Petraeus was picked for the job, and eager to take it, partly because the White House believed that in an era of counterterrorism, the CIA’s traditional mission of stealing secrets was morphing into a wider role that increasingly stressed paramilitary covert action. …

But the Petraeus-era CIA had a hidden defect, quite apart from any errant e-mails, which was that the paramilitary covert-action function was swallowing alive the old-fashioned intelligence-gathering side of the house. This actually seems to me to be the central lesson of the disaster in Benghazi, Libya. …

Benghazi showed the reason the United States needs clandestine intelligence officers in dangerous countries such as Libya. They’re in country, undercover, to collect the secrets that will keep U.S. citizens safe. That night, the United States needed to know what was going down in Benghazi, and in Cairo, Tunis and a half-dozen other capitals. It’s hard to do this intelligence collection — recruiting and running clandestine agents — when you’re operating from a quasi-public base, as seems to have been the case in Benghazi, and is certainly true in many others parts of the world. …

But one resolution for the post-Petraeus CIA should be to put intelligence collection back in the driver’s seat at the agency. Maybe this will only be possible when the agency fully deploys a new network of deep-cover “platforms” that can hide CIA officers better than that embattled annex in Benghazi did.