This appears to be an attempt to justify its role, as well as providing grounds for branching out into new areas of espionage and intelligence.
Jeffrey-Jones also argues that the CIA has played up threats to US security stating:
‘US intelligence deficiencies have in no small measure arisen from the fact that the CIA operates in the shadow of the confidence man. In his various guises, the CIA conman has conjured up one scare after another to line his pockets with dollars.’
Much has been highlighted by the media about the prevalence of terrorism in the post-Cold War world and it is true that there is here a formidable enemy for the CIA. This was realised on September 11th by the public. The CIA had always seen terrorism as a threat even during the Cold War, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union this threat became so much more real as the struggles frozen by the Cold War defrosted. The CIA may have before attempted to justify its existence citing terrorism as a reason, but due to CIA failures to halt the events of September 11th it no longer has to justify its existence. The threat of terrorism has clearly been framed in people’s minds by the pictures of the World Trade Center towers crumbling to the ground.
There has been no realisation of the peace dividend that was envisioned at the end of the Cold War with the USA spending ‘five times as much on intelligence as the whole of Europe combined, and more on intelligence than Russia spends on its entire military.’ This budget has to be justified in light of there no longer being a Soviet threat, however, much of the funding is fought over with the FBI and the new Homeland Department. There are limited resources and funds and all agencies want more and are therefore putting more credence on their role and the reverse on the role of rivals.
This has almost become a tradition among different agencies: ‘Turf wars and information hoarding are endemic to all intelligence bureaucracies. The protection of “sources and methods” has long been an obstacle to information sharing’. This has undoubtedly led to poor communication between agencies and has compromised the effectiveness of their operations.
Post-September 11th Tom Ridge was appointed as the director of homeland security and given the role of defending the US against principally terrorism. This agency is another budgetary threat to the CIA on top of that already posed by the FBI. Therefore, the question has to be asked, as it was by Senator Joseph Leiberman, that when the new agency relies on intelligence from both the CIA and FBI, will it become simply a ‘passive customer’ of the intelligence that is passed on to it by the CIA. The CIA has control of the intelligence passed to the new department and therefore can effectively control and direct its actions, limiting its budget. This kind of competition is unhealthy for the security of the nation and also an unfair attempt by the CIA to maintain superiority in the intelligence community.
Whether the CIA has fulfilled its originally intended role is highly debatable. The CIA does carry out those operations stipulated in the National Security Act of 1947. However, it has to be asked to what extent the CIA has effectively carried them out in the changing structures, not only of the international system but also of the US government and agencies.
Despite the immense budget of the CIA, the USA was not able to foresee and stop the events of September 11th 2001. As Jeffrey-Jones points out, intelligence failure has in the past been met simply with financial reward as highlighted by the expensive creation of the OSS and CIA after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Rather than simply throw money at the problem there is a much greater task of restructuring the efforts of the CIA so that they meet the threats posed.
There are plenty of examples of intelligence failure, most notable the failure to sufficiently foreworn the relevant authorities who would have been able to stop the attacks of September 11th. However, the common response has been such as that of former CIA officer Walter Millis that this called for expansion in intelligence. This response of simply increasing funds or expanding activities is a common US response but it does not necessarily achieve the best results possible.
The rethinking of organisation with regards to homeland security post-September 11th was a step in the right direction, but this needs to be mirrored in the CIA and FBI for the system to work to the best of its ability. The problems the CIA faces in fulfilling its originally envisioned role is highlighted by the following:
‘The CIA has operational missions to collect human intelligence and conduct covert action. It is also responsible for the analysis and publication of national intelligence estimates. The agency cannot perform both tasks well.’
 Jeffrey-Jones, R. ‘The CIA Con-trick’, History Today, (December 2001) Volume 51, Issue 12. P. 20
 Awanohara, S. ‘Paradigm Paranoia: CIA Report Warns of Japanese Economic Domination’, Far Eastern Economic Review, (27/06/1991) Volume 152, Issue 26
 Op Cit. Jeffrey-Jones, R. P. 20
 Stubbing, R. & Goodman, M. ‘How to fix US Intelligence’, (26/06/2002) Christian Science Monitor
 Editorial, ‘Don’t Let Turf Wars Interfere’, (08/06/2002) South Florida Sun-Sentinel
 Kramer, M. ‘No Place Like Homeland For FBI, CIA’, (14/06/2002) New York Daily News
 Op Cit. Jeffrey-Jones, R. P. 20
 Ibid. P. 21
 Op Cit. Stubbing, R. & Goodman, M.
Sam Hunter is the author of fiction novel Makaveli’s Prince.