3 June 1998
Source: Hardcopy The New York Times, June 3, 1998, pp. A1, A8
By TIM WEINER
WASHINGTON, June 2--United States intelligence "needs to be scrubbed" from the top down, from its spies to its analysts to its chief bureaucrats, according to the author of a classified report on the intelligence agencies' inability to foresee India's May 11 nuclear tests.
The debacle disclosed chronic failures of imagination and personnel, flaws in information-gathering and analysis, and faulty leadership and training, the report's author, retired Adm. David E. Jeremiah, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today.
He said his investigation, requested by the Director of Central Intelligence, George J. Tenet, had shown structural weaknesses in the Central Intelligence Agency and its sister services that go far beyond the question of India.
Among his conclusions were these:
Senior American policy makers and intelligence officials had an "underlying mind-set" that India would not test its nuclear weapons, Admiral Jeremiah told a group of reporters at the C.I.A.'s headquarters. That fixed idea was unaffected by the fact that India's newly elected Hindu nationalist leaders openly and repeatedly vowed to deploy the bomb. The United States never understood that India was driven by "national pride and pysche" to become a nuclear state, the admiral said. As a result, he added, its intelligence eyes and ears were blind and deaf to the test which set off nuclear tensions and an arms race between India and its regional rival, Pakistan.
Admiral Jeremiah, a former commander of all American forces in the Pacific, described a kind of intellectual laziness at the intelligence services, on which the United States spends $27 billion a year.
You fall into a pattern" and "you start to expect things to happen," he said "You need to have a contrarian view."
The C.I.A.'s managers were passive, he said, instead of taking command and saying: " 'Who's in charge? Take charge. Make things happen.' "
The agency has talented people capable of great work, he said, and it has had a startling number of successes" over the years. But it needs many more analysts with better training and sharper skills, he said. It should bring in outside experts to analyze major events. It must be "much more aggressive in thinking through how the other guy thought"--breaking out of American political and cultural patterns to grasp the ways in which the rest of the world thinks.
Much of the criticism in Admiral Jeremiah's report has been voiced before. The House Intelligence Committee, for instance, reported last year that the C.I.A. and its sister services lack "the analytic depth, breadth and expertise to monitor political, military and economic developments worldwide."
Other longtime intelligence officers concurred with Admiral Jeremiah's judgments.
Gordon Oehler, who retired last year as director of the C.I.A.'s Nonproliferation Center, said the group of intelligence analysts responsible for interpreting spy satellite photos was a far less skilled group than it was at the end of the cold war.
Mr. Oehler said the "contrarian views" that Admiral Jeremiah called for were sometimes disregarded by senior officials, which discourages fresh thinking. Clinton Administration officials dislike inconvenient facts about nuclear weapons, he said, and sometimes disregard information that does not fit "a preconceived view of what the world ought to look like."
Admiral Jeremiah, whose full report is not expected to be made public, said he would recommend that Mr. Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, make changes to improve the ways the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies gather and analyze information, manage their employees and train new people.
Mr. Tenet, who said he discussed Mr. Jeremiah's report with President Clinton today, immediately accepted those recommendations.
Mr. Tenet said that in a perfect world, the C.I.A. would never again miss an event that changes the course of history.
"I hope I could say that it'll never again occur," he said. "But given the problems we face in the world, and given the kind of resources and commitments we have around the world, U.S. intelligence is stretched, and we have to do the best we can."
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
GEORGE J. TENET ON THE
RELEASE OF THE JEREMIAH REPORT
2 June 98
I asked Admiral Jeremiah to take a hard look at the Intelligence Community's performance on India. He did exactly that. He identified problems that impeded our performance on India and warned us of weaknesses that could reduce our effectiveness in the future--if we do not correct them now.
While the Intelligence Community has for years closely followed the Indian nuclear program, there is no getting around the fact that we did not predict these particular Indian nuclear tests. We did not get it right. Period. We have a professional responsibility to stand up, acknowledge that, and learn from it.
But it would be a mistake for the American people to define U.S. intelligence by a single event. Day in and day out, the men and women of the intelligence community give our policy makers and our President the best intelligence in the world-from Bosnia to Pakistan, from counter-terrorism to counter-narcotics, this intelligence protects the lives of U.S. forces and our citizens. It is one of the best investments the American people make.
This is the time to move ahead. I accept all of Admiral Jeremiah's recommendations. I am making it my highest priority to implement them as quickly as possible. I have asked Joan Dempsey, the newly confirmed Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management, to develop action plans for implementing each of the Admiral's recommendations.
Admiral Jeremiah has given us a valuable service. I thank him for his dedication and for serving his country yet again.
See Admiral Jeremiah's 1996 report on the National Reconnaisance Office: