What Is “Inter-Agency Process”? It’s the Job Description of the DNI
Here’s the vital takeaway from all the vast reading you can do on what’s published about David Petraeus’ closed-door testimony today to House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
“The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement. And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” [Congressman Peter] King said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agency process.” [Emphasis mine.]
Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the Al Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”
Lawmakers are focusing on the talking points issue because of concern over the account U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice gave on five Sunday shows on Sept. 16, when she repeatedly claimed the attack was spontaneous — Rice’s defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on the intelligence at the time.
Someone re-wrote the CIA report(s). CIA reports that came not from some faceless analyst in a cubicle, but from the desk of the then-Director of Central Intelligence, David Petraeus. And this was part of a vague “inter-agency process.”
Let me explain what “inter-agency process” means in this instance.
We want our various intelligence agencies to compare data and analysis, presumably to make sure we don’t miss signs of an impending attack like September 11, 2001. That’s why, after 9/11, the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created in the first place. The effectiveness of such a move/position has been debatable since “DNI” was still but a vague concept. Well, whatever the debate points, the DNI does exist. And, in a techno-bureaucratic sense, the Director of National Intelligence is a position superior and/or supervisory over the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). On paper. In the Obama administration, the DNI is James Clapper.
The Director of National Intelligence, while in charge on paper, is primarily a facilitator – a bureaucrat. He runs no agency directly. In fact, it is generally understood that the office of the DNI generally keeps its nose out of the specific working matters of the CIA, DIA, NSA, etc. He’s a coordinator. And, he is an editor. He gathers the various intelligence reports and – as is the position’s responsibility and purpose – compares the data and presents to the President of the United States a (presumably) fuller picture of information and events.
DNI James Clapper was responsible for editing and merging information and constructing a report to the president. That’s his job. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is, by the very definition of his job description, “inter-agency process.” He serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States.
You know James Clapper… The guy who said he learned of Petraeus’ affair only on election night. Thought it so calamitous that he advised Petraeus to resign. But not calamitous enough to inform the White House until the next day, Wednesday - if you believe his public line of reasoning (and the Easter Bunny). And not calamitous enough to tell the President of the United States until yet another day, Thursday.
Does anyone, regardless of politics, think that neither the DNI nor the President of the United States were aware of a months-long FBI investigation of the Director of Central Intelligence Agency until election Tuesday for one and the following Thursday for the other?
That explanation floated to the public is and always was a bunch of hooey. DNI Clapper was crafting a tale protecting his boss. Just as he took the intelligence from David Petraeus and the CIA on al-Qaeda involvement in the September 11 attack in Benghazi and crafted talking points that reflected views desired or preferred by his boss, President Obama.
Inter-agency process IS the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and it’s not at Langley. It’s at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.