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The mission of the CIA and its role in national security has been a subject of debate from the earliest days of the clandestine agency. Today the agency is central to counterterrorism operations, as more focus is put on drone strikes and other targeted strategies. Reporter Mark Mazzetti gives us a look at some of the personalities shaping the agency as it faces questions about controversial tactics.
- Mark Mazzetti author "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth"; reporter, The New York Times
Read An Excerpt
Excerpt from “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” by Mark Mazzetti. Copyright 2013 by Mark Mazzetti. Reprinted here by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIEven when you're operating with precision, acting on good authority and with a clear mandate, there's a chance complications will arise. And when you're working in the murky theater of the war on terror with ill-defined borders, lots of players and incredibly high stakes, things are sure to get, well, complicated, even when there's a sense that they've been streamlined.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHere to walk us through some of the myriad ways in which America's covert and military practices have fundamentally changed since 9/11 is Mark Mazzetti. He is the author of the book "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and the War at the Ends of the Earth." He's always a Pulitzer Price-winning national security correspondent for the New York Times. Mark Mazzetti, good to see you again.
MR. MARK MAZZETTIGood to see you. Thanks for having me on.
NNAMDIBetween the Cold War and 9/11 the CIA was not dormant but it had, as you say, gotten out of the killing business. It has since gotten back in. Was the agency ready for the fundamental shift that has taken place since 2001?
MAZZETTINot entirely. The Cold War -- the end of the Cold War was a period when the CIA's budgets were cut dramatically. It was closing oversea stations. And it had sort of lost its mission during the 1990s. And there was a group inside the CIA's counterterrorism center, which around the time of the 9/11 attacks was talking about al-Qaida and warning about al-Qaida. But it was a group that still had not sort of risen to prominence within the agency. The CTC was still sort of a somewhat obscure part of the agency.
MAZZETTIBut now, as I say in the book, the counterterrorism center has become the beating heart of the CIA. It has expanded dramatically and fundamentally the mission of the agency has become what the counterterrorism center does, which is basically man hunting.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to join this conversation with the author of the book "The Way of the Knife" Mark Mazzetti. By the way, why is it called "The Way of the Knife?"
MAZZETTISo the title comes from -- it's a departure of an analogy that was used by John Brennan who is the -- now the CIA director. But this was back when he was President Obama's senior counterterrorism advisor. And he gave a speech comparing the big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the United States, you know, has used the hammer to the wars outside of the warzones where he said the U.S. is using a scalpel. And I said in the book that, you know, a scalpel implies surgery without complications and wars without costs or consequences. And so I used knife. And as I say, knife fights tend to be a lot messier.
NNAMDI"The Way of the Knife" is the name of the book. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think the CIA should have stayed out of the killing business? Why or why not? You can also send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Give us a little bit of the flavor of the internal debate that led to the CIA deciding to get back into the killing business.
MAZZETTIWell, there was a big debate in the couple years before 9/11 where there was warnings about Osama bin Laden. There were warnings about al-Qaida and discussions about whether the CIA should go out and kill him or try to kill him.
NNAMDIYou see, I've been around since the church committee hearings of the 1970s led by former Senate Intelligence chairman Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. And so I know how they got out of the killing business.
NNAMDII'm really interested in how they got back in.
MAZZETTIRight. That's right. And so sort of in a nutshell you say, these are the Church committees were a defining moment for the agency because all of the sort of dirty laundry got aired from the early assassination attempted and coup attempts. And so post-Church there was a generation of CIA officers who came into the agency, sort of with the mandate of going back to the sort of traditional espionage out of -- not entirely out f covert action but really the role of paramilitary operations was diminished.
MAZZETTISo by the time the 9/11 attacks or in the years before the 9/11 attacks, this is what caused this debate, this generation of officers were at senior levels. And some of it got recounted in the 9/11 commission report that there was this question if they had this armed predator -- they finally got this armed predator but there was this question of well, we're the CIA. We're an espionage service. Should we attack the armed predator? We're not assassins.
