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President Bush Under Pressure to Name New CIA Director

In the wake of a scathing Senate report on the CIA's pre-Iraq war efforts, members of Congress have called for major reforms of the agency and for the president to quickly appoint a new director. Two former CIA officials assess the need for reform and who should lead the embattled intelligence agency.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    George Tenet's seven- year tenure as director of the CIA officially ended yesterday, just as the agency is undergoing one of the most critical reviews in its nearly 60-year history. During his farewell speech last week at CIA headquarters, Tenet suggested that reforming the intelligence agency should not be done hastily.

  • GEORGE TENET:

    My only wish is that those whose job it is to help us do better show the same balance and care in recognizing how far we have come, in recognizing how bold we have been, in recognizing what the full balance sheet says.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But on Friday, the need for change was the message delivered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which released its report on the CIA's pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts.

  • SEN. PAT ROBERTS:

    Well, today we know these assessments were wrong, and as our inquiry will show, they were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The committee concluded that the intelligence community offered no explanations for the uncertainties that accompanied the information it gave to Congress and the Bush administration. That intelligence collectors and analysts suffered from group think, they presumed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and interpreted evidence that way; and that intelligence analysts weren't encouraged to challenge their assumptions or consider contradictory evidence.

    Chairman Roberts said the findings cried out for broad reform of the CIA.

  • SEN. PAT ROBERTS:

    Most if not all of these problems stem from a broken corporate culture and poor management, and cannot be solved by simply adding funding and also personnel.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    In response, John McLaughlin, who succeeds George Tenet as "acting director", said the agency recognized the mistakes it made and already had made changes.

  • JOHN McLAUGHLIN:

    My first message to you is a very simple one: We get it.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But McLaughlin disputed Roberts' claim that the agency's "corporate culture" was broken.

  • JOHN McLAUGHLIN:

    I don't think we have a broken corporate culture at all. This is a community that works very well together this is a community comes together physically and virtually practically every day of the week. This is a community where every success I have cited from capture of terrorists to the takedown of the AQ Kahn network to the work we've done on Iran, North Korea and any number of other things involves work from all aspects of the community, people pulling together.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The acting director also warned against making excessive reforms at the agency during such a dangerous time globally. But on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, Roberts and committee Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller agreed specific reforms are needed, and that President Bush should choose a new CIA Director quickly.

  • SEN. PAT ROBERTS:

    It'll have to be an extraordinary nominee. And if that's the case, we will go full-time into the hearings to get him or her confirmed.

  • TIM RUSSERT:

    Will there be a new director soon?

  • SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER:

    I agree with Pat Roberts there should be. You cannot leave in an acting director for six or seven months while you wait for the next inauguration, regardless of who's elected.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The Bush administration has set no public timetable for when a new CIA director might be nominated.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Margaret Warner takes it from there.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What kinds of reforms does the CIA need? And should the president name a brand-new director, immediately, to carry them out? To explore those questions, we turn to: Admiral Stansfield Turner, director of the CIA during the Carter administration; and Admiral Bobby Inman, deputy director of the CIA during the Reagan administration. He previously served as director of the National Security Agency, America's top electronic eavesdropping agency.

    Welcome to you both. Let's pick up where Senators Rockefeller and Roberts left us yesterday. Adm. Turner, do you think the president needs to move quickly in light of the report last week, to name a new director now?

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    I think it would be irresponsible to appoint a new director now. You can't have anything but an acting director, because if the uncertainty is there about whether he or she will survive the next election, the intelligence professionals are not going to respond, they're going to wait out this person to see who is going to be the real director.

    In the meantime, you have hobbled John McLaughlin who has knowledge of what's gone wrong, of the personalities and can take action to try to get things started back on the right track. I think a number of people have got to be fired and it's better for John McLaughlin to do that in the next three to six months than to put that onus on a new director when he comes or she comes in.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Adm. Inman, how do you see it? Do you think it would be responsible or irresponsible, as Adm. Turner has said, to go ahead and appoint a new director now?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    I do have a somewhat different view. I don't know John McLaughlin; I hear great things about him. But after the extremely strong stand taken by the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee, my own view is that the president does need to move swiftly to appoint a new director, but with some provisions. It can't be a political appointee; it has to be somebody who really understands the organizations. Rep. Goss, Adm. Bill Studeman, there are two or three others you could think about, who have been there, who still have a lot of energy – they are not as old as Stan and I — who could move in and immediately bring the focus, not only organizing but on the challenges in front of us.

    This is a very perilous time. And we don't need the leadership looking back over its shoulder on what criticism is going to come tomorrow, what we need to defend. Are they pursuing every shred of potential evidence about the next terrorist attack — either inside our country or elsewhere, against us or our allies –

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What about the –

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    — or are we focusing on the military support ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan? So I think John McLaughlin is now so beleaguered simply because he was there, that I think somebody else, if they already had knowledge of the community, would have a better shot of focusing on the immediate problems.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What about that idea, Adm. Turner, get somebody who is really a veteran of the intelligence community?

