John Diamond discussed his book, The CIA and the Culture of Failure (published last month) in an interview with Defense TV. The book traces the tumultuous changes at the CIA following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It details the massive budget cuts, and related cuts in staff, diminishing expertise, and declining confidence within the agency in its ability to do its job. By the mid-1990s when the agency finally woke up to the security threats that had emerged and taken hold it was already too late. Diamond's book was also discussed in an article in the Middle East Times on a massive attack on the 25th anniversary of the multinational peacekeeping force in Beirut, which was the result of an equally massive intelligence failure. And, Steven Aftergood discussed the book in Secrecy News.
As Diamond remarks in his interview with Defense TV, "the two separate streams of this book are, of course, Iraq and al Qaeda, the two enemies that emerged through this period. al Qaeda emerges slowly and it's not really until '96, '97 that the CIA starts to focus on this emerging threat, which is fairly late, that's five or six years after they started. Iraq, of course, was under close scrutiny by the CIA, but there were some mistakes in analysis around the time of the Gulf War and there was political pressure not to repeat those mistakes, in a sense, they made the reverse mistakes. They had, for example, predicted that Iraq was still quite far from a nuclear weapon before the Gulf War, come to find out that they were actually quite close. The CIA said we're not going to make that mistake again."
But the mistakes around 9/11 and Iraq have added a sense of the importance of intelligence, so that both the agency's actions and their political consequences are in greater public scrutiny . "Yes, we're all dismayed at some of the intelligence errors that preceded the war in Iraq and 9/11, but everyone agrees, boy, we need good intelligence. This ultimately will be a good thing for the CIA and the intelligence community."