MAZZETTIAnd so this really leads right up to days before the 9/11 attacks. And the 9/11 attacks happened and a lot of these concerns are quickly swept aside. And a week later President Bush authorized the CIA with this sweeping what they call a presidential finding to go capture and kill al-Qaida operatives around the world.
NNAMDIDebate over these have drawn strikes and other targeted killing techniques has been all over the headlines lately. You just gave us a peek into the internal debate. But one review I read of your book posed the question, why did the CIA stop torturing and start killing? The moral and even logistical issues that come along with torture as a tool have become so heated, so complex, is there a sense that targeted killing is frankly easier in the long run?
MAZZETTIWell, it's certainly something that has been embraced by the Obama Administration in terms of if you look at capturing versus killing. There's been far number of targeted killings than captures of senior al-Qaida leaders or senior militant leaders. I recount some of the history of, as you say, the early years after 9/11. The CIA had lethal authority but they were doing much more of the interrogation and detention at the black site prisons around the world. And the idea being that if they would do these interrogations they might get intelligence, and that might lead to finding other al-Qaida leaders.
MAZZETTIAnd then, as we know, around 2003, 2004 the methods that they were using created so much controversy. And congress brought so much issue in the American public, was in many way recoiling from some of these techniques like water boarding that we know well. And it does cause a shift. And the CIA basically doesn't get entirely out of the detention business. It would take really until the beginning of the Obama Administration for the prisons themselves to entirely close.
MAZZETTIBut you see this gradual change where they become more proficient with the predator and targeted killings don't have congressional -- don't cause congressional controversy. In fact, both Republicans and Democrats seem to cheer them. And so it seemed, in many ways, like a cleaner way from their perspective of doing business.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Mark Mazzetti. He is the author of the book "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and the War at the Ends of the Earth." He's also Pulitzer Prize-winning national security correspondent for the New York Times. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Do you think the CIA should have stayed out of the killing business? Why or why not? What do you think of the way power and resources have been shared among national security agencies since 9/11? You can also send us a Tweet at kojoshow, email to email@example.com.
NNAMDIMark Mazzetti, relations between the United States and Pakistan are, in a word, complex but it is my understanding that an agreement between the countries' spy agencies, the CIA and the ISI opened the door for drone operation there. How so?
MAZZETTIWell, as you say, complicated is of course...
MAZZETTI...the understatement of the year. And a lot of what the narrative of the book is is this relationship between -- you know, as the U.S. is prosecuting the secret war in Pakistan, what impact it has broadly on U.S. Pakistani relations. And more specifically on the relations between the CIA and the ISI, the Pakistani spy service. And it's really an interesting arc that, as you know, ends in recriminations and a lot of mistrust. But in the early years there -- the spy services certainly didn't entirely trust each other but they worked better -- worked more closely together.
MAZZETTIAnd in 2004 the CIA had been trying to get armed drone strikes in Pakistan, or use the armed predator in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They'd used it in Afghanistan and there'd been a drone strike in Yemen. But they were seeing Pakistan as really the major front in this secret war. And -- but Pakistan's government resisted and didn't -- they allowed surveillance drones but not armed drones.
MAZZETTIAt the same time three was a militant in the Pakistani tribal areas named Nek Muhammad who was leading a tribal rebellion, Pakistani Taliban leader and doing battle with Pakistani troops. And he was also launching attacks across the border into Afghanistan. So the United States knew about him, he was on their radar but he...
NNAMDI...but we weren't that concerned about him.
MAZZETTI...but he became an enemy that stayed in Pakistan. He was not a senior al-Qaida leader. And so what happened was there was a series of meetings between American and Pakistani spies. And Nek Muhammad basically became the test case for the predator. It was -- the ISI said, if you can find Nek Muhammad, go and kill him. And basically what happened was an exchange. The agency got its foot in the door in Pakistan and was able to do regular armed drone flights. They were still limited about where they could fly but this really -- this was the first armed drone attack in Pakistan, the first of what would come to be hundreds.