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    The point is, you don't have authority if you're coming in as what might be a short-timer. And if you stir the pot between now and November, and then John Kerry is elected, because none of the nominees or very few of the nominees that I hear booted about would survive into a Democratic administration, why, you haven't accomplished anything, you've just churned the leadership. McLaughlin can give it good leadership for these next six months.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What about that point, Adm. Inman, that Adm. Turner makes that whoever comes in will be seen as a lame duck no matter what?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    The director of central intelligence named George H. W. Bush proposed in 1977, after he had served as DCI for 14 months, that the job should not be seen as a political one but as a professional. He volunteered to stay on for a few months. I suspect his advice was very much part of a picture when George Tenet was kept on, after President Clinton ended his term.

    So I don't think someone being appointed should be seen as a certain short-term lame duck. That whether President Bush is reelected or whether it's President-elect Kerry, they should view this job as a place where they need stability while they carefully plan clearly summary organization efforts that need to be undertaken.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    All right, let's talk about some of the reforms that are needed and I'll begin with you, Adm. Turner. Do you agree with this assessment that there is a broken corporate culture at the CIA, and what does that mean what does that term really mean?

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    Well, what has broken has been broken since 1947 when this whole arrangement was set up by law; that is we created a director of central intelligence whose responsibility was to coordinate 15 separate semiautonomous intelligence agencies. But the law did not give that director any real authority to do that.

    President Bush, the incumbent President Bush, before 9/11 appointed Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a Republican, to do a study of this, and the Scowcroft Commission, we're told, it's still being held classified, came up with a recommendation to strengthen the role of the director of central intelligence to give him or her more authority to bring about this coordination to make sure the FBI and the CIA are talking to each other and such forth.

    President Bush has done nothing about that, and it doesn't take legislation to do this. The president can do most of all that I believe is needed to correct this situation by the stroke of a pen of an executive order. President Carter gave me more authority by an executive order than any director has ever had. That's all evaporated since then, but it can be done, and it's urgent that it be done. We've now been three years since the Scowcroft report came out.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Bobby Inman what do you think of that idea, an idea that's been around of having a super DCI, and tell us one, if you agree with that, how it would address some of the problems of analysis that the report identifies — for instance, this group think problem, the unwillingness to take into account contradictory evidence?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    Margaret, may I make two points quickly. First, none of those who referred to this director of central intelligence believe you need, that should separate director of national intelligence from running the CIA. Many of us who have not had those responsibilities have a different view. But at least one needs to understand — whether they've been under Republican or Democratic administrations, every one of them feel pretty strongly that you ought not separate the jobs. We need to understand why that view is there better, before you accept some of the views of some of us who have been preaching revolution for ten years now.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But tell us what that revolution is. I'm sorry, go ahead, make your second point.

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    The second point is, we've gone through 12 years of reduction of resources, all across the intelligence agencies, particularly harmful for the collection activities, human intelligence side. That's turned around the last couple years, but it's going to take a long time for that to have effect. I don't see any sharing of criticism over the ten years while we were missing why we didn't have assets in Iraq or elsewhere, we didn't detect terrorist threat — who was adding resources as opposed to shuffling chairs on a sinking ship?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But, Adm. Turner, the two senators in the committee found that the real problem wasn't one of resources, it's really was of the quality of analysis. And what I'm asking you is, what will it take to change that?

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    There were some very disturbing parts of that report with regard to analysis. For instance, a manager of analysts rejected some evidence that their so-called mobile biological warfare labs were not for biological warfare, on the grounds that, well, the president has probably made up his mind already to go to war. That's totally unacceptable. The ethic of intelligence is you tell it as you see it. And you don't worry about what the boss wants to hear, and it's very clear that the CIA caved in to the intense political pressure, such as ten visits by the vice president to the CIA.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So what does it take to fix —

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    May I give a slightly different view, Margaret, quickly —

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Let me just find out what Adm. Turner thinks it takes to fix that quickly and then I'll go to you, Adm. Inman.

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    It takes a vigorous action right now to get rid of some of these people who have really abandoned the ethic of intelligence, and then it takes strong leadership to say we're going to have dissenting opinions, we're going to listen to them and take them into account.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Adm. Inman?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    Margaret, in '91, the estimate was that Saddam Hussein was three to four years from having a nuclear weapon. It turned out once the inspectors got on country, he was within nine months to a year, not using modern centrifuge technology but going back to the old technology we used to develop the weapon dropped at Hiroshima.

    Having been wrong before, having underestimated, all of the pressures were there not to underestimate this time, overestimate. And I think you have to look at the pressures inside looking for worst case, almost a replica of the Team B episode we had back in the 70s — for the pressures, what's the worst case, not what's the most likely case.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Are you saying that you believe there should be some institutional way, to, though to bring in contrary views? Is that what you're saying, a Team B approach, or not?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    I think you do need contrary views, but the contrary views shouldn't always be the worst case. They should also be looking at what are other potential answers for the evidence that you're looking at — or the shallowness of the evidence.

  • STANSFIELD TURNER:

    One of the damning things in the report here was that apparently George Tenet was not listening to the rest of the intelligence communities, only to the CIA. His job, as we've talked is two-fold: to run the whole community, and to run the one agency of the 15. And we have to have a system whereby all of the agencies get a voice in.

    Now, they won't all show up in the final report necessarily, that's up to the director of central intelligence to adjudicate how much dissent he feels is necessary to put in. But that's really the key to what we're talking about here.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And very briefly, Adm. Inman?

  • BOBBY INMAN:

    I strongly support that view.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    All right. Thank you both very much.

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