NNAMDIThe ISI essentially saying, if you'll do this for us we will provide access for you.
MAZZETTIIt was -- you know, the terms of these deals are always murky but it was certainly -- they would -- the idea that Nek Muhammad -- if Nek Muhammad had not been such an enemy of the Pakistani state, had not killed so many Pakistani troops, it's hard to imagine that President Musharraf of Pakistan would have any time around that period allowed these drone flights.
NNAMDIEveryone likes to think their team is number one. But when you're a spy agency and the competition is the defense department, the stakes are higher than in your average neighborhood scrimmage. What are some of the tension points that have flared since 9/11 and how has each organization become more like the other?
MAZZETTISo we've been talking about how the CIA has been -- increasingly become more paramilitary, becoming more like the military carrying out lethal military operations. And at the same time there's been this really dramatic shift at the Pentagon into expanding American human intelligence collection operations, getting soldiers outside of declared warzones.
MAZZETTIAnd this goes back really -- it's not entirely new but really 9/11 is such a key point because Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who sees on 9/11 that, you know, this military has these authorities, he has -- don't -- aren't good for this new kind of war. He wanted to send troops all over the world. So increasingly he pushes and he's angry that the CIA not only beats him into -- beats the DOD into Afghanistan, but that they can go and do whatever they want around the world and he can't.
MAZZETTISo increasingly there's a number of authorities that are given to the Defense Department to basically send soldiers into places where normally soldiers wouldn't go.
MAZZETTIMostly special operations troops, specialized units that deal with intelligence gathering. He expanded their authorities, he expanded their budgets, he expanded their capabilities. And so, you know, organizations like Joint Special Operations Command where the Navy SEALS and the Delta Force are, they became -- some argue the Praetorian Guard for the United States going around the world collecting intelligence and carrying out paramilitary operations.
NNAMDISo what you have now is the CIA getting involved in paramilitary operations and the Defense Department getting involved in intelligence operations.
MAZZETTIThat's right. And you have increasingly this convergence over the past decade. And it created frictions, as you pointed out. There would be times, especially in the early years, where Pentagon spies would be sent into countries without the knowledge of the American ambassador or without the knowledge of the CIA station chief. And they would be sort of running over each other, tripping over each other. And it created a lot of resentments and, I would argue, missed opportunities.
MAZZETTIAnd there's a period in the middle of the last decade where the CIA and the pentagon basically decide to broker a détente. And they went to -- they met and they sort of worked out a series of deals where they would carve up the world and each would take control in different countries. So for instance in Pakistan, Pakistan remained under CIA authority but if the military was going to do operations, in many ways -- or they would be put under CIA authorities. Which is in the U.S. jargon is Title 50, which governs American intelligence operations.
MAZZETTISo in an instant you could turn the soldiers into spies. And the colloquial term that got used was they were sheep dipped.
NNAMDII was about to ask, the agencies have come together in some operation and that's the term that they use. Sheep dipping is a kind of cooperation slang.
MAZZETTIRight. It's a cooperation slang and it tells you that, you know, you're a Navy SEAL one day and, you know, you're operating under CIA authority the next day. And we've seen cases where this happened.
NNAMDIHow about the killing of bin Laden?
MAZZETTII mean, that is the most famous case.
NNAMDIDescribe how the two agencies worked together there.
MAZZETTIWell, so the killing of bin Laden in May of 2011 came after, you know, years of, you know, early turf battles and better -- and in the later years there has been better collaboration. And so in bin Laden manhunt you saw CIA gathering the intelligence to try to paint the picture of whether bin Laden was in fact in this compound. And they gave their best judgment.
MAZZETTIBut the actual operation was handled, as we know, by teams of Navy SEALS. But the teams of Navy SEALS were put under CIA authority. So technically Leon Panetta, the CIA director at the time, who then of course went over to the pentagon -- but he was CIA director at the time, was in charge of that operation. And that was because in Pakistan -- and this was an operation deep into Pakistan, you know, the military quote unquote "still couldn't do operations there." So it was a CIA operation technically.
NNAMDI...involving Navy SEALS.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Our guest is Mark Mazzetti, author of the book "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and the War at the Ends of the Earth." He's national security correspondent for the New York Times. He's won a Pulitzer Prize. What do you think of the way power and resources have been shared among national security agencies since 9/11? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. If you've worked for an agency that's a national security stakeholder, what's your experience of the way resources are shared and the way oversight is provided? You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a Tweet at kojoshow.
NNAMDIThe Defense Department, Mark Mazzetti, is not exactly new to the spy game and it has a kind of loophole for oversight of its operations that the CIA does not. Where does that flexibility come from and how has the Department of Defense made use of it?
MAZZETTIWell, it's a -- as you say, they -- there's a lot -- military intelligence has been around since militaries have been around. So the idea that the pentagon just recently getting into intelligence gathering, you know, it would be wrong to say that. But certainly in terms of clandestine human intelligence gathering operations, they really have been ramped up. And there's this, as you called it, it's a bit of a loophole.
MAZZETTIThe CIA, when they operate clandestinely under covert action authority, have to report these operations to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees quarterly, four times a year. And the DOD doesn't have covert action authority but they can operate clandestinely, which -- and there's a difference between covert and clandestine in the U.S. government that most people probably wouldn't think that there's really a difference. But they are allowed to conduct quote unquote "traditional military activities" anywhere around the world.
MAZZETTIAnd so what happened was, Rumsfeld and his team would make the argument that we're in a global war. We're fighting an enemy that is global. And in a war that is global traditional military activities happen in every country in the world, or at least any country where you could think al-Qaida might show up. So therefore the pentagon has the authority under this traditional military activities authority to go wherever they want. And so this is what kind of created the bureaucratic tension and some of the soldiers and spies tripping over each other around the world.
NNAMDISo that in the war against terror, as it was called, the military theater now becomes the world. So wherever the Defense Department wants to go, if it wants to indulge in intelligence activity, it doesn't have to get oversight because that part of the world is immediately declared a military zone.
MAZZETTIThat's right. And so you would have what they would call -- what they call execute orders in the pentagon that -- and there was a series of them after 9/11 -- in the years after 9/11. And basically it is permission to send special operations troops to a number of countries where it is believed there might be al-Qaida or other militants. And so under these orders that the Defense Department can issue -- and they do have to report them to the Armed Services Committee, but there is a different -- there's a difference in how often they have to report, whether they're even required to report them -- then as I described earlier, the CIA has with its intelligence committees.
NNAMDIOn to the telephone. Don your headphones, please, so that you can listen to James in Frederick, Md. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESHey, Kojo. I work in local emergency management and I've been disappointed over the past years since 9/11 and seeing this sort of infatuation that my field has taken in the cloak and dagger intelligence sort of thing. And emergency management is no longer sort of this hour facing public interface after a disaster. It's become almost like a crime scene investigation now.
JAMESI had a chance after hurricane Sandy to go up to a fusion center on Long Island. And it didn't really feel like we were out there trying to solve people's issues. It felt like we were more trying to protect the information that had come into government and figure out what was appropriate to share and what wasn't as opposed to just getting the work done. And I just was wondering if your guest had some comments on emergency management and the intersection between disasters, terrorism attacks in that intelligence world.
NNAMDIWell, they're certainly dealing with that in Boston today. And what James seems to be saying is that the notion of intelligence has become infectious.
MAZZETTIIt's a really interesting point. What has really emerged is what I call a military intelligence complex, which has grown up all around Washington, and I think it's affected your line of work, and certainly you look at the FBI which is, you know, a law enforcement agency, or always was a law enforcement agency, and then after 911, they increasingly said, well, we need to become a domestic intelligence agency of sorts. And so the idea of fusion centers and joint task forces, bringing all of these different types of disciplines together to sometimes share information, sometimes not, became, you know, became a trend since 9/11, and you're recognizing, James, some of the potential downsides of that.
MAZZETTIAnd one of the issues is, of course, is information and who shares it, and as you know, there's always this inclination to protect all the information, and certainly protect it -- or classify the information, and protect it from the greater public, and that's really what I think everyone is, you know, a reporter like me is always trying to get more information, and the general concern and criticism is that way too much information is protected.
NNAMDIJames, thank you very much for your call. We move onto Connie in Annandale, Va. Connie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CONNIEYes. It sounds like our democracy has essentially disappeared under military and intelligence agencies. If you think about it, the CIA is unaccountable to the people, and so is the president's drone practices. So we in essence have a secret police and a president who can go anywhere, anytime, kill anyone, and be unaccountable according to our Constitution, according to our laws, according to Congress, to the media. We have no democracy. We're what we fought the Cold War over. We didn't want to be Russia. We were told that they were a police state. What are we?
NNAMDIWell, thank you very much for that question. We obviously don't have the Frank Church intelligence committee investigating drone attacks anymore. What you've got are reporters like Mark Mazzetti trying to bring some transparency to the process that's taking place here. But Mark Mazzetti, what do you say to a caller like Connie? We've been hearing a lot of that here over the past year or so.
MAZZETTIThere is this tendency, I think, to become seduced by secret war, and that -- I mean, that's what I've tried to do in the back is sort of try to do a chronicle history of secret wars, and the -- whether they're in Pakistan or Yemen or other places, that war is carried out and it's not publicly discussed. And that -- and that's really in contrast to the bigger wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your point about the intelligence committee is interesting. What was striking for me as a reporter when I was covering the recent confirmation hearings of John Brennan, was that the Senate Intelligence Committee who are basically the only people in the Senate who are allowed to have the highest levels of classified information in the U.S. government, they didn't even have the legal memos and legal justifications for the targeted killing program.
MAZZETTII mean, they were trying -- they basically held up Brennan's nomination in order to get some of them. And so, I mean, it is -- and so if they don't have them, you know, certainly the hard for reporters to learn much and it's hard for the public to know so much. So, I mean, I think that there is pressure building on the administration to be more transparent about what is happening, and I mean, we'll have to see whether that happens.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Mark Mazzetti. He is the author of "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth." We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll take your calls. If you've called, stay on the line. If you haven't yet, the number is 800-433-8850. Do you think the CIA should have stayed out of the killing business? Why or why not? Do you think the military has become too involved in intelligence gathering? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning national security correspondent for the New York Time, Mark Mazzetti. His latest book is called "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth." This book talks a great deal about institutions. It also talks a great deal about individuals. Contractors have been a key piece of U.S. involvement in post 9/11 conflicts. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater is known to many as a military contractor, but he apparently also had designs on deals with the CIA. Did he have any luck, Mark Mazzetti?
MAZZETTIYes. As I write about, Erik Prince -- well, Blackwater in general became the sort of indispensable company for the CIA. The CIA found itself stretched after the 9/11 attacks and then wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they increasingly began looking to private contractors to do some of the missions that traditionally government employees would have done. So Blackwater gets an a contract to at first help guard the CIA station in Kabul not long after the Afghan war began. And then there's a number of contracts that Blackwater signs with the agency over the years, and you see several senior -- sorry, several senior CIA officers leave the agency in the years after 9/11, and go to Blackwater or affiliates of Blackwater.
NNAMDIPresumably the CI A's number one strength is operating under the radar, but every once in a while, a story about its activity or fallout from its activity lands on the front pages. How did Raymond Davis's name wind up there?
MAZZETTIRaymond Davis was a -- we're talking about contractors, was a CIA contractor who was a former Green Beret and worked for Blackwater for a time, and then was hired by the agency to do some work in Pakistan. And in January 2011, he was in Lahore, Pakistan, working with a CIA team, primarily doing intelligence gathering about a militant group called Lashkar-e Taiba, which is one of the many militant groups in Pakistan, and has historically been nurtured by the ISI, and its leader, Hafiz Saeed, sort of operates sort of openly around Lahore, and increasingly the CIA became concerned about Lashkar-e Taiba, and listeners will know the group from the name because they carried about the Mumbai -- the bloody Mumbai attacks.
MAZZETTISo in 2011, or January 2011, Raymond Davis is driving through the streets of Lahore, and is in traffic and by his account, two men approach him with guns drawn, and he shoots them both, and then radios for help from the American Consulate, and a truck comes to try to rescue him, and then the truck is driving down a wrong-way street and kills a third individual in Pakistan, and then drives away. And Davis, after some time, is left by himself on the street, and is taken into custody by Pakistani policemen -- Lahore policemen.
MAZZETTIHe's interrogated and that sets off this very interesting drama where the United States government is trying to decide whether it should own up to the Pakistani government about who Raymond Davis was, and at first they decide to basically stonewall, to say he was a diplomat. President Obama in a press conference said he was a diplomat, and they were trying to make the case that under diplomatic immunity, Raymond Davis should be able to leave the country. And that wasn't washing with the Pakistani spies and the Pakistani police and the Pakistani Judges.
MAZZETTIAnd so over time, the U.S. decides to switch strategies and they decide that they own up to the fact that he was working for the CIA and they work out a deal under something called blood money where the victims of the family -- sorry, the families of the victims are compensated, and Davis gets out of the country. The reason why I spent a lot of time in the book with it, is that when I went to visit -- when I went to travel to Pakistan last summer to do research for the book, you know, in America we think about the bin Laden raid as just this -- as the defining moment of 2011.
MAZZETTIAnd the Raymond Davis episode which happened just months earlier was overshadowed. But in Pakistan, the Raymond Davis episode is so incredibly important.
MAZZETTIIt resonates. People talk about it, and it seemed to confirm so many conspiracy theories in Pakistan that the CIA had deployed a secret army around the country, and so Raymond Davis, as I write in the book, is the boogeyman. And he has -- people describe, well, that person, he's another Raymond Davis. And I describe a scene of a rally that I actually attended where the leader of Lashkar-e Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, is whipping the crowd into a fury and the night before there had been a number of Pakistani troops who had been killed, and people started blaming Lashkar-e Taiba in doing it, but he says with a flourish at the very end, it wasn't me, it was another Raymond Davis, and the whole crowd goes wild. And so, this is sort of just a symbol of why this episode is so important and why I decided to spend a lot of time writing about it.
NNAMDIAnd after they played that blood money, and Raymond Davis got out of Pakistan, he had a little bit of a problem after he came back here.
MAZZETTIThat's right. So he is -- he ultimately is taken to Afghanistan on a plane, and then back to the United States, and by the end of the year in October of 2011, he was actually in a suburb of Denver at a strip mall, and got into a fight over a parking spot. And shouts between two people, he and another man, escalated into actually a wrestling match and a fist fight, and Davis was arrested, charged with assault, and the case itself only was settled just a month ago actually, where Davis was charged with, I believe it was third degree assault, and had to pay damages and was required by the judge to take anger management classes.
NNAMDILoose cannon in two different countries. Here is John. John is Washington D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNThanks, Kojo. You know, part of the conflagration we're seeing between the Department of Defense, CIA, and other law enforcement agencies, is, you know, the result of effectiveness. So, you know, CIA was never intended to be an action force. It was originally set up as an intelligence reporting force for the president, and a security apparatus. Well, what's happened since 9/11 is the CIA has proven very useful in getting a lot of things done. Where the DOD will run into issues with effectiveness, there's a lot more oversight, and there's a lot more wickets to be passed through in order to effect both intelligence gathering operations and actual, you know, genetic-type strike operations, which is why you see the CIA as so useful and effective with the drone strikes.
JOHNSo where you see these conflicts is with both effectiveness and oversight. So really until the DOD recaptures that effectiveness, CIA is going to be the best tool for that. They've got the people who have the funding for training, they're able to put people into the same spot for years and years and years. DOD, you have to move your folks on a fairly consistent basis. They are just very different structures. One lends itself more towards very specific, very useful targeting and specific action, whereas the other, the mechanical bureaucracy does not necessarily lend itself to a subject matter (unintelligible) . That's not to say that there's not subject matter experts within the DOD.
NNAMDIJohn, the impression I'm getting from you is that what we have is a harmoniously collaborative relationship here. That's not quite the way it's described in "The Way of the Knife."
MAZZETTIWell, I mean, John, the point is interesting that, you know, in many ways, the structures of the two organizations are incredibly different, you're right, and I think that that was one of the things that really was the allure of the CIA to the Bush administration in the early years after 9/11, when you had the CIA which had this small, you know, small bureaucracy, a very small group of people who could basically manage a secret war. That was something that was quite appealing and, as I said, Rumsfeld was sort of jealous of.
MAZZETTISo you have, in contrast to the sort of lumbering bureaucracy of the Pentagon, you had a CIA that could be flexible and could get to places quickly. And I think the danger is that the fewer people you have overseeing lethal operations and running wars, the greater danger, the easier it is to authorize lethal strikes without layers and layers of oversight. There's a beauty to having fewer layers of oversight and fewer layers of bureaucracy, but there's a danger, I think, because fewer eyes on things were weighing in warning about the blowback or the costs, you know, as we've seen in American history, can cause damage.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, John. Any intelligence agency is going to be plagued by questions about what it's missing. Is there a sense of whether the sometimes duplicated efforts of these agencies are leading to fewer missed opportunities?
MAZZETTIWell, there's duplication in places that you'd be surprised in about -- so for instance, you take Yemen right now, and there is -- at the moment you have the CIA and parts of the military running parallel drone wars. And they have different target lists, and they go after different suspected militants.
NNAMDIBut they're doing the same thing.
MAZZETTIThey're doing basically the same thing. I mean, they're killing people with drones. So it's -- and this is what has caused some push in recent months, and questions about well, should the -- should some of these missions be taken away from the CIA and brought to the military, and I don't think it'll happen entirely, but I think it could happen in some places. And the question of missed opportunities elsewhere, one of the discussions I have in the book is about, you know, what are the opportunity costs of man hunting, what are the opportunity costs of hunting and killing, and that is, what are you missing around the world. The Arab Spring is...
NNAMDIMohamed Bouazizi burns himself to death in Tunisia, and we missed the Arab Spring.
MAZZETTISo I think it would be -- my view is it would be an unfair criticism to blame the CIA for missing an individual person, right, setting himself on fire in Tunisia, because that's, you know, that's fortunetelling as opposed to prediction. But I think your point is a good one, because once you -- once the Tunisian revolt happened, you had a number of succeeding revolutions in Egypt and Libya and Yemen, and there was this criticism inside the Obama administration that the agency -- not just the agency, but other intelligence agencies were just not up to speed, were behind the curve.
MAZZETTIThat -- not that they just missed it, but that they -- once it happened, they weren't able to stay on top of it, and there's a reason for it. Partly because the CIA also, by necessity, in doing man hunting has had to deal with these foreign spy services, and they're the last ones who are going to be to tell the CIA what's going on.
NNAMDIMark Mazzetti is "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth." Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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For D.C. based author and illustrator Juana Medina, learning English in her native Columbia was a requirement she resisted as a child, yet appreciated later as an adult.